Rule of six: what did Boris Johnson mean by ‘Animal House parties’? | Film

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Boris Johnson reached for an unlikely reference in attempts to clarify when exactly British people should call the police on neighbours who break the “rule of six”: the lurid 1978 college comedy Animal House.

In an interview with the Sun, the prime minister used the John Landis film, which focuses on a chaotic year at the fictional Faber College, as cultural shorthand for debauchery and the kind of parties with “hot tubs and so forth”, that would pose “a serious threat to public health”.

Landis’s college comedy, which came from the team behind National Lampoon magazine, is regarded as a seminal classic by its fans and an outmoded throwback that should be confined to history by its critics.

In a piece marking the film’s 40th anniversary, film critic Charles Bramesco, said at a time when cultural commentators are looking at older works for “offenses against modern mores” that there’s “no target fatter than Animal House”.

It has been criticised for having “gay panic undertones”, using casual racism and normalising misogyny – in one scene a character debates whether he should rape a girl who has passed out.

In an oral history to mark the films 40th anniversary, Landis said the film “captures what everybody considers the best years of your life – the first time you’re independent and feel a tremendous sense of freedom, but before all the responsibility comes”.

The film gave a debut to Kevin Bacon, made John Belushi a star and took $141.6m at the US box office, creating a culture phenomenon whose legacy can be seen in everything from 22 Jump Street to the Bad Neighbours franchise.

The former Guardian Guide critic John Patterson said the film still provides the template for today’s college comedies, which embrace its “binge-drinking, drug abuse [and] creepy sexual antics”, even if university life has changed drastically.

“Today, the prospect of life-long college debt tends to focus the least nerdy mind when it comes to actually getting down to studying,” he wrote in 2016. “And an unfairly demonised culture of trigger warnings and safe spaces seeks to safeguard against the glorification of sexist, hedonistic excess celebrated in that feted film.”

Johnson’s choice of pop culture reference may raise some eyebrows considering the kind of outlandish antics seen in the film are distinctly American.

“There was no British equivalent to Animal House or its myriad successors, then or now,” wrote Patterson, who added that the only movie that remotely resembled his UK college experience was Withnail And I.

Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Rule of six: what did Boris Johnson mean by ‘Animal House parties’? | Film

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