Fraternities and sororities have been a part of Hollywood comedies for as long as we can remember, which, admittedly, is only up until around that eighth Jägerbomb. And though Nicholas Stoller’s Neighbors gives the typical collegiate conceit a new twist — a young couple (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) engage in a battle with the frat boys next door (Zac Efron, Dave Franco) — at its core, the film is still an excuse to malign our poor, beloved Greek system: to poke fun at these vital cornerstones of American higher education and mock traditions that provide a strong social foundation, an intellectual support system, and unparalleled networking opportunities. But more important, watch me shotgun this beer, broheim.
Ever since Clara Bow threw a mean kegger in 1929’s The Wild Party, scholastic hedonism has proved fertile ground for storytelling. Early sorority girls like those in 1939’s Sorority House and 1947’s Good News were generally well-behaved young things. It wasn’t until 1978, when a fat man squelched mashed potatoes out of his mouth while pretending it was a popped zit, that everything changed forever. With three first-time screenwriters, a largely untested director, and a cast made up mostly of unknowns, National Lampoon’s Animal House set the mold for decades of raunchy, pop-eyed odes to alcohol-fueled anarchy.
Later films such as Revenge of the Nerds, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, and Old School cemented frats in the public consciousness as sex-crazed, perma-drunk clans, while sororities just became meat houses for serial killers. “Hollywood depicts an exaggerated version of what actually occurs within the co-curricular experience of fraternities and sororities,” says Pete Smithhisler, CEO of the North-American Interfraternity Conference. “The truth is a lot more boring.” (As is that quote, dude.) Anyhow, for its part, the frat(ernity) in Neighbors is way more about getting ‘faced than getting its community service on. “There’s a wish-fulfillment part of watching a frat movie,” says director Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall). “You remember what it was like to be that young, but then at the end you’re relieved because you don’t have to clean up the mess.” Stoller says he drew from the classics when putting together his chapter house. We’d like to think that if he’d used a how-to guide to making the perfect Greek movie, it would look a little something like this: EW’s deep dive into the alpha and omega of Deltas and Sigmas. Just add a handle of vodka and a dose of questionable judgment.