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

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, the film critic Charles Bramesco, said at a time when cultural commentators are looking at older works for “offences 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 its 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”.

It gave a debut to Kevin Bacon, made John Belushi a star and took $141.6m at the US box office, creating a cultural 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 provided the template for today’s college comedies, which embraced its “binge-drinking, drug abuse [and] creepy sexual antics”, even if university life had changed drastically.

“Today, the prospect of lifelong 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.

Read the original article at The Guardian

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