By Brian Cho With on February 14, 2016

Goat (2016), directed by Andrew Neel, explores the meaning of strength, masculinity, and the search for community in the midst of the shallow, painful, college hazing process. The film follows the story of two brothers, Brett and Brad Land, whose brotherhood is tested when Brad, (the younger brother), tries to pledge into the “brotherhood” of Phi Sigma Mu. The story adds another complicated layer when Brad is ruthlessly attacked and beaten by two thugs posing as friends from a local house party. The rest of the film seems like him trying to reclaim his masculinity, not only in light of being beaten up, but not retaliating as well. Though Brad hopes to find strength and his manhood in probably the most “manliest” of circumstances, enduring hazing, hell week, pledging into a fraternity doesn’t seem like the answer he is looking for. College fraternities never appealed to me, but I know many people who are scarred by traumatic experiences, related and unrelated to hazing. As a youth pastor, I fear that some of my students will partake in a college experience like this, or at least some of the temptations and struggles that go along with it. One on hand, the dehumanizing of pledges and the exertion of male masculinity is a product of sin, plain and simple. We naturally resort to our “flesh” and the things of the world, which causes us to exert dominance to mask our own fear and insecurities. Themes of brokenness and loneliness highlight the lives of many young people, and Goat explores the lengths people would go to be a part of something. But where fraternities and other institutionalized groups fail, I hope the church would rise and offer something honest, real, and attractive to the outside world. Millennials especially, can sniff bs from a mile away. We’ve grown up seeing and hearing millions of advertisements, seen the rise of fall of our economy, and the instability of a job industry that promises much but fails to deliver. We simply want something real and authentic. I think one of the reasons why so many people are turned off by the church is because we’re compromising and watering down the gospel too much. It’s hurting the church and our witness at the same time. So people look to other forms of “community.” They look to fraternities that promise brotherhood at the expense of being completely dehumanized. As a film, Goat proves more successful when it engages the viewer on a visceral level. The score is rather haunting and eerie, often containing just one long pad/drone to create a feeling a discomfort and numbness to the nightmarish hazing process. Behind the facade of these young men is a brokenness and fragility, a simple longing to belong. Perhaps, the solution is not finding the right external atmosphere, but intimately knowing your Creator behind your internal hemisphere.

About the Author: Brian Cho
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