Why’s It Classic?: Animal House

7 Years of College for Something

Before the days of Van Wilder and Blue Mountain State, we were graced with the almighty presence of National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978). This frat boys dream set the stage for what all college parties hope to accomplish to this day. Alcohol, sex, and camaraderie were the pillars of what the fictional deltas stood for and made a gang of ragtag failures be the biggest men on campus. This ultimate “stick it to the man” movie set the bar for college comedies and introduced a new level of movie fun that is hard to find to this day.

Screenwriters Chris Miller, Douglas Kenney, and the late Harold Ramis reportedly used their real life experience in fraternities to bring the wackiness of Greek life to realization and used the backdrop of 1962 America to bring it into full fruition. Society was exiting the innocent feeling of the 50s and starting to embrace the more raunchy side of life. Fun was Woodstock and The Beatles and serious issues like Nixon and a possible missile crisis were just there to kill the buzz. Thankfully, there was plenty of Jack Daniels and awesome music to go around and the animals made the template for the perfect party (toga, toga, TOGA!!). Speaking of music, Animal House brought back and immortalized classic music like Shout by the Isley Brothers that would probably have been forgotten if not for this awesome shot of publicity. Along with awesome pop/rock songs, House also brought classical music to raunchy comedy. This set a blueprint for future comedies to use sophisticated music in an ironic setting, making an example by setting it as the backdrop to a belligerent John Belushi spying on sorority girls.

The Lampoon film set a new level for sticking it to the man. What’s that you say? The Dean at your school pissed you off so you egged his car? The Deltas crashed the f*cking homecoming parade. Even when the authority won, it lost. Animal House showed us in a weird way that no matter how little amount of power you have, you can always make your voice heard. Especially when you have a gang of hardcore friends behind you with nothing to lose. Friendship was also raised to a new standard with the release of the cult comedy. Standing up for your buddies and takin the blame is all well and good, but do you love your friends enough to cover up killing a horse via accidental heart attack or endure double secret probation from an oppressive authority figure? The animals did with style.

College comedies today would try to convince you that every night is a hallucinogen filled time of sex, booze, and little consequence. Animal House assuredly had these, but made sure to take into account real life as well. You still have to pass tests, deal with the scary prospect of the future, and make “seven years of college” at least look like it paid off. Animal House made drinking till 2 A.M. and waking up in the morning to take a test less of a “party” thing to do and more just being a part of college. College is where you go to find yourself more or less, so what’s wrong with having a little fun while you do it? Animal House showed us that there was nothing wrong with it. Nothing at all.

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