More Larry Clark-posting
I asked Katherine to write about Bully, and she wrote about losing her virginity. It’s just about the perfect Florida essay.
In the rare moments when my parents were busy and my younger siblings were preoccupied —which were, to my adolescent dismay, all too rare—V. would pick me up in his ’97 Toyota. He called it the Green Machine.
V. was from another world, the part of South Florida that my family worked so hard to shield me from. A greasy video game addict, his brain was rotted by 4chan and hentai and Burger King. But like me, he dropped out of high school, his sights set on something bigger, more important than the confines of Spanish River High School, the last of the three schools I attended before I said fuck it.
There was always something better on the horizon for V. A job in San Diego, a trip to Tokyo, something cool and exotic that never seemed to materialize but was always just about to. He had a 98-pound Aryan girlfriend whose name meant purity or chastity or the glory of God, who unlike me, had a ski slope nose and friends. But she didn’t get V. like I did—she was the girl he wanted to marry, and I was the girl who was willing to blow him while he regurgitated Holocaust jokes he had read on /pol/. It wasn’t my mouth full of cum, seeking neither education, employment, nor training, that stole my innocence, it was V. laughing and saying that six million felt like a little much.
But still, I’d sneak over to his little attic room whenever I could, reifying every bit of misogyny that seemed to flow so naturally from his mouth. And then I drove the point home when our little affair was exposed. Instead of denying it— instead of mourning in private—I cried in public.
There are people who hate me for it to this day, and I’ll never understand why. But then there are people who never disowned V.’s friend, E., who did things like jerk off onto a girl’s hair in Geometry class.
But these are the rules of the frontier and the hierarchy is what it is, until it isn’t. Until it’s overthrown.
In my 20s, it’s so easy to see now why my mom thought V. was the worst kind of blight on our city—back then it felt like a class issue, rich versus poor, east Boca versus west, my mother dragging me into mini-class warfare every time I deigned to make a public-school friend, a public-school lover—but now, it’s clear it was less complicated than that. It wasn’t that V. was poor; it wasn’t the “poor” part of Florida that she was protecting me from.
It was the cruel part of Florida. And that transcends class, though to a well-meaning but clueless parent they often look the same. You do what you can to protect your kids. My mom did what she could to protect me.
It’s so hard to explain the cruelty of Florida to people unfamiliar with it. Images of men who look like extras in Netflix’s Tiger King and bath salts dance through people’s heads; the eternal Florida Man, a white trash specter who doesn’t believe in COVID and might attempt a robbery nude and high off his ass on PCP.
But that’s not the texture of Florida cruelty; it is not about the transient nature of the peninsula nor our housing crisis nor the strange marriage of neo-Confederacy and Mediterranean aesthetics. It is not about Disney World; it is not about the hospitality industry; it is not about how we, as a state, have somehow been cast variously as the world’s Walmart and God’s waiting room.
If California is the end of the frontier, then Florida might just be the beginning. That is what makes Florida what it is: the only kind of justice is vigilante justice, where there is no shared heritage of what it means to be Floridian, other than nobody loves you, nobody respects you, and nobody ever will. All you can do is take what’s yours.
Larry Clark might just be the only non-Floridian who understands this. Bully might be the only film that expresses it.