Not My Party, Not My Boy
Universities have existed in the United States since 1636 with the founding of Harvard University and have grown to the present day number of 4,495 colleges, universities and junior colleges (Stoeckel, 1). Because these institutions have been established for so long, college students have also been an identity in the United States for just as long, giving the white, male college student identity 396 years to develop, being influenced by media, economics, war time and so on along the way. Although it is a recent development, white, male college students have gained a reputation in popular culture for being party boys, only wanting drugs and sex, staying in higher education for those reasons alone. Since this is the reputation that has been trending in popular culture (film, music, television, etc.), this is the identity that the general population has started to construct for the white, male college student, at times ignoring the infinite number of other identities that a white, male college student can, and do construct for themselves, making the party boy the most widely represented identity in popular culture for the white, male college student, negatively affecting those who do not identify as a party boy.
In the years that I have been a college student who also happens to be a white male, I have heard dozens of examples of how the rest of the college population, teachers included, have constructed the white, male identity within the college community. I have heard a group of friends talking on campus about the parties they had gone to over the weekend, making sure to include details about their sexual escapades and the copious amount of drugs they consumed, I’ve also been in classes when a professor has made statements directly addressing me, saying things like “Well I hope you boys aren’t too hung over for this quiz” and “I bet you have a girlfriend for everyday of the week”, which, besides being wildly inappropriate, is also furthering an identity (and stigma) that is a generally negative one and one that I do not personally identify with. If our professors, who are supposed to be the most open minded, supportive and nurturing people in the college community, stereotype vast groups of students that easily and to that extent, it is no wonder why white, male college students have been getting a bad rap, not even given a chance to prove ones self as an individual.
In the stereotypical representation of the white, male college student, they are often stripped of individuality by being recruited into fraternities or dorms, where they are conditioned to want to party and do drugs, sleeping with as many women as possible on the way, even though the frat house can be perceived as a homoerotic setting, to assert their masculinity and virility, a way of proving how successful their carriers will be post graduation. In the film Animal House by director John Landis, there is a scene where a group of senior fraternity brothers are hazing the new recruits by making them strip down to their underwear and spanking them with paddles, while the new recruits say “Thank you sir, may I have another?” after every spank. This scene is an example of the white, male college student having his personal identity striped and then given a new one, that of a frat boy who likes to drink and be a sexual deviant and if the new college student would refuse this hazing or in any way act out against this new identity that has been given him, he would be shunned by that frat and labeled a homosexual, a freak or any other number of derogatory identities by those fraternity brothers and in turn, the rest of the schools population. Since it was released, Animal House has become a cult classic, selling thousands of copies worldwide, taking this representation of the white, male college student to an extreme.
The fraternity that this film is named after, the “Animal House”, is the biggest party frat on campus where, every night of the week, one can go and consume copious amounts of alcohol, smash windows, dance to rock ’n roll and sleep with any number of women, making this lifestyle seem desirable. To a young man that is perhaps living on his own for the first time, a world where there are no rules and anything can happen is a desirable one, experiencing life in a wholly new way. When this life becomes one of idolatry and the self is lost, taking everything possible to the extreme is when it becomes a dangerous one. Not only a physically dangerous lifestyle for that individual, but also socially and ideologically dangerous for those around him.
A large part of the Party Boy identity is the desire for intercourse and the things one has to do to get it. The Party Boy will do whatever he can when it comes to having sex, in Ryan Shiraki’s Freshman Orientation, Clay, the male lead played by Sam Huntington, wants to become a Party Boy and figures he can start by going to parties and finding an attractive girl to sleep with. When he finds the girl and gets shot down, he sacrifices his entire identity by pretending to be gay so he can get close to the girl and trick her into bed. Completely sacrificing your masculinity, which is a large party of the Party Boy identity, to sleep with a woman is an extreme that white, male college students I know would not go to for the sake of an orgasm. In the 2002 film Van Wilder, directed by Walt Becker, the main character, Van Wilder, and all of his Party Boy friends only care about one thing, sex, whenever there is a problem in the film, it is chalked up to a lack of sex. This is best represented by Van’s dog Colossus, who has inflamed testicles but is relieved of that inflammation when the dog ejaculates, asserting that if sexual intercourse is not had for a long time, things will go wrong, creating the allusion that sex must be had to continue living.
Animal House was released in 1978, Van Wilder in 2002 and Freshman Orientation in 2007 but all three of these films represent the white, male college student in the same ways, showing that popular culture has thought about this identity in the same way for 36 years, completely disregarding the infinite amount of other identities such as the geek, the musician, the chef, the homosexual, the martial artist, etc. that are all identities that white males create for themselves, which can be seen on every college campus around the country, often not being represented in popular culture because they are not the Party Boy.
Animal House. Dir. John Landis. Universal Pictures, 1978. DVD.
Freshman Orientation. Dir. Ryan Shiraki. Regent Releasing, 2007. DVD.
Hamilton, Laura. “Trading On Heterosexuality: College Women’s Gender Strategies and Homophobia” Gender and Society Vol. 21 No. 2 (April 2007): pp. 145 – 172. Web. 24 February 2014.
Stoeckel, Althea. Presidents, Professors and Politics: The Colonial College and the American Revolution. Indiana: Ball State University, 1976. Print.
Van Wilder. Dir. Walt Becker. Lions Gate Films, 2002. DVD.