“Hey, check this out. Everywhere I go, people totally lose it.” Thus begins the magnum opus that is National Lampoon’s Pledge This! (2006); a film so filled with sexism, racism, homophobia and general stupidity that I’m surprised it was even made in the first place. Paris Hilton plays ‘sorority princess of South Beach University’ Victoria English, and OMG, her sorority has made it to the finals of FHM Magazine’s Hottest Sorority competition! She just has to incorporate some ‘diversity’ into her group of girls to be eligible. The film follows her quest for diversity (kind of), and the group of ‘diverse’ girls who must grovel for her acceptance.
Let me cut to the chase. This was the final film that I watched in 2013, and it was the worst film I watched in 2013. I hated it more than Movie 43 (2013). There is nothing likeable about it. It is a frustrating viewing experience. Normally there’s something I can appreciate about a bad film, but this one is just 100% bad. Why did I choose to watch it? This is a question I am continually asking myself.
I’ll start with the story. Paris Hilton – I mean, her character, Victoria English, is totally the hottest girl at South Beach University. She lets us know about it all the time. And she has to let a bunch of uggos (nerds, scientists, people who aren’t blonde, et cetera) into her sorority so that she can be eligible for the FHM competition. How do I know all this information? The film has a handy voice over, by Paris/Victoria and one of the other characters, that conveniently explains the plot for the viewers. This is the laziest type of storytelling, and it happens constantly throughout the film. Pledge This! doesn’t show, it tells. The worst part about this exposition is that the voice over sounds like it’s been recorded from inside a bucket, and occasionally it seems to be sped up to match the pace of a scene, so the voice sounds like a chipmunk is talking. The characters are so unlikeable that I dreaded having to hear their voices, but I knew it was an inevitability. Oh, and towards the end of the film, surprise!, Paris/Victoria’s sorority wins the competition. How do we know? We get a nice voice over of Paris/Victoria saying, “We won the competition!”. Ugghhhhhhhh.
The film’s soundtrack sounds like the worst unlicensed music you can play around with on Garage Band on a Mac computer. It sounds just like stock music, or, porn music from the 1970s. The cheesy voice over coupled with the cheesy music is just too much. The costuming/clothes and set design all seem to be straight out of the 90s, and is so dated. The film is a real anachronistic Frankenstein’s monster: stock/porn music from the 70s, clothes and set from the early 90s, not to mention jokes from the late 90s, and technology and cultural references from the 2000s. What a mess. It goes without saying that the acting is atrocious.
As aforementioned, the very worst parts about this film are its racism, its sexism, and its homophobia. Additionally, at one point, a character is made fun of for having been sexually assaulted by a Catholic priest as a child. I did not make that up. That was the very moment where I decided this was the worst film ever made.
The racism: A Hispanic character is repeatedly referred to as a “Mexican broad”, a “Shakira wannabe”, and Paris/Victoria makes the remark, “I guess I’ll just have to put a blonde wig on this one”. I don’t even know where to begin with that. One of the ‘diverse’ characters is an Indian exchange student named Senagarvarapoopoo Ghandasini, but the other characters can’t pronounce her first name so they just call her ‘Poo Poo’. The running joke with ‘Poo Poo’ is that the girls can’t understand her accent, and she’s also become hypersexual after her first sexual experience, and aren’t foreigners hilarious! The characters who do this are the ones we’re meant to be favouring, but it makes them look just as horrible as Paris/Victoria. There is also a geisha in Paris/Victoria’s sorority house for some reason, who is clearly a white man painted up to look like a geisha. This results in what can only be classed as a minstrel show with a Japanese twist.
The sexism: Women are sex objects in this film, that’s all there is to it. One of the male characters makes a joke that freshman girls at their college are essentially ripe for the picking, and that’s why they call them freshmen. Ugggghhhhhhhh. The whole film is a tribute to sexists everywhere.
The homophobia: At one point in the film, Paris/Victoria hugs her friends but cuts off the hug after a couple of seconds, saying, “I like the love but let’s not get all Ellen Degeneres about it”. One of the ‘diverse’ characters is a lesbian, and apparently this is a really funny concept to explore because all her role consisted of was hitting on girls and getting rebuffed because OMG lesbians are like totally gross. The ‘diverse’ girls visit a lesbian sorority which is filled with the worst stereotypes you could ever imagine. Also, gay men can be turned straight whenever you want, and then there are more and more gay stereotypes as the film continues.
The good things about Pledge This!: The mature age student can be funny sometimes. She is funny a total of three times. Also, Sophia Vergara is in this film for all of two minutes. What was she thinking?
There was something else that confused me about Pledge This!. Is Paris Hilton a genius actor, or is she just playing herself? The film is so self-indulgent and continually reminds the viewer how totally hot Paris/Victoria is, to the point where you have to wonder: what are you trying to prove? Everyone already knows you’re symmetrical enough to pass off as conventionally attractive. What is it about yourself that you need to continually tell everyone how great and attractive you are? Either she’s a bonafide dumbass, or she has some severe self-confidence issues. I feel sorry for her either way.
I’m sure that Pledge This! is meant to be one of those fun films that is somehow allowed to joke about all of the above, because it’s just a big jokey film! I worry about the people who would find any of this funny or interesting. You can argue that this is just the type of content you should expect from a National Lampoon film. And it is expected, because National Lampoon films are known for this stuff. But that doesn’t mean that it should be acceptable to make fun of people on the basis of their gender, race or sexuality. Because it definitely isn’t acceptable to make fun of people on the basis of their gender, race, or sexuality. I don’t think I can stress that enough.
I watched through the credits to see if there were any extra scenes after the film had ended that might somewhat alleviate my negative feelings. Maybe there would be a 30 second clip of the characters being likeable, or the story being resolved in a way that wasn’t completely confusing and dumb. There were no extra scenes. And after watching all the names pass by, people credited for this monstrosity, all I felt was overwhelming sadness. Then I read that this film was given 8.3 million dollars to be made, and my pit of sadness turned into pure rage.
I also recently discovered that one of the directors of Pledge This! directed an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in 1993. The episode is called ‘Day of the Dumpster’. I am 100% sure that that episode of Power Rangers has more substance, more charm, and a more coherent story than this film. So maybe instead of watching this, you should somehow find a copy of that specific episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and watch that instead.
Watch the trailer here.