WEATHER AUTHORITY : Flash Flood Warning View Alerts

Why 'Animal House' culture is problematic

See why the nostalgic comedies of the '70s and '80s have unexpectedly come into focus in light of the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Posted: Sep 27, 2018 7:37 PM
Updated: Sep 27, 2018 7:37 PM

"Animal House's" recent 40th anniversary was an occasion for nostalgia, but also a referendum on the problematic aspects of the sex-and-drug comedies of that era when viewed through a modern prism. As USA Today asked in one analytical piece, "In the era of #MeToo, is it still OK to laugh at 'Animal House'?"

That period has come into focus again, unexpectedly, in the confirmation hearings regarding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault while a high-school student -- and in a separate act of misconduct by a college classmate -- during the early 1980s. (Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations.)

Movies, obviously, hold up a bent mirror to society, and are often funny precisely because they exaggerate attitudes and situations. But the popular culture of the period does reflect shifting standards, and tolerance for a kind of humor -- not only about sex, but also issues such as race -- that was much different, when young guys were reading the National Lampoon and flocking to see equally risqué fare like "Kentucky Fried Movie" and "The Groove Tube."

Of course, movies about teenage boys losing their virginity as a rite of passage both predates those years and lingered long after it. "The Summer of '42," a comedy-drama released in 1971, focused heavily on a pair of boys determined to have sex during World War II (before taking a more serious turn), while the "American Pie" series -- which dealt with the same general theme much more broadly -- kicked off in 1999.

In between, there were movies like "Animal House," in which, among other things, a college freshman plays out the pros and cons of having sex with a drunk-to-the-point-of-unconscious girl; and popular comedies like "Porky's" (with its voyeuristic shower scene), "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Sixteen Candles."

In the last film, one of a string of hit comedies directed by John Hughes, a teenage nerd impresses his friends by presenting a pair of a classmate's panties.

The extent to which women were fully realized characters in these movies -- as opposed to just being the objects of fixation and fantasy -- tended to vary, but in most instances these stories unfolded largely from a male perspective. A prime example would be "Weird Science" -- another Hughes film, from 1985 -- in which a couple of dweeby kids literally create an idealized woman (played by model Kelly LeBrock) in a lab.

Television exhibited a similar naughty streak during these years, with sitcoms like "Bosom Buddies" and "Three's Company," where young men ogling women -- while pretending to be women and gay, respectively -- was baked into the premise.

The tenuous relationship here to the Kavanaugh story is simply to consider the way the cultural environment has evolved, perhaps especially in the last few years. Re-watching movies years later has surely compelled some middle-aged parents to squirm uncomfortably when introducing their kids to old pastimes that haven't necessarily aged well.

There is and was, clearly, a vast gap between the entertainment that people consume and the way they actually behave. That said, there were also Reagan-era toga parties and drinking games inspired by what people saw on the screen, where characters being drunk or stoned was often a source of hilarity.

The issue of looking backward isn't strictly academic, coming as it does amid a wave of movie and TV revivals, drawing upon the equity in nostalgia. Yet for those who like to view the '70s and '80s as a simpler time, it's a reminder that not everything from those years translates into a modern setting, in what was, in key respects, a less enlightened one.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113876

Reported Deaths: 3238
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7850176
DeSoto685779
Harrison505083
Jackson445084
Rankin388186
Madison377993
Lee350779
Forrest299578
Jones287784
Washington255199
Lafayette245943
Lauderdale2418134
Lamar221238
Bolivar200177
Oktibbeha199354
Neshoba1831111
Lowndes176362
Panola169038
Leflore165187
Sunflower159749
Warren153655
Monroe147372
Pontotoc145819
Marshall139227
Lincoln138557
Pike137756
Copiah136236
Coahoma124736
Scott124729
Grenada121138
Yazoo120733
Simpson120449
Union116525
Tate114939
Leake114340
Holmes114160
Pearl River112259
Itawamba112125
Adams106743
Prentiss103719
Wayne99821
Alcorn98112
George97718
Covington95326
Marion93542
Tippah88121
Newton85227
Chickasaw83626
Tallahatchie83025
Winston82821
Tishomingo80041
Hancock79827
Attala78926
Clarke73450
Clay68321
Jasper67717
Walthall63627
Calhoun61912
Noxubee59617
Smith58916
Montgomery53523
Claiborne53316
Tunica52817
Yalobusha51914
Lawrence50714
Perry48623
Carroll47612
Greene46918
Stone46214
Humphreys42616
Amite42113
Quitman4196
Jefferson Davis40011
Webster37013
Wilkinson33520
Benton3255
Kemper32015
Sharkey28014
Jefferson27410
Franklin2373
Choctaw2046
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22861374
Mobile14468314
Tuscaloosa10148139
Montgomery9875196
Madison915094
Shelby720462
Lee649665
Baldwin647569
Marshall433049
Calhoun418960
Etowah418749
Morgan403635
Houston369232
DeKalb330229
Elmore314852
St. Clair287142
Limestone276530
Walker272293
Talladega261035
Cullman235724
Lauderdale214841
Jackson210015
Autauga202330
Franklin202131
Colbert196731
Russell19233
Blount189325
Dallas186227
Chilton184132
Escambia171929
Coffee171710
Covington169929
Dale165451
Chambers133643
Pike132313
Tallapoosa130587
Clarke130017
Marion106229
Butler100140
Barbour9979
Marengo99222
Winston91313
Geneva8527
Pickens82417
Lawrence82131
Randolph81216
Bibb81114
Hale74930
Clay72912
Cherokee72614
Lowndes70328
Monroe64010
Henry6396
Bullock63717
Washington63412
Crenshaw60230
Perry5836
Wilcox56212
Fayette56113
Conecuh55713
Cleburne5438
Macon52920
Sumter47021
Lamar4665
Choctaw38812
Greene34216
Coosa2023
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 70°
Columbus
Few Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 81°
Oxford
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 72°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather