Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"The End of Iowa City," Or, An Exercise in Bullshit Propaganda

You non-Iowa City readers may or may not be aware that we're currently in the midst of a ruckus here in IC. The ruckus is over the vote to repeal the 21 ordinance (which I've spoken of here before and on which my opinions pretty much remain the same, i.e. I really don't much care), and there's been an increasing amount of obnoxious handbilling around campus, as both sides are nagging at everyone to VOTE VOTE VOTE. And now, as if things couldn't get any more ludicrous, we have this:

Hoo boy.

Let's translate what's really being said here, shall we? "Now that the bars are 21+ only, people under 21 can no longer get plastered in the bars and the bars are losing money. We think this sucks. We have to vote to restore our city to the shining, glorious bastion of getting totally shit-faced that it once was. Also, here's a montage of a bunch of slavering, ill-coordinated, drunk-ass college kids skanking it up in seedy clubs, set to some goofy Passion Pit. WOO! VOTE 19!"

I'm almost at a loss for words here. On the one hand, this is just hilarious. Anyone who can unironically say "It feels like Iowa City is dying" is instantly a candidate for merciless mockery in my book. It's a college town, not Western civilization.

But as an attempt at persuasion, this is pretty much garbage. If anything, it makes me want to vote against repealing the 21 ordinance, and I don't even care that much in the first place. I've said here before that the bars aren't really my scene, though I've got nothing against people who frequent them (some might argue that this makes me an outlier in the undergrad community, but to them I'd say: have you looked at the students in the EPB lately? Thanks, I'll be here all night), and now that I'm 21 I care even less. Stupid, mawkish rhetoric and long takes of "deserted" Iowa City (which I'm willing to bet were filmed at about 3 AM on a Tuesday night) are hardly going to change my mind.

Furthermore, I question the idea that getting drunk in a bar is a "torch handed down from generation to generation," or that it's one of "the best experiences of your life." Might it just be, oh, I don't know, getting drunk in a bar? Now, getting drunk in a bar can be fun. I won't deny that, and I don't even like the bars that much. But, really: the best experience of your life? Are you really going to look back when you're 80 years old and remember fondly that time you blew chunks on the sidewalk outside Summit? (Yes, yes, I know, the "social aspect" of it and all that. But tell me about the last meaningful relationship you forged in a space that's pitch black and a million degrees with music so loud you can feel your brain vibrating. I thought so.) The idea of "gettin' shitty in Iowa City" as somehow integral to the local culture is exactly the kind of thing that the pro-21 people are arguing against.

Look. I understand that people are upset; I even understand why people are upset (the bar owners are none too happy, I'm sure). But folks: if you're going to try to garner support what is essentially underage drinking, you should do so in a way that doesn't make you look like a bunch of vacuous, alcohol-obsessed, melodramatic imbeciles. You're fighting against the law here; at least try to scrabble together a semblance of maturity. Couching your argument in bullshit propaganda is not going to help your case.


  1. This is a really great post. Like you I really don't care much about this either way. Underage drinking is going to happen in Iowa City whether it's in a bar or at a party. Big deal. Honestly I only went to a bar once when I was a freshman, I didn't like it, it was stupid. It was definitely not an integral part of my life.

    So I'm voting for HOUSE PARTIES DUDE!

  2. Haha. Thanks, Ash.

    I do find it a tad bizarre that so many people consider the bar scene to be somehow essential to IC--ultimately, I think it's difficult to argue they're anything more than places to drink. And people tout the "SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESS" argument are sort of forgetting that whole thing about how local businesses sometimes close in a competitive market. In other words, I'm not so sure some of the bars closing would be a bad thing; there are about 2000 of them as it is, most of which are some iteration of the same "music is way loud, can't see shit" model. Maybe if we had a few less bars we could make some room downtown for, I don't know, some different sorts of venues.

    Ultimately, though, I'm pretty indifferent. I suppose if I were forcibly coerced into voting, I'd wind up voting pro-21, not (as many would believe) because I am an evil fun-hating cephalopod-like creature who lives in a cave, but because, like it or not, 21's the law. It's a pretty stupid law, I think, but it's still the law, and I think it's kind of ridiculous for people not to accept that. And of course, as you say, underage drinking is still gonna go down.