The Newman Shower (2001)

The Newman Shower is a 25-minute film that was an American Film Institute thesis project for director Dan Passman and was released in 2001.

The movie tells the story of Zach Newman, a camper at Camp Colman in the summer of 1990 who tries at all costs to avoid the gang shower in the cabin. Instead, he opts to wait for the one solo shower in the cabin to open up, which quickly earns it the nickname the Newman Shower and frequent ribbing for its namesake from fellow campers.

Told in the potty humor style of the American Pie films, the short is crass, crude and full of the kind of foul language and descriptive bragging of real, fabricated and hoped for sexual exploits anyone who has ever spent time in a boy’s summer camp cabin or locker room will immediately recognize. I for one found myself thrown back by the language and the crassness of the conversations before I remembered how true to life that actually was.

A late bloomer, Zach manages to keep the fact that he hasn’t completely finished going through puberty secret until, horror of horrors, his counselor walks into his shower in response to some commotion caused by Zach’s towel being stolen and then makes a scene in front of the campers when he sees evidence of Zach’s incomplete puberty. To say the interaction between Zach and his counselor is creepy is a good illustration of why the whole idea of gang showers is as dated as ’90s fashion.

Still, the gang shower routine (shower hockey, anyone?) is as much a part of my own experience going to summer camp growing up as thinking a girl (like Haylie Duff’s character Wendy, who Zach likes) wearing hip-hugging jeans was attractive.

In the end, Zach is forced to come out of his shell, confront his fears and have some awkwardly real and graphic conversations about sex with one of his bunk mates in what I would have to say is a waste of the $1.99 it cost to download it the only place I could find it, on iTunes. Simply put, there are some parts of my youth I don’t ever want to relive, no matter how true to life the language and the awkwardness of it all is. Even a soundtrack dominated by Neil Finn can’t change that.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.