National Lampoon’s Animal House

Animal House. Universal Studios 1978.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not sure how I’m going to sympathize with the troublemaking fraternity here, aside from everyone else being bullies. They have fun and don’t hold with stuffy rules, but I’m pretty sure they also go beyond harmless mischief. The Dean would have to be really petty (which he probably is anyway) to put them on whatever “double-secret probation” is for only silly college pranks like stealing mascots.

I’m probably too mature for this movie, but I’m not sure I was ever the kind of person who’d aspire to be the Deltas.

After watching the movie:

 At prestigious Faber College, while most fraternities are reasonably well behaved, Delta House has a persistent, anarchic, devil may care attitude, cultivating members whose primary motivations are drinking, sex, and pranks. Their notoriety infuriates Dean Wormer, who wants the lot of them out of his school, hungry for an excuse to revoke their charter. Also turned against the Deltas are the Omegas, who resent the fraternity as a whole and have many personal grudges. The Deltas just want to have fun, disregarding all consequences.

It’s hard to say if this movie more reflected or informed the fraternity lifestyle. I didn’t find nearly as much of their depicted behavior outrageous as I thought, and mostly by degree than by action. College kids throw parties, get drunk, find their limits, experiment with the sudden lack of limits presented to them. Bluto is the face of the movie’s zeitgeist, but he’s pretty extreme next to the rest of them. Everyone else is still fairly on track to their degree, Bluto is in his seventh year and I think still an underclassman, and his lifestyle is why.

There’s also not as much chauvinism as I expected. The guys are out for a good time, but so are the women, who know what they’re signing up for. Most of the main Deltas have steady girlfriends, so they must at least attempt to be sensitive to their wishes. Pinto faces a choice about how to handle his date passing out before they can have sex, but he makes the right decision, and wrestling with the temptation is human. Which mainly leaves Bluto, who is just a disgusting person in general.

In the Dean’s first scene, he comes across as being less bright and more saying things he thinks sound imposing, but don’t actually work. This didn’t last to subsequent scenes, but I like the idea that he made up “Double Secret Probation” on the spot so save face since they were already on regular probation. The rest of the time, he’s just obsessed with getting an excuse to throw the Deltas out, which I’m not entirely opposed to, even though it seems to be harder than I would think with the mountain of grievances already piling up.

While the low GPAs are a plot device, considering how much of the story was supposedly based on actual goings on at the Harvard Lampoon,  it’s disappointing there’s so little intellectualism on display. I’m more interested in well educated people who hold nothing sacred than in these frat clowns. This may be significant to college culture, but it’s not all that relevant to me.

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