Are We Bemoaning ‘Animal House’ For the Wrong Reasons?

Most of us accept the idea that movies like Animal House and Old School haven’t been so great for fraternity stereotypes. But lately I’ve been wondering if we tend to overestimate the impact such movies have had on public perceptions of Greek life while overlooking a far more damaging effect.

It shouldn’t be too controversial to acknowledge that some parts of famous Greek life movies and TV shows were based on real life. We know the writer for ABC Family’s Greek joined a sorority in college, from which she drew ideas for the show. The Old School writers didn’t come up with those ideas out of thin air. Some were parodies while others were sensationalized (or both), but it’s safe to say most were based on someone’s experience, albeit a false one.

Rather than creating the negative stereotypes we live with today, it’s more likely that pop culture’s attempts at depicting Greek life have merely confirmed what people already thought.

Though I’m confident fraternity life would be better off had Animal House never been made, I can live with art [poorly and inaccurately] imitating life. What’s more concerning — and what’s far more damaging than merely perpetuating existing stereotypes — is when life tries to imitate art.

Researchers at Ohio State University may have confirmed that very concern this month with a new study examining “experience-taking,” in which subjects subconsciously absorb the behaviors of a fictional character.

When you “lose yourself” inside the world of a fictional character while reading a story, you may actually end up changing your own behavior and thoughts to match that of the character, a new study suggests.

Watching parody movies or reciting jokes from satire websites might seem harmless enough at first. Before you know it, though, and without even realizing it, those jokes and movie quotes seep into the culture of your chapter, gradually reinforcing the insidious behaviors that lead chapters to certain failure.

Watch the movies if you must, but for heaven’s sake, don’t reenact the scenes.

[HT Will Wilkinson]

//Nathaniel Clarkson

One thought on “Are We Bemoaning ‘Animal House’ For the Wrong Reasons?

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