One of the benefits of going to college is the networking that can occur via the conglomeration of like-minded individuals. If the cliques of high school were bad, imagine living in an entire house of these people. Jocks and nerds tend to segregate into their own little social circles, but sometimes they even go so far as to create a fraternity to provide structure to the social construct. Some individuals see these fraternities (and other social clubs) as an opportunity to advance in life. As we saw in The Social Network (2010), the desire to feel included in social societies extends beyond the physical world of Greek life and has transcended into the digital. Still, many of the deepest friendships a guy can form during college can be found in the fraternities associated with the school. This week’s two films examine life in a college fraternity.
National Lampoon’s Animal House
Length: 109 minutes / 1.82 hours
While there are many different fraternities with a wide variety of different focuses, most Hollywood films tend to put them into two conflicting categories. This is to induce conflict within the main plot of the movie. From jocks vs. nerds to rich vs. poor, the underdogs are always the group pegged as the protagonists of these stories. Of course, in real life, many of these fraternities would get in serious legal trouble for the pranks they pull on the other houses, but perhaps the comedic value of college anarchy and the idolization of the “party hard” lifestyle is what makes them so appealing. If anything, Animal House (1978) is the epitome of the fraternity film, showing how fun sex, alcohol, and rock & roll are when compared to the alternative: actually going to class and earning an education.
Dean Vernon Wormer (John Vernon) is at the end of his rope when it comes to the troublemaking Delta Tau Chi fraternity. Not only do they have abysmal grade point averages, but they have broken many (if not all) of the school’s rules. Since the fraternity was already on probation, Dean Wormer puts them on “double-secret probation” and enlists the help of the superior Omega Theta Pi fraternity to get the Deltas to screw up one more time so their charter can be revoked. Upon learning of their almost impending dissolution after failing a test based off of a fraudulent answer key, the Deltas decide to have a toga party, which ends up involving the Dean’s wife, as well as the Mayor’s daughter. With all the evidence he needs in place, Dean Wormer expels the Deltas from Faber College. Unfortunately, the Deltas have one last stunt they can pull at the homecoming parade.
Revenge of the Nerds
Length: 90 minutes / 1.50 hours
As I mentioned earlier, “birds of a feather flock together,” is perhaps the best definition of a fraternity. A group of guys who have similar interests and/or intentions for their college career will tend to congregate in the same place. A fraternity house is merely a convenient way for them to live together, so their curricular and extra-curricular activities are all in the same spot. Of course, with the rise of the Greek system comes competition. While some films manage to cover this type of competition in a child-friendly way (like Monsters University (2013) did), many of them are certainly raunchier, keeping in line with the standard Animal House set in the late 1970’s. Even though competition should be friendly, often there can be severe discrimination and persecution involved, as seen in Revenge of the Nerds (1984).
Due to a fire that destroyed the Alpha Betas’ fraternity house, the jocks have displaced the freshmen in the dorms, leaving incoming freshmen Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert Lowe (Anthony Edwards) in a temporary setup in the gymnasium. To get out of the gym, the computer science majors take the opportunity to rush the school’s fraternities, only to be rejected by all of them. Along with other nerds, Lewis and Gilbert decide to start their own fraternity by fixing up a house on campus. To gain a charter to become official, they ask to become Lambda Lambda Lambdas, which is a predominantly black fraternity. The head of the Tri-Lambs agrees to give them their membership not only due to the persecution he sees the nerds enduring but also due to the resistance they give to the bullying. When the annual Greek Games arrive, it’s up to the Tri-Lambs to prove they’re the best!
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 funny fraternities