“Ok so the Rangerette Christmas tradition of the White Elephant was when every single member came with a silly gift, and we put them all in the middle, and one by one, we grabbed a gift, opened it up, and if you didn’t like the gift that you got, then you could like switch with somebody. It was pretty fun. So there was this picture that has been going around for I’d say about six years, six plus years. And it’s a very hideous picture of this one girl that was on the team and it was framed and she was the captain of the team and so you are pretty unlucky if you get that picture and the next year you bring it back so that way it stays in the circle, the rotation.”
Informant: The informant is a nineteen-year-old college freshman from Dallas, Texas. While in high school, she was a member of the Jesuit Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team. She attended the all-girls Catholic high-school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas, the sister school of Jesuit Dallas (an all-boys Catholic school). She began dancing when she was three, performing ballet, jazz, and lyrical styles of dance, which eventually led her to the high-school drill team. She currently attends Oklahoma State University.
The Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team is an extracurricular activity unique to Texas and a few other southern states. The team performs at the half-time of football games on Friday nights, as well as at basketball, soccer, and rugby games. They wear leotards with fringe skirts, fringe and sequin overlays, gauntlets, a belt, white cowgirl boots, and sequined cow-boy hats. The season does not end with football season; rather, the team continues to perform at Jesuit events and participates in two dance competitions in the spring. Because this team is a year-long commitment, there are many extenuating traditions that serve to unify and “bond” the members of the team, in order to foster a spirit of sisterhood.
Because of its association with Catholic schools, the team celebrates the Catholic holidays. Therefore, they have embraced the White Elephant, a game that is practiced at many Christmas gatherings in the US, and embedded it with their own tradition. Sitting in a circle with everyone on the team is a significant bonding factor, as no one is left out of the festivities. The picture of the captain may be unique because there are several stories surrounding the girl in the picture about how disliked she was because of her harsh manner of running the team.
The picture itself makes the captain look like a mix-between a clown and the Joker, which I believe represents the distaste the team had for this specific captain. I think this is an exhibition of the dynamics of a team. There may be one girl who is in charge, and she may be very talented in her own right, thereby expecting more from the team. This expectation may be exemplified by her harsh policies, therefore breeding contempt amongst the team. When the team does not like their captain, they are likely to come up with something like this picture as a way of bringing her back down to their level.
In addition, the captain is always a senior, but the other seniors on the team may not like taking orders or instruction from a girl who is their age. If this picture was first brought about by the seniors, then it would once again exhibit the desire to belittle the captain in order that she might remember that she is no better than the rest of the seniors, despite her rank.
The tradition of passing this picture around as giving someone bad luck is what I believe to be symbolic of the fragile threads of kinship that hold a team together. What may unite the team could be their dislike of the captain, and by randomizing who is going to receive the picture, and therefore “bad luck,” there is a reinforcement of the equality amongst team members. It is also something for all of the team members to look forward to as they wonder who is going to receive the picture the next year.