“Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”
Pull up any top 10 list of best college movies and National Lampoon’s Animal House is likely to top the list. The tale of a group of misfit guys in the Delta Tau Chi fraternity was the first movie produced by the National Lampoon, the popular humor magazine on college campuses in the mid-1970s. The writers of the magazine were recent college graduates themselves, which probably explained the renegade tone that popularized the publication. Together, Doug Kenney (a Harvard grad), Chris Miller (from Dartmouth College), and Harold Ramis (Washington University), wrote the college movie of all college movies.
Along with director John Landis, they created a film that combined sex, alcohol, vulgarity, rebellion, profanity, and slapstick into a hilariously revolutionary package. Set in the 1960s, the Deltas entertained as they tried to evade the wrath of Faber College’s Dean Wormer who has them on “double secret probation” because of their less than stellar grades and numerous behavioral violations. They fight back as Dean Wormer and the Omegas attempt to kick them off of campus; they fight with toga parties and besieging a parade.
The question then is—how accurate is it?
The Deltas thrive on partying above all else, as is fortified by the opening scene of their infamous toga party where a keg is tossed out the window, further damaging their dilapidated house. Inspired by their own fraternity experiences, Kenney, Miller, and Ramis penned characters like John “Bluto” Blutarsky who have become idols of past, present, and future fraternity brothers everywhere.
“Christ. Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the fucking Peace Corps.” -Bluto
While I re-watched the movie to write up this post, my friend sat next to me eagerly pointing out whom each character in the film embodied in his own fraternity and I found myself nodding in agreement. This widely successful low-budget movie has inspired a slew of clones, in film and in real life, which is no surprise. Whether it is putting a horse in their Dean’s office, showing up at a club to suddenly find themselves a minority, or at a probation hearing—the Deltas always look like they’re having fun and what college student doesn’t want to have fun?
But recently, Duke students have been catching a lot of slack for having too much fun.
Now, as an independent, I can’t claim to be any kind of expert on Duke’s Greek life, but as a journalist I have come across some striking similarities to Animal House and Duke. You, may or may not, recall news of the cancellation of Duke “tailgate” after a minor was found passed out in a Port-a-Potty, which caused widespread outrage. Not for the safety of the child, but the end of tailgate.
Jamie, a commenter on The Chronicle’s website wrote, “Our commitment to Tailgate during that contemporary “athletic program” is not the slightest bit embarrassing, it is a testament to the perseverance of our school spirit…and our mutual appreciation of beer and “Shout.”
You may remember a certain performance of “Shout” by Otis Day and the Knights in which Faber College students went wild.
“Duke, this will blow up in your faces,” said tailgatelives, another commenter. “Do you have any idea what portion of your students love tailgate? All it takes is for one news truck to get wind of this that it won’t be sequestered in the Blue Zone and—guess what—now you have another PR crisis. Just what you need. How out of touch are you all?”
Sound familiarly like Bluto’s defiant speech against the administration?
In the end, however, the Animal House guys are still viewed as lovable drunks and rebels and Duke unfortunately hasn’t had the same luck. Why is that the case?