The above photo was hanging in the TFM Headquarters the first time I set foot in it, back before we moved to a new location, and when the office was a fraction of its current size. It was displayed prominently, like an above-the-fireplace portrait in an affluent family’s home. The chapter pictured is ATO at the University of Florida, and it’s a classic. It was submitted to the website well over two years ago, and was posted soon after.
It’s a great conversation piece for a couple reasons: 1. There is so much going on in the photo, from the guys on the roof to the occupied hammock hanging between the middle pillars, and on down to the motorcycle and the many colorful characters in the front lawn, and 2. It’s a pretty great representation of what the website sought to become from the jump, which is a satirical portrayal of fraternity culture. It also has a very Animal House-like caricatural quality to it. It’s one of those photos that you can’t just glance to and look away from. It’ll draw you in, incite a closer inspection, keep your eyes bouncing around, and lead to questions and comments. If you’re the imaginative type, it’ll tell quite the story. If not, I’ll help you write the narrative.
Let’s all take a closer look together.
Photographs of this nature are typically scheduled for a time when as many members as possible are available to participate, in an effort to make it as over-the-top as possible. With that in mind, what better time than fall semester, post-rush? With the arrival of a new fall pledge class and their mandatory participation, it’s the perfect opportunity.
I’m sure many pledges are in this photo, but a few stick out. Here’s how I imagine their positions came to be:
Active: “Look alive, fuckers. It’s picture day. We have our annual front lawn photo today and we’re going to make sure we do it right, so listen up. First thing’s first. Let’s get all you worthless pledges assigned to your spots.”
Pledges: “(in unison) Yes, sir.”
Active: “Now remind me, one of you is really terrified of heights, right? Like deathly, shit-in-your-pants terrified…”
Pledge Wilcott: “Sir, Pledge Erickson. You’re thinking of Erickson. He has a heights phobia, sir. I think he gets vertigo. Erickson, it’s called ‘vertigo,’ right?”
Pledge Erickson: “(under his breath) Dude, fuck you so hard. You really think he gives a fuck about my heights thing right now? It’s a setup, you dipshit.”
Active: “Ah! That’s right. Erickson, you’ll take roof location A.”
Pledge Erickson: “Yes, sir.”
Active: “You know the one that’s NOT in front of the window like we talked about last week. To tell you the truth, it’s scary as hell up there. Three stories, man. A pledge fell off ‘roof location A’ in 1964 and died on impact. Good luck, you homosexual. And Wilcott, you’re on roof location B for fucking your pledge brother like that.”
Active: “Stevens…where’s Stevens? There you are. Remember that first time you came by the house? It was before rush even started…”
Pledge Stevens: “I do, sir.”
Pledge Stevens: “I was wearing long shorts, sir.”
Pledge Stevens: “They were cargo shorts, sir.”
Active: “They were, weren’t they?”
Pledge Stevens: “They were, sir.”
Active: “Yeah, you fucked up that day, Stevens. Shouldn’t have bid you, but here you are making my life a little shittier than it has to be. I have a Lieutenant Dangle costume in my room for you to wear. Put it on, show me those thighs, and make sure you tuck your nuts up in those shorts. Nobody wants to see that shit.”
Pledge Stevens: “I will, sir.”
Active: “Sit right in front and keep your head down in shame, you know, on account of the shorts. And because I generally just hate you.”
Active: “Moving right along now.” (*looks at notepad*) “Creepy John, where are you, you creepy little fucker?”
Pledge John Berry: “Sir, right here.”
Active: “Kill anyone lately?”
Pledge John Berry: “I have not, sir.”
Active: “Yeah sure. Look, just be yourself, but grab that hat I told you never to wear again. Wear it.”
Pledge John Berry: “Yes, sir.”
Active: “Ugly Dave!”
Pledge David Brockermeyer: “Right here, sir.”
Active: “Ugly Dave, you’re on hammock duty. Hang it front and center and really goddamn high between the middle pillars. Then lay inside it until it’s time for the photo.”
Pledge Brockermeyer: “On it, sir.”
Active: “And I don’t care if you have to wait for four hours, your ass is in that hammock. If you have to take a shit, shit over the side. Your pledge brothers will clean it up. You understand?”
Pledge Brockermeyer: “Understood, sir.”
Active: “Oh, and if your ugly fucking face appears in the photo, it’ll be the last photo you ever take. Keep your head down. You know, because you’re really fucking ugly.”
Lastly, I wouldn’t be doing my job if we closed the book on this photograph without properly identifying the lookers in the crowd, and there are a few.
So, there you have it: the story behind one of the greatest photos ever submitted to TFM. That’s how I saw it all go down, but I’d like to hear your own observations. Share them in the comments.