America is Animal House


The Washington Post has a good story on Christine Blasey Ford, and let’s get this out of the way: she’s also a product of wealthy, preppy, privileged, private school and country club culture. I despise those people. That they are the class that dominates politics is one of the big problems with this country.

But she got out — she fled as far as she could from the kind of people that Brett Kavanaugh instead chose to wallow with. The kind of people who thought getting drunk until they vomited was the height of fun.

Every summer, the “Holton girls” would pack into a rented house for Beach Week, an annual bacchanal of high-schoolers from around the region. The prep schools that formed Ford’s overlapping social circles usually gathered at a Delaware beach town each year. Kavanaugh, in his senior-year yearbook, cited his own membership in the “Beach Week Ralph Club.”

Like Kavanaugh, Ford was part of that alcohol-fueled culture. But those unchaperoned parties, at beach rentals and Bethesda basements alike, frequently left the girls feeling embattled.

“The boys were pretty brutal,” Evers said. “They would do what they could to get you drunk, and do whatever they would try to do to you.”

And then those boys go on to become lawyers and politicians, and do whatever they would try to do to the American people.

I have to say that this Twitter thread (read it all here) pretty much has American culture pegged.

Remember those cheap comedies from the ’80s, like Porkies or Revenge of the Nerds? I remember laughing at them, but what they were really doing is instilling in us a forgiveness for the excesses of Asshole Culture. Sure, they’re committing rape, they’re humiliating women, they’re praising turning the tables on bullies by becoming bullies yourselves, but boys will be boys, and isn’t it funny to peek in the girls’ showers or their bedroom windows and see boobies?

Try watching them now. They haven’t stood the test of time, and are painful to see, because now (I hope!) we can all see that the underdogs are all privileged white boys who have managed to succeed only by finding a new group of victims, usually women, to exercise power over. They are stories about clawing your way up the hierarchy by stomping hard on people, where you win by being cunning and brutal and making your opponents suffer, and your reward is getting the girl, whether she likes it or not.

And today, Cthulhu help us, it’s the people who absorbed those messages who now run the country.

You know, it pains me to say it, because I loved the anti-establishment message of another of those ’80s comedies, Animal House, and it actually does have some funny moments, but…it’s part of the problem. It celebrates sexism (don’t you like to see boobies?), and it is underdogs battling the privileged, but it’s two frat houses fighting for dominance. It’s the frat system that is the problem, and no one ever seems to think of leaving the whole rotten edifice. Then the hero is Bluto Blutarski, who is a crass, crude, ignorant failure who uses bluster and unearned confidence to claw his way up the ladder…he is the archetype of Trump. Real-life Blutarskis are not funny anymore.

It is sort of funny in a laugh-through-the-tears, ironic way that in the closing credits of the movie, they say that Blutarski goes on to become a US senator. It’s too true. That’s why we can still laugh. But do you still laugh when you see all the Blutos actually running congress? Becoming Supreme Court judges? Getting elected president? I don’t think so.

Comments

  1. weylguy says

    The public’s forgiving, fawning attitude towards the privileged, beautiful, rich and powerful is an American phenomenon, and we’ve spread it all over the world with our stupid culture that tells everyone that only the privileged, beautiful, rich and powerful have lives worth living. The American Dream™ is based on the sick fantasy that Joe SIxpack and Sally Housecoat can become one of the lucky ones if only they work hard enough and smart enough to achieve complete assholery.

  2. rayceeya says

    “Remember those cheap comedies from the ’80s, like Porkies or Revenge of the Nerds?”

    Now I’m picturing how Porkies would have ended if those had been black teenagers instead of white. I have a feeling that the Police Officer at the end would have behaved very differently. In fact I’d bet that instead of defending those boys and their antics, he would have pulled his gun and shot whoever the tallest one was just to show them what’s going to happen if anyone else gets out of line. Not that the tallest one in the scene would be the one to act out, but he’s the tallest, and therefore the most threatening. Then when the Porkies crew pursuing them shows up, he turns his back as the redneck assholes beat the rest of them to death.

    Go ahead, re-watch the ending of that film and picture what would have happened if those kids weren’t privileged little white boys.

  3. mikehuben says

    When I was going through teacher education (for a masters) about 15 years ago, I found out that the humorous standards of my youth (60s and 70s) were inappropriate now. Red Skelton’s bums, drunks, and stupid people for example.

