The story in Nick Jonas's new movie GOAT depicts the physical and psychological horrors of fraternity hazing. The new release is an adaptation of Brad Lane's book, Goat: A Memoir, which explores Brad's personal experience with the fraternity initiation rites. The film starring Ben Schnetzer, Nick Jonas, and James Franco is due to be released in cinemas on September 23 and it's set to get viewers discussing the very dark subject matter.
The plot follows two brothers, the eldest called Brett is played by Jonas, who has already pledged his allegiance to the fraternity and is now a bro. His younger brother, Brad, finds himself traumatized following a vicious assault and therefore tries to join his brother to aid his recovery. However, to join the society, he must complete the initiation and that is something that will damage him even further. Watch the trailer below:
WARNING: Scenes of a graphic nature throughout.
Now you've watched the trailer and gained further insight into the subject. Let's explore the real-life experiences and rituals that inspired the disturbing movie and still continue today.
What Are Fraternities And Their Pledges?
Fraternities and sororities are very much a part of the American college system and they can shape the future of its members just by reputation alone. Becoming part of one of these societies is something that stays with you for life and can aid you in your career choices. Needless to say, that's why every year thousands of young undergraduates are eager to sign up to be part of such illustrious clubs.
Getting into a fraternity can be exceedingly difficult due to the exclusivity of the groups. Coming from a family who's been part of the society before often works in your favor. However, nepotism will only get you part of the way. As we saw with the two brothers, attention is placed on Brad because of his family connections, but it's unable to secure him a spot just on that basis. Those wishing to pledge must enter into a week of challenges as part of an initiation process. The fraternity mentality mean that young men are made to feel privileged to be part of the group even if it means going through hell to get there.
In an interview with Billboard magazine, Jonas discusses his role as Brett and underlines the attraction he felt towards playing the character:
"The questions we’re asking -- about masculinity, fraternity culture, its dark side -- and the relationship between these two brothers. It really [reminds me of] my brother Joe. He’s my best friend. In Goat, the key in the relationship is that both brothers admire something in the other. Even if Brett, my character, can’t be as loving as he is with Brad at the beginning of the film around his fraternity, that love is there."
The Horrors Of Hazing
Hazing takes many forms and it can range from degrading nicknames such as calling the pledges "babies," to hardcore challenges such as consumption of the group's bodily fluids. The trailer clearly shows a vast range of some of the humiliating things these young men and forced to do in order to be admitted. We saw Brad beaten, spat at, forced to drink copious amounts of alcohol, tied and bound to fellow pledges and kept awake for extended periods of time. This may sound fictional, but these acts are common practice. Here are just a few real-life examples of hazing from the Bro Bible, a website that allowed people to write in their harrowing experiences and talk openly about them:
- One young man anonymously posted that he had to chug a concoction of blended locusts, hearts, lungs, bananas and human feces.
- Another man wrote about his hazing experience when he was duped into believing a murder had occurred. He had to help bury the body only to discover it was all a prank. His supposed willingness to get involved meant he was accepted into the fraternity.
- Most shocking of all is one man's story of how all the pledges girlfriends were gathered at the house. Then one by one each pledge had to give their girlfriend away to another pledge and then listen to them have sex.
These alleged rites of passage just aren't right, in fact 44 states have outlawed the practice. Any act that abuses an individual, physically or mentally is prohibited in the States and yet surprisingly they still occur. Despite numerous crackdowns by universities, fraternities and sororities are able to carry out their ceremonial acts without being caught. Due to the fact hazing is against the law there is a real "don't ask, don't tell" mentality about the whole situation. Therefore, many of the hideous acts go unreported and hundreds suffer in silence.
GOAT's depiction of these acts is incredibly disturbing to watch. However, what it more disturbing is knowing that this wasn't just a script someone developed, because these things do actually happen at universities around America. Filming a movie with such a sensitive subject must be highly challenging for the actors due to the fact they have to put across the drama, but not to glorify the actions. Watch Jonas, Schnetzer and director Andrew Neel discuss the difficulties they experienced when making the film:
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The Cost Of Pledging
It's not just Hell Week these young pledges have to endure either. The damage done often leads to students dropping out of school or feeling isolated with no one to talk through their experiences with. There are numerous websites and call-line such as hazingprevention.org that are set up for students to reach out anonymously to discuss their hazing horrors.
In extreme circumstances, there are even deaths as a result of hazing. Take for example the 2009 case of Kristen High and Kenitha Saafir of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in California. This case that saw both girls drown because of a hazing ritual that had Saafir workout to a level of exhaustion. When she was suitably tired, Saafir was made to walk backwards into the sea. It's reported that a wave hit her and dragged her into the water and because she couldn't swim High went into save her. Tragically, both girls died. To any parent finding out their child had died is awful, but for her death to be written off as an accident must beyond belief. The reports of the university stated:
"Accusations of hazing surfaced almost immediately, but were never proven."
The parents of the two girls continued fighting for justice and after months of work, they received this outcome:
"After months of depositions, the lawsuits against Alpha Kappa Alpha were settled. The deal that kept the cases out of court included a financial payout that the families are not allowed to disclose and a promise by the sorority to work harder to end hazing."
This is just one example of the awful outcomes of hazing and how slowly but surely universities are trying to phase out the rite of passage. However, this can only occur when universities own up to the activities and make those responsible pay for their actions. Watch this video from Florida Atlantic University to see just how little some campuses are doing to stop hazing:
The statistics in the video are incredible to see as it seems hazing affects far more people than most are aware of.
Hazing is not a subject that should be taken lightly, nor should it be ignored. Hopefully, with movies such as GOAT coming out that hold a mirror up to the very ugly truths of reality, more people will begin discussing the matter. All involved in the film have stated by no means did they wish to glorify the atrocious act of hazing, but instead they sought to raise awareness for a nation unwilling to discuss the problem.
Will GOAT raise awareness of hazing