Have frat boys finally jumped the pop culture shark? That’s the question Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Yang asks in a recent column analyzing what, if anything, can be concluded from the underwhelming opening weekend of the film 21 & Over. A film, by the way, in which none of the protagonists are in a fraternity, that actually has one of the main characters, Casey, openly mock fraternities, calling them gay. Because if there’s one thing the GDIs who claim fraternities are negative entities that promote exclusivity, racism, and cultural insensitivity like to do, it’s call us faggots.
While 21 & Over might not feature any Greek protagonists (other than a horribly written female love interest), it still undeniably tries to capitalize on “frat humor,” which apparently includes any jokes about drinking, sex, and generally sophomoric shenanigans or commentary. You won’t see me trying to deny that those aren’t all elements of frat humor. What can I say? We like what we like. But does one movie doing poorly mean that frat humor has jumped the shark, as Yang seems to imply? Considering how terrible the marketing campaign for 21 & Over was, I had no desire to see this film until the guys at Atomic Productions dragged me to it, and considering that the film was released during perhaps the lowest grossing period of the year, I am inclined to say that Yang is really reaching here. Actually, he’s just wrong. No, frat humor is not dead. Far from it. You want to know how I know that? This line from a Jeff Yang article written today, four days after the 21 & Over piece.
Austin, Texas is the home of TotalFratMove.com, a site that leveraged crude snark, nudity and pictures of vomiting into its current status as the most trafficked college content site on the web.*
*Ed. Note: There’s more to this quote, more on that in a minute.
The most trafficked college content site on the web? Yeah it sounds like this whole frat humor thing is dying out pretty quick. Of course TotalFratMove.com receives no mention in the original article asking if frat humor is losing its appeal, I assume because that would have seriously damaged the paper thin point Yang was lazily attempting to make. Also, receiving no mention? What about The New York Times Bestselling book titled “Total Frat Move” that was just released this past January? Tell me, Jeff Yang, were you too lazy to do your research, or did you just assume no one would call you on your shitty argument? Considering that Yang got a fraternity’s name wrong twice in that same story, I’ll go with lazy, and maybe add a dash of stupid for good measure. It’s okay, buddy. Alphabets are hard.
How bad was Yang’s argument that frat humor is dying out? His only other example that people were getting tired of it was Seth MacFarlane’s poorly received Oscar hosting gig. Because, you know, usually Academy Awards hosts are so warmly reviewed and embraced by the public. I sat and watched the Academy Awards with two other guys who were in fraternities, and we all thought MacFarlane sucked. I assume there were plenty of other fraternity guys who did as well. You want to know why? Because the Academy Awards tend to suck. Of course if Yang wanted to more accurately gauge whether or not the public enjoys Seth MacFarlane, perhaps it would have been useful to note that MacFarlane had the highest grossing comedy film of 2012 in Ted, and has three TV shows going strong on Fox. You know what sucks? I don’t even really like Seth MacFarlane that much. He makes me laugh from time to time, but I’m a Trey Parker and Matt Stone guy all day. Goddamn you Jeff Yang for making me defend him.
Yang rounds out his original article by listing a series of racially insensitive things fraternities have done over the years, and how the public’s offense to them somehow proves that America is growing tired of fraternities and frat humor. Because…why not? If Yang’s arguments were a stripper she’d be working the Tuesday lunch shift, because there are stretch marks everywhere (frat humor!). The truth is that Greek membership is higher than ever, and assuming the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure act passes, a bill that would allow tax deductible donations to the expansion and renovation of fraternity and sorority houses, those numbers will only continue to rise.
It’s odd that Yang was willing to reach back several years to highlight bad fraternity behavior and the public’s generally rightful outrage over it, but couldn’t look further than two weeks ago to find examples of the health of the frat humor genre. Did I say odd? I meant transparent and pathetic. Or lazy. Probably that too.
Of course it’s obvious Yang just has an axe to grind, especially when one reads things like this:
As students without “breeding” came into colleges in greater numbers, admitted due to academic merit rather than legacy ties, fraternities began to deemphasize scholarship and embrace academic defiance.
At the vast majority of American colleges, fraternity and all-Greek GPAs are higher than the campus average. How many times must fraternity and sorority members scream this at the top of their lungs before any critic of Greek Life will actually give a shit? But why bother looking that up? Fuck it, right?
Laziness seems to be a theme with Yang. If you’re wondering why he mentioned Total Frat Move at all, it was to make a point about some wristbands with sexually inappropriate jokes that were handed out at an MIT SXSW party. A party that TFM, or fraternities in general, had literally absolutely nothing to do with.
Two nights before, Media Lab had thrown a well-attended party at local bar The Parish, in partnership with Mozilla.org and the Knight Foundation — three smart and relatively staid establishment institutions in the world of technology and media. But SXSW is where the tech and hipster worlds intersect with frat culture, sometimes awkwardly — Austin, Texas is the home of TotalFratMove.com, a site that leveraged crude snark, nudity and pictures of vomiting into its current status as the most trafficked college content site on the web.
I’m not really sure it was worth mentioning us here, considering that no one on the TFM team is officially doing anything for SXSW this year. But yeah, sure, we’re totally fratting balls out all over SXSW. One could argue that Yang at the very least meant that SXSW takes place primarily on 6th Street in Austin, where tons of UT Greeks go out drinking. That argument is a little harder to make this year though, since the University of Texas is on spring break this week. Considering that SXSW is often held in the middle of March, it’s pretty safe to assume that there are in fact many years when UT is on spring break while SXSW is going on.* But you know what, let’s just mention fraternities here anyway because FUCK IT.
“Fuck it,” I assume, was what was inscribed above the main entrance of whatever journalism school Jeff Yang attended.**
*SXSW is in fact held EVERY year during UT’s spring break, so yeah, not a lot of fraternity guys roaming 6th during SXSW.
**Jeff Yang graduated from Harvard in 1989 with a B.A. in psychology, so, uh, never mind on that last joke. Sort of.
[via The Wall Street Journal]