Monday, January 30, 2012

Animal House and College Conduct

When I read Blumer's Movies and Conduct (1933), it reminded me of another article I read last fall – “Cinematic College: National Lampoon’s Animal House Teaches Theories of Student Development.”  The points that Blumer made that resonated most with me were the following: those less educated are more impressionable by images on film; and, the message or theme intended by the director or producer of the film may seem secondary or could be misinterpreted by viewers.

(I am not sure how to attach a PDF of the article - so here is a link to a website that also has it:;col1)

The film Animal House and the article on how it relates to student development exemplify just those ideas.  I know the attached article is long, but some of the highlights include:

---Harold Ramis (the screenwriter of the film) was interview via phone.  When interviewed, Ramis explained that his intended message with the film was to portray the following themes: autonomy, competence, authority, and perfection.  Each of these themes can be seen as relating to overall positive student development.  (If you want to read the article, the author does go into more detail about specific theories of college student development.)

---However, the article also included a qualitative investigation into how undergraduate students perceived the messages and themes of the film.  The students in the study identified the following themes: campus climate/destroy, campus climate/pranks, and relationships – male/female.  (In regards to relationships, the researchers noted that all but one of the male/female relationships shown in the film were sexual in nature and that most of the relationships involved some kind of unethical behavior, concealing of truth, or pursuing intercourse with a minor.)

I found the article to tie into Blumer’s point that the most impressionable are those without experience in higher education.  Films like Animal House could show today’s high school students what to expect when going to college.

*While I’m sure most have seen either Animal House or a similar film on college life, I’ve attached it’s trailer just as a refresher of the film’s general themes.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting connection you found between “Movies and Conduct” and “Animal House”. Reading through your blog post, I was also drawing similar connections between some children’s Disney movies, especially the princess movies, and little girls’ self-esteem.

    Blumer’s point of the message or theme intended by the director or producer of the film may seem secondary or could be misinterpreted by viewers can also ring true in the case of Disney princess movies.

    The writer or director may anticipate the main messages of the films to be themes like “believe in yourself” or “beauty is on the inside”, but what often is interpreted is all l”ove is a fairy tale” or “prince charming will save the day”.

    I’d like to think that many of us are at the age to see past a lot of the unrealistic expectations of love found in movies, but there is still a part of me that feels a little conditioned that everyone deserves fairy tale love from years of Disney movies and romantic comedies.