The rallying cry of college students for decades has been based in part on the characters in the 1970s movie Animal House, which takes place in a fictional fraternity house in Oregon. Amongst the most idolized characters was Bluto, the partying, class-skipping, whiskey-chugging, peeping Tom character immortalized by John Belushi.
Since that movie, countless fraternity, sorority and other college parties have emulated various scenes, including the famous toga party, where the inebriated crowd dances to the party staple “Shout,” performed by Otis Day and the Knights. This scene has even become a regular part of many sporting events.
Unfortunately, while John Belushi continued to increase his fame and fortune, the public learned that the fictional persona of Bluto was, in fact, very similar to the private life of Belushi. And it was this lifestyle of partying, drinking and drugs that led to Belushi’s overdose and death just four years after the release of Animal House.
So, is it time for prospective and current college students to grasp onto another role model to emulate for their college years? Belushi would certainly agree, as would the 1,825 college students that die each year in the U.S. from alcohol-related deaths. Maybe our high school and college students should begin looking up to characters who enjoy college and thrive without succumbing to the dangerous pattern of Animal House. Wouldn’t we pick the life of Reese Witherspoon’s character in Legally Blonde for our child over that of Bluto? Or the life of Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting over Will Farrell’s character in Old School, who ends up divorced, alone and bewildered?
Is it time to shed the image of American Pie (seen Tara Reid lately, anyone?) and instead idolize Rudy?
And would the late, great Robin Williams tell us to do a beer bong at a toga party, or would he, after looking back at his life-long struggle with alcohol, tell us to “Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? Carpe… Hear it? Carpe… carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” (Dead Poets Society)
Marc Treitler and his family are the founders and creators of the family addiction education website www.potatoallergy.com and the authors and illustrators of My Dad Is an Alcoholic, What About Me?: A Pre-teen Guide to Conquering Addictive Genes.
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