Doper (Jim Van Bebber, 1994, USA)

Doper is one of the three short films renegade auteur Jim Van Bebber directed in 1994. In contrast to the horror narratives My Sweet Satan and Roadkill: The Last Day of John MartinDoper is a documentary. The film focuses on Barry, a young stoner in Dayton, Ohio who stays high twenty-four hours per day. Van Bebber takes us through Barry's day, including his morning ritual to the sounds of Mick Jagger on classic rock radio. As with most Van Bebber films, the highlight here is the set design. In this case, there is no design - this dingy house is the real thing. Or is it? The characters in Doper seem real, but this film could also be docufiction. 

The second portion of the film takes us through Barry's workday. "I like everyone. This is a pretty good job. It's f****d - everything's a mess." Barry works in some kind of factory. His co-workers have nothing but positive words to say about him - "he's an asset to this company!". We learn that Barry was an employee of the month. Van Bebber is having fun with the usual drug user documentaries. Instead of Barry's life being ruined by drugs, he seems to be living a normal existence.

More than anything else, Doper is interesting as a time capsule of a time gone by, when stoners and burnouts did form a kind of subculture within American society. In contrast to today, where weed is readily available in much of the US, it is interesting to see how the cultural milieu and perception of the drug have changed over time. Doper is not particularly significant aside from being part of Van Bebber's filmography, but it amusing archive of early 1990s American culture. The subjects are not particularly interesting, but that might be the point.



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