HBO’s much anticipated “Bama Rush” documentary from Rachel Fleit is finally here. Since the summer of 2021, the University of Alabama’s rigorous sorority rush process captivated TikTok. From the bejeweled Kendra Scott bling to the extensive hair and wardrobe rules, the cultural phenomenon reintroduced the world to the highly contentious topic of Greek Life in America.
The secretive rush and voting process coupled with the long alleged hazing associated within several Greek Life organizations left Bama Rush Tok viewers with countless lingering questions about the whole process. Many questioned “The Machine”, or Theta Nu Epsilon, which is the organization that allegedly determines sorority admissions. Director Rachel Fleit (of “Introducing Selma Blair) took on Tuscaloosa to film “Bama Rush”, and social media could not be more excited. However, to many viewers, the documentary’s release took a surprising turn.
Social Media Reactions
The format of filming a documentary based on a social media phenomenon is still fairly new in the film industry. Given the young audiences that sparked the public interest in this experience, the documentary did not fulfill its appeal to the target demographic. Fleit surprisingly inserted herself into the documentary, despite having no affiliation to Greek Life or the University of Alabama. Many felt that the film wound up feeling more like a personal healing journey for Fleit than what the trailers depicted.
While body image and beauty standards have long been alleged to play a role in the sorority rush process, some questioned Fleit’s self insert’s relevance to the story. The format of the documentary is inviting commentary on whether documentary filmmakers should insert themselves into their own films. Some felt it was particularly insensitive due to Alabama’s history of racism against Black women. The University of Alabama did not officially integrate sororities until 2013.
There’s a time and a place for a woman to talk about the pain of feeling othered growing up with Alopecia, but that place is not using it as a metaphor for young Black women facing hardships in a Greek system that’s only been integrated for a decade
— Hannah Yasharoff (@HannahYasharoff) May 24, 2023
Several TikTok creators shared humorous memes about the film’s content.
The Sorority Response
Several ex-Alabama sorority women or women who dropped out of rush are coming forward and sharing their experiences on TikTok. Many are captioning their videos with “The Bama Rush documentary you wanted.” Many girls vaguely reference the ominous Machine, which local Birmingham News journalist John Archibald briefly touched upon in the film. The Machine is a secret society on the University of Alabama’s campus, whose motto is “Little is known, and what is known is kept secret.”
The Machine is rumored to hold control over state politics, given the University’s widespread reach.
#stitch with @samanthab349 Alabama politicians learn to be corrupt at the Univ. of Alabama @#bamarush #bamarushtok #themachine #politics #alabama #alabamapolitics #alpolitics #corruption #fyp #greek #greektiktok #greeklife #college #collegelife #universityofalabama
Others recognized that the University likely restricted the documentary crew from filming inside the houses, or that the Machine could have threatened them.
The University of Alabama has not commented further on the documentary at this time.