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How To Write About Fraternities in the News Without Really Trying, Part 1

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Mention the Film Animal House

It doesn’t matter whether or not it has anything to do with anything. If you can mention the movie Animal House, especially in the title of your story/column about a fraternity, you’re golden. Not only will it draw in readers, but the comparison will also help inform the readers who can’t quite picture what a real life fraternity is like. Naturally when you want to portray a real life fraternity the best example to use is of the fictional Delta house, a fraternity that “existed” 50 years ago and whose members kill a horse, help destroy a cafeteria, binge drink to impressive excess (fine that’s valid), statutory rape a 14-year-old girl, and ruin a perfectly good parade. Here’s an example headline from a recent Forbes article:

College Frats: Should Animal House Be Tax-Exempt?

“Well of course not! We should all be damned before we let a bunch of parade ruining horse murderers be tax exempt! Tax exemption is based on MORALITY!” (*clicks over to a story about Vatican child sex slaves, wonders what irony means*) – Idiots who read that article.

I was in a fraternity, and I did a lot of things during my college years, but I NEVER ruined a parade, good sir. How dare you insinuate otherwise. Oh, and I also never had sex with a 14-year-old. As far as the horse thing goes, I’m not really sure. Does it count if your pledge class was given the task of raising a mini-pony all semester and then forced to kill it at initiation? We tried to give it sleeping pills so that it wouldn’t feel any pain but some joker got his meds mixed up and we ended up giving Patches a combination of Adderall and Viagra. Talk about a rodeo. Anyway the thing had a heart attack before we could drown it so I guess we technically didn’t kill it. Comment withdrawn.

But back to the headline, maybe someone else wrote it, so we might not want to blame the author… oh wait, never mind. From the article:

The Animal House image some fraternities have—and some others may want—should tell you that college fraternities—or sororities for that matter—are rarely known for their tax compliance.

You do understand that the 18-22-year-old members of these Greek houses aren’t doing the taxes, right? You know that a real life accountant is doing them, don’t you? It’s someone who in all likelihood might not have any relation to the fraternity or sorority other than said house being their client. You know that? Right? Eh, fuck it, let’s just say the kids drink and bone on top of a stack of IRS audit notices, because that happens…

Treasurer: Aw man, who the fuck vommed on our 501(c)(3) app? I can’t send this into the IRS. (*sniffs form*) Smells like someone puked Ten High into a snatch. Andy was that you? You crazy son of a bitch! Fuck it, we’re throwin’ a Tax Evasion Bros and Audit Hoes party, TONIGHT! Some sloots are gonna Au-dit our dicks. BOOM.

This is of course one example. There’s also the now infamous Rolling Stone article about the Dartmouth hazing scandal, which makes sure to mention Animal House multiple times. I will grant that the Delta house was actually based off a Dartmouth fraternity (not Lohse’s fraternity though), so it’s probably actually worth mentioning… when relevant. But it literally appears on every other page. The last mention is what I would call overkill.

Lohse quietly visited the campus to report SAE for hazing. He had been encouraged to make the move by several friends and by his brother, Jon, who had quit his own fraternity during his senior year. Lohse met with Dartmouth’s associate dean for campus life, April Thompson, and David Spalding, Kim’s chief of staff, who was a brother at Alpha Delta of Animal House infamy.

…he showed the administrators a photo of his pledge class standing in front of a table holding more than 550 cups of beer, explaining that evening’s mission: to consume all of it. Spalding, Lohse says, “was aghast.”

It’s important to note that Spalding, member of the ANIMAL HOUSE, was aghast. The hazing was SO BAD that a guy who had been in a fraternity that was spoofed in a movie about crazy fraternities was aghast. I mean he was in the Animal House fraternity, he must have seen some crazy fucked up stuff. If fraternities were Vietnam, then this guy was in the shit. Never mind that all the hazing in Animal House was pretty damn tame compared to the hazing allegations Lohse brought forth, or that Spalding was in that fraternity roughly a decade after the film took place. But yeah, you know, ANIMAL HOUSE OMFSHE@#*&U*@#&WESIGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!

Is every reference to Animal House wrong? No. Sometimes it serves to paint an accurate picture. Say if a fraternity house is run down, that is probably a valid time to compare it to the Delta house. After all, the first time we’re introduced to Delta someone is throwing chair out a window. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t seen that happen before… multiple times. Hell, after Patches became fully erect a couple actives broke out windows with chairs just so they could escape the angry, horny, terrified mini-pony wreaking havoc throughout the house.

Like I said above, the Rolling Stone article mentioning that Animal House was based on a Dartmouth fraternity is also a valid reference to the movie. But using an Animal House reference to paint some sensational picture for readers, who are, for the most part, wildly uninformed about Greek Life, is lazy and irresponsible. All it does is serve to overemphasize a point the author is trying to make so that the readers will agree with them instead of making up their own minds. Is that journalism?

So if all the people writing about fraternities could do me a favor and exercise some restraint when making Animal House references instead of using it as a crutch, that’d be great. Now if you’ll excuse me some pussy is out on the stairs singing a song about flowers, I need to go break his guitar.

Follow me on Twitter @BaconTFM

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