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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Goat is a gritty, graphic adaptation of Brad Land's 2004 memoir about rushing a fraternity at Clemson University. A grim cautionary tale about hazing and fraternity culture, the movie (which stars Nick Jonas) is full of drinking/drug use, hazing violence (some of it sexually themed), the death of a pledge, and a random assault and car theft. The only women in the movie, except for an early crush, are sexual conquests and a stripper; some of them appear topless. A character struggles with PTSD. Language is also extreme and used constantly: "f--k," "motherf--ker," "s--t," "p---y," "f----t," and more show up in nearly every sentence. Although this isn't an easy movie to watch, it does give parents a natural starting point for important talks with college-bound high school juniors and seniors.
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What's the story?
GOAT is based on Brad Land's same-titled memoir, which told about the horrors he experienced rushing the Kappa Sigma fraternity at Clemson. In the movie, the university and fraternity are made up: Brookman and Phi Sigma Mu. As the movie opens, Brad (Ben Schnetzer) attends a party at his brother Brett's (Nick Jonas) fraternity house. After leaving, he gives a ride to two guys he thinks are college students. But they're actually criminals who violently assault Brad and steal his car, leaving him traumatized and ashamed he didn't fight back harder. Months later, Brad starts college at Brookman. He and his roommate, Will (Daniel Flaherty), decide to pledge Phi Sigma Mu and endure the fraternity's "Hell Week" of hazing. But the cruel commands from pledgemaster Dixon (Jake Picking) trigger Brad's PTSD and push some of the pledges to dangerous, tragic lengths.
Is it any good?
Directed with immediacy and realism, this harrowing exploration of fraternity culture is a must-see for parents and college-bound teens who are thinking of joining the Greek system. Of course not all fraternities operate this way, but the fact remains that Goat is based on a real events. And they're extremely uncomfortable to watch. The pledges seem to believe that their lives won't be worth living if they're not in a fraternity, and the fraternity brothers seem to believe that they can do as they please, whether it's command young women to make out with each other, take turns peeing on a pledge, or stay silent in their role in a pledge's death.
Andrew Neel directs a script co-written by David Gordon Green, and it's filled with scenes that will make parents cringe and hope their own kids will (or already do) know better. But at some schools, the story suggests, it's basically go Greek or get left behind. Among the cast, Schnetzer gives a particularly nuanced performance as Brad, who really isn't cut out for the whole fraternity thing but wants to belong. Jonas is believable as Brett, although he has less to do than Schnetzer. One of the movie's only flaws is that the story focuses solely on the fraternity members and pledges, without puttingtheir place in the school community into context. There's only one scene with a dean, and it's unclear when or how these fraternity brothers go to class, since they're nearly always drunk or high (or trying to get that way). The only women in the movie, except for an early crush who disappears right after she and Brad kiss, are sexual conquests or a stripper. But, the movie argues, that's how the fraternity brothers see women, so it's fitting -- if not ideal. While it might be hard to watch with an older teen, Goat offers important talking points for parents and their graduating or college-aged teens.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does the movie portray the Greek system? Why is belonging to a fraternity so important to the characters? Do you think that's the way most fraternities (and/or sororities) work?
How is sex depicted? What are the consequences of casual sexual encounters? How would you describe the role women play in this story? What message does that send?
The insults "f-g," "f----t," and "p---y" come up a lot. Why do you think they're used so casually? Why are they particularly prevalent among young men?
- In theaters: September 23, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: December 20, 2016
- Cast: Nick Jonas, Ben Schnetzer, Daniel Flaherty
- Director: Andrew Neel
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing behavior involving hazing, strong sexual content and nudity, pervasive language, violence, alcohol abuse and some drug use
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