Debunking College Greek Life: Movie Edition
Hollywood has a long history of taking jabs at college Greek life. I’m sure most of it is meant as harmless fun, but the truth is that many young people get their first impressions of fraternity and sorority life from the big screen. I’ll be the first to admit that I even thought that most frat boys spent their days chasing girls and chugging beers, while the pretty, spoiled sorority sisters tried to flirt their way out of bad grades. In reality, the majority of Greek organizations are nothing like those portrayed in the movies. Don’t believe me? Take a quick look at how Hollywood films have skewed our perception of Greek life on college campuses.
1. Animal House
Animal House (1978) made countless young men think that college is all about the party. As you may know, it coined the famous chant, "toga, toga, toga!" The main plot of the movie revolved around the dean of Faber College trying to remove the Delta fraternity from campus. Fortunately, the fraternity brothers made it fairly easy with their unimpressive grades, stealing and drinking with minors.
Myth - Fraternity members are slackers who will never amount to anything.
Fact – The majority of Greek organizations adhere to strict academic and moral standards. Those participating in a Greek organization are more likely to graduate from college and many have successful careers. In fact, 85 percent of the Fortune 500 key executives have been members of a fraternity or a sorority, and all but two U.S. presidents were involved in Greek life. On most campuses, the administration works with the Greek organizations to encourage student involvement and growth.
2. House Bunny
House Bunny (2008) follows the transformation of the Zeta Alpha Zeta sorority girls from ugly ducklings to gorgeous swans. Along the way, their new house mother (and former Playboy Bunny) shows them how the right clothes and their feminine charms can get them anything they want. Once they become popular, though, they realize they have become shallow and snobbish just like the sororities that had previously shunned them.
Myth –You have to be pretty and rich to be accepted into a sorority.
Fact – Over nine million college students are members of a Greek organization, so it’s highly unlikely that every one of them is a super model. Rarely, if ever, is someone’s exterior the reason for gaining acceptance. New recruits typically submit an application (verifying they meet the minimum academic standards for membership) and an interview process. Students of all shapes and sizes are involved in Greek life. As far as being rich, that may not be as big of a stretch. You can expect to pay initiation fees, monthly dues, activity fees and other expenses. If you plan to live in a sorority house, plan to pay a lot more than the typical dorm room fee. Thankfully, many chapters offer scholarships and payment plans to help spread out the costs.
3. Revenge of the Nerds
Although Revenge of the Nerds (1984) is your classic David and Goliath movie, with the weaker nerds (Lambda Lambda Lambda) battling the athletic jocks (Alpha Beta), it also gives viewers the impression that fraternity members have a ton of time on their hands. Members of both houses spend the majority of the movie plotting revenge against each other, pulling childish pranks or partying. I guess the Tri-Lams were so smart they didn’t need to go to class.
Myth – Greek members get to hang out all day together and just have fun!
Fact – Most Greek chapters work together throughout the year on charitable activities and campus events. When members are not in class, they are typically studying, attending organized meetings, or performing community service. Greek organizations are very careful to follow both their college and national guidelines for acceptable behavior and academic standards. For the most part, members of Greek organizations must have excellent time-management skills to help juggle the demands of both their academic schedules and Greek commitments.
Another part of Greek life that is often portrayed on film is hazing. Hollywood tries to desensitize us by making light of this serious subject (remember the brick scene in Old School?), but hazing is no laughing matter. It is illegal in 44 states and most Greek organizations publicly denounce hazing in any form. Unfortunately, a few Neanderthals still exist on some campuses and each year, some unfortunate student pays the ultimate price for membership. Hopefully, one day everyone will see hazing for what it really is: a form of torture meant to humiliate and degrade people. Until that time, don’t believe everything you see. In reality, most Greek organizations are an asset to their college campuses. They help develop young leaders, create a sense of community, and foster a network of support for their members.