    I think there’s an opportunity for somebody to make some good money by selling courses on how not to abuse your privilege and how not to offend younger people by teaching that modern socialization has different norms. Hopefully, people will take them BEFORE they commit some offense.

    Too bad Blutarski was the good guy: calling a senator that wouldn’t work as a criticism for the over-30 set.

  4. mnb0 says

    Back then I already preferred Preparez vos Mouchoirs (Get out your Handkerchief) to Porky’s. From Imdb:

    “A worried husband finds a lover for his depressed wife, but she falls in love with a bullied thirteen-year-old math prodigy and wants to have the boy’s baby.”

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    The kind of people who thought getting drunk until they vomited was the height of fun.

    Lots – lots! – of po’ folks, and more than a few in the ‘burbs, like that too.

  6. anchor says

    There are other films that depict that asshole culture without the silly ‘Animal House’-style caricaturing that plays it up as a source of amusement. Films like ‘School Ties’ and ‘Scent of a Woman’ and others pretty unambiguously exhibit the asshole cultivation in those environments.

  7. Akira MacKenzie says

    I think part of the problem was we thought these sleazy 70-80 comedies were part of the rebellion against the uptight prudery of pre-Sexual Revolution America. Heap on the sex and nudity! Celebrate every violation against the codes of moralistic “decency” that restrains our freedom. Yay fucking and boobies!

    However, as it often does, we threw the baby out with bath water and ignored a few taboos that should have remained. Now even consent is seen as an impediment to sexual freedom rather than a safeguard against abuse. “She’s drunk at a party where people look to have sex, she MUST want it!”

  8. gijoel says

    The kind of people who thought getting drunk until they vomited was the height of fun.

    Not just a problem of the well to do.

  9. ricardus says

    That old show Lifestyles of the Rich an Famous was a great example of our perverse culture. People used to watch that show, and what? Use it as inspiration in some delusional Ayn Randian fantasy?

  10. says

    Yeah, the whole lie that, “One day you might have this!”, was just stupid. But.. the more “mature” reality is like looking at landscaping, furniture, etc. ideas and the like, on pintrest now, and going, “Yeah, if I had a plot of land, a moderate amount of money, and 20 years of my life back, I could probably make my house have all, or just some, of the stuff I am seeing here, or.. if I was rich, I could pay people an obscene amount of money to do it in a year. And, this is just “small scale” stuff, like a few rock walls, and some other bits. You kind of have to look at the full blown stuff in that old show like stuff out of a video game – wow, I would love to own the castle that character has, but.. since I can’t, maybe I can fine someone that makes a wall hanging of it. Sigh…

    But, some of it was probably delusional fantasy, but a lot of it was looking at the excess, like a train wreck, or the fake stories in rag magazines, which people still buy every single week. Its not about what might become/could be reality, but what might be, or alternatively, how much worse things could be, depending on the nature of the content. Sadly, an undefined percentage of the population actually seems to use these things are either, “The dream I will one day have, if the world gets out of my way.”, or, “All the things wrong in the world, which need to be fixed.” And, when you get some nasty mix of these delusions…

  11. says

    Kavanaugh, in his senior-year yearbook, cited his own membership in the “Beach Week Ralph Club.”

    I wonder if he marked the dates for Beach Week in the calendars he said he will bring with him to testify…

  12. KG says

    The public’s forgiving, fawning attitude towards the privileged, beautiful, rich and powerful is an American phenomenon, and we’ve spread it all over the world – weylguy@1

    sigh
    Why do so many Americans think they invented everything? ;-)

  13. consciousness razor says

    Why do so many Americans think they invented everything? ;-)

    I don’t know. I suppose we didn’t even invent the idea that we invented everything. I’m tempted to blame it on the Romans, just because. But what have they ever done for us?

    The public’s forgiving, fawning attitude towards the privileged, beautiful, rich and powerful is an American phenomenon, and we’ve spread it all over the world

    I’m trying to imagine how that world history class would go. There would still be some kind of story to tell I guess, but day after day, the teacher somehow forgets to mention all of the fawning over the privileged, beautiful, rich and powerful. Then, during the colonial era or some time later, something dramatically changes, because of all of the Americanness being spread around.

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