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School Daze is a 1988 musical-drama film, written and directed by Spike Lee, and starring Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tisha Campbell-Martin. Based in part on Spike Lee's experiences at Atlantamarker's Morehouse Collegemarker, it is a story about fraternity and sorority members clashing with other students at a historically black college during homecoming weekend. School Daze was the second feature film directed by Spike Lee, and was released on February 12, 1988 by Columbia Pictures.


Vaughn "Dap" Dunlap (Laurence Fishburne) is a politically conscious African American student at Mission College who leads anti-apartheid demonstrations encouraging students and school administrators to completely divest from South Africa. He also eschews the buffoonery and social climbing of the Greek fraternal system. Dap's craven younger cousin, Darrell, aka "Half-Pint" (Spike Lee), is pledging Gamma Phi Gamma (also known as G-Phi-G or simply G-Phi) fraternity and is willing to endure any humiliation to join the fraternity. While Half-Pint tries unsuccessfully to impress the Gammas with his inept womanizing, Dap engages in debates with Rachel (Kyme), his girlfriend, as well as other Mission students.

Throughout the film, the predominantly light-skinned African American women of the Gamma Rays, a women's auxiliary to the Gamma Phi Gamma fraternity, battle it out with a number of natural-coifed fellow co-eds, who are predominantly dark-skinned. The students at Mission College also battle with the local unemployed and uneducated people living around the campus, who resent the Mission students for taking all of the good jobs.

Half-Pint eventually survives the pledge initiation and joins G-Phi-G. Shortly afterwards, his chapter president Julian Eaves, aka Dean Big Brother Almighty (Giancarlo Esposito), manipulates his girlfriend, Jane Toussaint (Tisha Campbell-Martin), to prove her love to him. He brings Jane to Half-Pint (whom he discovered was a virgin during pledging) and tells him that in order to become an official Gamma man, he must lose his virginity by having sex with Jane. After Half-Pint's last test, Julian ruthlessly breaks up with Jane, claiming that she loved Gamma Phi Gamma and not him. After Half-Pint brags to Dap about his episode with Jane, Dap loses all respect for him and shoves him away from him, declaring "You're not my cousin!" The movie ends the following morning, with Dap running through the campus and to the middle of the school courtyard, yelling "Wake up!"


Vanessa L. Williams was originally considered for the role of "Jane Toussaint," and Phyllis Yvonne Stickney for the role of "Rachel Meadows." However, Spike Lee was so impressed by Tisha Campbell's singing performance in Little Shop of Horrors (1986) that she got the part; Stickney left the production over "artistic differences."


Spike Lee had the actors stay in separate hotels during filming. The actors playing the "wannabes" had better accommodations than the ones playing the "jigaboos", which contributed to the on-camera animosity between the two camps. (A similar tactic was employed in the making of Animal House with similar results.) In School Daze, the method approach yielded strong results — the fight that occurs at the step show between Dap's crew and the Gammas was not in the script; on the day of the shooting of the scene, the fight broke out, and Lee ordered that the cameras keep rolling.

Spike Lee was asked to stop production on the campuses of Morehousemarker, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta University during filming because the colleges' Boards of Directors had concerns on how historically black colleges were being portrayed in the film. Lee had to finish filming at the neighboring Morris Brown College.

Three members of the School Daze cast -- Kadeem Hardison, Darryl M. Bell, and Jasmine Guy -- became principal cast members on the Cosby Show spin-off A Different World, a TV series about life at a historically black college. Other School Daze cast members also appeared on A Different World, including Dominic Hoffman, Tisha Campbell, Art Evans, Guy Killum and Roger Guenveur Smith.

One member of the "School Daze cast --Alva Rogers, starred in Daughters of the Dust--another classic African-American/ independent film of that time.

Though "Mission College," and "Gamma Phi Gamma" were fictional, a chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity actually appears in School Daze.

In 2009, singer Alicia Keys spoofed "School Daze" in the music video for her song "Teenaged Love Affair." (Imitated scenes include the rally in front of the school building, the pajama party, and the scene where Tisha Campbell and her court perform at a homecoming concert.)


Musical performances are throughout, including the production "Good or Bad Hair", a fantasy dis-fest between the Wannabes and Jigaboos, and "Be Alone Tonight" performed by Campbell (as Jane Toussaint and her Royal Court) at a talent competition. The go-go anthem "Da Butt" is performed by the group E.U. during the after-party for the Gammites.

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