Sunday, March 3, 2013

Total Frat Move #TFM

I had the pleasure of reviewing the incredibly popular book, Total Frat Move, as one of my first book reviews through NetGalley.  It was quite the experience to say the least.  I chose the book because going through college, I belonged to a sorority and it was an amazing experience and one that I found to be valuable for many people.  Despite the stereotypes that accompany the Greek system, many of those young women helped shape who I was in college as well as were part of my support system.  Going into this book, I knew there was going to be some crude use of the Greek system as an excuse to complete whatever wild fantasies a young man could have in college.  

That became an understatement as the protagonist, Townes Prescott, followed in his father's footsteps and pledged the fraternity as what we would call a legacy.  A legacy is a person who has had a sibling or parent in that Greek charter, whether a fraternity or sorority.  So, Townes had a lot to live up to, including several very illegal activities.  The book's theme, not surprisingly, is drinking, sex, and drugs.  Of course, this completely lives up to every negative steretype that surrounds the Greek system.  What I found incredibly amusing was this promotional video for the upcoming movie:

It opens with the quote, "from the outside looking in, you can never understand it," which was a statement that I could definitely relate to being Greek and having people question why you choose to be a part of the organization.  Watching this video, these young men, reminded me of so many of the guy friends I made in other fraternities who are just genuinely nice people.  All this book did was perpetuate really negative stereotypes that may have happened once at a fraternity, but isn't really the "Greek experience."  Yes, there are traces of brotherhood and the unity of sharing the experience of college, but that's not what the book's purpose serves. 
Almost every story or lesson in the book involves alcohol.  Not once do you truly see the repercussions for this binge-drinking, boozy mentality.  Yes, a few of Townes' fraternity brothers received tickets and maybe even a night in jail, but it was blown off as being "legendary," and something to brag about to future pledges.  The book had its hilarious moments and times when I had to read it out loud because it is great writing, but I worry about what this says about the young people they portray.  If any fraternity managed to pull the antics of Townes Prescott, their charter would be kicked off a campus.  Not just that, they would owe thousands of dollars and they as individuals would probably get kicked out of the university.  So as entertaining as Mr. Prescott was throughout the book, having been a member of the Greek system, I knew it was very unrealistic and kind of a dangerous example to set for future college freshmen.

Other dangerous repercussions included the references to women throughout the book.  I personally stopped following Total Frat Move on Twitter because many of their tweets had gone from being hilarious to just offensive.  Women, not surprisingly, are rated based on their looks and labeled as "slampieces," "smokehouses," etc. It's not flattering and not the first time I have heard of this language being used towards women in the Greek system or just college females in general.  What was surprising was the use of pictures with blurred out faces throughout the book.  As illustrations to the exploits of certain fraternities, one specific photo featured a young woman giving a guy a blowjob on the bus transporting them to a social.  Another featured the perspective of a second bathroom stall, capturing an image with two sets of feet (one male, one female), most likely having sex in said stall.  It didn't just stop at that, but it referenced numerous accounts of guys encouraging these young college women to drink to the point that was beyond a level of giving consent.  Their provided beverages at the parties in the book were beer and "pink panty droppers" which is a beverage similar to jungle juice.  It's a concoction where fruit and juices mask the amount of alcohol in it.  I'm not saying that girls go to college parties to sit down and knit, but not once were topics of consent brought up.  Why would they be brought up?  Rape and sexual assault aren't usually associated with becoming a New York Times Bestselling book, however, those are common topics that fill the Greek system.    

I've seen a college fraternity become bombarded with the label that its members were rapists.  This was based on a situation that involved sorority women who were drugged and given alcohol, could not give consent, and were sexually assaulted.  This was a fraternity that was similar to that of Prescott's fraternity.  Large house, popular guys, held socials, etc.  These were the actions of a few fraternity men that ruined the entire house.  We did not trust them, their activities, their socials or their house as a whole.  People chose not to participate in their philanthropy events or socials.  They had a black mark that took them years to just slightly wipe away.  I remember walking by their house and seeing the word "rapists" painted across the front sidewalk.  They did all of the same activities that Townes and his brothers did- the stuff that was deemed "brag worthy" throughout the book.  Of course, the book didn't cover what would happen if a girl didn't give consent, and they only covered "the good" experiences that can come from drinking copious amounts of alcohol (which are few).

In Total Frat Move, when their antics were not fueled by alcohol, it was fueled by their parents' money, a stereotype that drove me nuts in the Greek system.  Yes, there are Greek members who come from affluent families, but many of my sisters and the people that I knew were funding their college tuition and expenses.  That was probably another factor that made Townes seem like an unrealistic character.  There was no way that any of the people that I knew in college could jeopardize what they had invested in by doing something incredibly stupid.  One example was their formal in which they had spent thousands of dollars at a restaurant and played credit card roulette with their fraternity brothers to see whose credit card it would go on.

When I was going through recruitment, I knew that choosing the Greek system was an activity that I would have to fund on my own.  Due to this, I had certain ground rules, one large piece was that I would not stand for hazing.  Of course, my chapter (and the organization as a whole) has a zero-tolerance policy for hazing.  I loved my experience and never felt pressured, humiliated, or that I was funding something terrible.  The pledge experience in the book was really destructive.  Townes at one point was headbutted by a drunken frat boy.  Stupid, dangerous, illegal are only some of the many words that came to mind when reading that portion of the book.  It also seemed as if they were trying to compare it to having some structure with pledge masters and routine schedules, but in reality, they crossed the line many times.  What was playing over and over in my mind was that their "pledge masters" are college upper class men with a gross amount of power in their hands that has been fueled by alcohol.  It all seemed way too dangerous and not constructive.  Regardless, many of the consequences from that behavior are already listed above. 

Overall the book is incredibly entertaining but definitely a falsehood on how the Greek system works. The author is talented and kept me laughing but it is a work of fiction.  If any of those stories come from a grain of truth, I wonder where those young men are today.  When reading it, keep in mind that it is solely for entertainment value.

Thanks for reading!

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