“Bottoms” References the ’80s and 2000s, but Exists in a Timeline All Its Own
“Bottoms” is a lot of things: a raunchy, bloody comedy; a lesbian love story; and a showcase of Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri’s comedic talents, to name a few. But it’s also full of subtle details and references, and one that’s easy to miss is that the movie is (probably) set in the early 2000s.
One of the biggest details that roots the movie in time is the characters’ use of flip phones and portable CD players. Communication also seems fairly analogue, and there’s no social media to speak of (though one can only imagine how unhinged Sennott’s character PJ’s social media presence would be). The aesthetics of the film also feel borrowed from classic early 2000s high school comedies like “Mean Girls,” complete with quirky teachers, cheerleaders, classic bullies, and razor-sharp jokes about social hierarchies.
Yet, in many ways, “Bottoms” is also divorced from time – existing in a surreal universe of its own. Many of its aesthetics also feel heavily inspired by the ’80s, ’90s, and the present day. There are clear parallels to ’80s movies like “Heathers,” which put its own bloody and bizarre spin on a classic high school story, and “The Breakfast Club,” which also explored identity, insecurity, and cross-clique romances.
“Bottoms” also feels rooted in the present in certain ways, including the fashion choices that feel more drawn from TikTok trends than the styles of decades past. Hazel’s (Ruby Cruz) clothing choices and haircut, in particular, seem like they could be plucked right off your For You page. And then there’s the fact that being queer seems universally accepted in the “Bottoms” universe, which it definitely still isn’t in many schools around the country, and which it rarely was (except perhaps in the most progressive schools) before the 2010s.
Some aspects of “Bottoms” transcend time, such as the overconfident quarterback who thinks he’s the center of the universe and the local fairs, gymnasium pep rallies, and homecoming games that serve as the backdrops for most of the action. Yet some aren’t rooted in time at all, such as the idea that any school or teacher would allow students to beat the crap out of each other as part of an after-school club, or the totally insane bloodbath at the end of the movie, which moves fully into hallucination-level madness.
But “Bottoms” was never trying to be a reflection of a specific time or even a realistic portrait of high school. It’s instead rooted in a kind of delusional absurdity that feels more drawn from the Internet’s sense of humor than from anything else. But here, it moves past even parody, becoming a completely unique world unto itself. By the time our protagonists are standing screaming on a blood-soaked football field at the end of the movie, it’s clear that “Bottoms” actually takes place not in one particular decade, but rather in an alternate universe that manages to highlight some of the more absurd aspects of our own.