Wet Hot American Summer may be one of the silliest movies ever made. But if you squint hard enough, the movie offers up some surprisingly solid relationship advice. David Wain and Michael Showalter's summer camp parody is also a deceptively astute romantic comedy, tracking more than a few relationships — Katie and Andy, Katie and Coop, McKinley and Ben, Gene and his refrigerator — in one epic summer romp.
The bizarrely endearing wisdom of the movie has endured so long, we're getting another dose this summer, when the Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp series hits Netflix in July. Until then, here are the pieces of romantic advice we gleaned from one of the most absurd teen movies ever made.
1. Don't spend your time pining over someone who can't make up their mind.
The scenario: Nice guy Coop has been in love with Katie all summer, but falls short each time he pursues her, losing out to her jerk boyfriend Andy.
The lesson: Like so many unrequited lovers, Coop probably would have been much happier if he could just come to terms with Katie's unattainability and take her up on her offer to set him up with her "total slut" friend Rachel Schwartz. Who knows, Rachel might have been the One.
2. When you know what you want, be honest about it.
The scenario: Katie did eventually stop confusing Coop, when she told him that all she's interested in right now is having sex with Andy. Andy, you see, is so beautiful that she admits, "I genuinely don't care that he's kinda lame."
The lesson: Harsh as it is, Katie's honesty is the best thing for her and Coop, as it is with all of us. Being upfront about what you want saves time and angst — deciding to be "exclusive" or end things after just a few days or weeks may seem rash, but can actually be wise.
3. Don't be afraid to admit what really turns you on.
The scenario: As the can of vegetables tells Gene, "If you wanna smear mud on your ass, smear mud on your ass — just be honest about it."
The lesson: Gene is a miserable wreck until he finally gets up the courage to admit that he fondles sweaters and humps the fridge. Keeping it bottled up made him a less useful person. But once he was upfront about it, he could feel at peace and even help Coop. Honesty is the best policy, especially when it comes to turn-ons.
4. Trust your gut: That bad boy (or girl) is usually just bad.
The scenario: Andy is a terrible boyfriend. He cheats, he blows up for no reason and he's downright rude and disrespectful. Being cut from marble is no excuse for his bad behavior. What kind of guy has a Confederate flag in Maine? A no-good one, that's who.
The lesson: There's more than enough evidence, anecdotal and scientific, that some women are drawn to asshole guys. But we also know that at the end of the day, kindness is what makes our relationships actually work. We should listen to those little pinging signals telling us someone is no good — because it really will matter in the long run.
5. Relationships built on a weak foundation can crumble easily.
The scenario: Lindsay is Andy's other woman. He's only interested in her because she's hot and she frenches good. But like with fast food, his tastes change quickly.
The lesson: If a relationship is shaky enough to be toppled by burger breath, there wasn't much there to begin with. Sure enough, studies have found that romantic relationships founded on friendship are the sturdiest in the long term.
6. Always have a support network.
The scenario: Gail wouldn't have made it through her divorce without the help of the kids doing arts and crafts with her. Sure, it may have been completely inappropriate for an adult to share such personal details with children entrusted to her care, but they were there for her when she was struggling.
7. Don't overemphasize sex to the detriment of other areas of life.
The scenario: If Wet Hot American Summer was set in 2015, Victor would be what we call "thirsty." He's so obsessed with sex that he abandons the kids he was supposed to take rafting along the perilous river, seriously endangering them, just to try and score with Abby (a pursuit that fails).
The lesson: Note to everyone out there: Try to not let sexual desire cloud your judgment (or at least be aware of how it might already be doing so), and definitely don't abandon children in need to pursue sex.
8. Don't make assumptions about what other people want.
The scenario: Gary and J.J. assume that because McKinley has never been with a woman, he's a sexually frustrated virgin. But really, McKinley has the most loving relationship of anyone at camp — with Ben.
The lesson: No, not all sex must involve a penis and a vagina, despite what we were taught. And you can never assume what someone else wants when it comes to genders or specifics in the bedroom. The best advice? Just ask.
9. Take an interest in what's important to your partner.
The scenario: Jan doesn't know anything about astrophysics and Henry doesn't know anything about camp directing, but each wants the other to know that they care. So what do they do? They go to the library and learn everything they can about the other's passion.
10. Get away every now and then.
The scenario: Beth and her fellow counselors take a wild ride into town for just an hour, in what the A.V. Club calls "a montage that's really about montages."
The lesson: Even if it's just for a little, some time away from your daily grind can do wonders for your state of mind and help you come back refreshed. (Sure, you may quickly slide into a debilitating heroin addiction, but even that is worth it for the change of pace.)
11. The key to a successful marriage? Lubrication.
The scenario: The incredibly uncomfortable interaction above.
The lesson: This.