“The brothers with distinction”


I found this scene interesting because of Lee’s inclusion of an actual fraternity. Alpha Phi Alpha was founded at Cornell University as the first African-American fraternity. The Alpha’s perform a well known step routine, to loud applause from the audience. This scene is significant because its one of the only ones where black Greek life is portrayed lovingly. The Gamma’s later emerge to perform a dance routine filled with sexual references and crude choreography. Black colleges generally responded negatively to School Daze, which is understandable given the film’s dysfunctional portrayal. Still, this seems like somewhat of a misinterpretation. The Gammas can in some ways be understood as a characterization of some of the negative aspects of black fraternities, such as sexism and elitism. I don’t think the satire of School Daze is meant to suggest that all black fraternities are as misogynistic, violent and problematic as the Gammas. Instead it’s more feasible that Lee was highlighting some of the problems that they all have, albeit in an exaggerated fashion. This dance routine serves as a wink and a head nod from Lee to black audiences. It’s his assurance that black fraternities can still be a place of unity and love for each other.

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