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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

FILM 307: What the Movies Taught Me About College (2 credits)

It’s August, which means it’s disgustingly hot and there’s crap at the multiplexes and kids are getting ready to go back to school, if they’re not already there. Suckers. I, proud university dropout, am of a mind with Mark Twain, who never let his schooling interfere with his education. But I can’t help but feel like it’s time to buy some marble notebooks and maybe a new bookbag. Remember how Meg Ryan said in some otherwise stupid movie that autumn makes her think of bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils? (It was You’ve Got Mail, I’m pretty sure.) I still feel that way too.

So I thought: Hey, I’ll write about college movies, and everything that movies about college have contributed to our education about this thing called life. But it turns out there aren’t really all that many movies about college — far less, certainly than there are about high school. (Maybe because it’s still a minority of Americans who go on to college or university after high school.) Still, there is plenty wisdom to be gleaned from the limited number of films set in colleges. To wit:
You’re doomed to die horribly and violently at the hands of a homicidal madman. I mean, obviously. You’ve dared to defy the odds, for one, by attending an institute of higher learning, so that marks you out as deserving to die merely for your arrogance, for one. Plus, you’re probably inordinately hot, which is a sure draw for the serial killer on a rampage. See Scream 2, Urban Legend, etc.

• Speaking of inordinate hotness… You’ll instantly look about 29 years old, and totally buff and gorgeous and fuckable, the moment you enter college. C’mon, everyone in college films looks a decade older than they should. Hell, everyone in high school films looks 29. Wouldn’t college (and high school!) have been awesome if everyone was as gorgeous and confident and sophisticated as what The Movies tell us students look like?

You will not actually spend all that much time in class. Not with all the, you know, road trips to be taken, and stuff. See Animal House, Road Trip, etc.

You wouldn’t be able to spend all that much time in class, actually, because you’ll be stoned all the damn time. See every pretty much every movie about college ever made.

If you’re smart, you’re doomed to be miserable. Which is weird, because isn’t it supposed to be only the smart people who get into college in the first place? But see Revenge of the Nerds, Good Will Hunting, etc.

Nerds are freakin’ hilarious. This is related to the smart-but-doomed meme: Conventional folks should learn a lesson from the mutatedly smart and simply not demonstrate anything that could be evidence of an IQ over 125, because, what?, you want to be seem as a weirdo? See Revenge of the Nerds, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, etc.

And anyway, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you don’t have a conformist romantic relationship, you’re not entirely human. See I.Q.

Universities are hotbeds of intellectual ennui, which is endurably only because of the rapacious amounts of sex everyone is having, unless they aren’t. See Wonder Boys, which is actually one the best movies ever made about being a writer, and one of the best movies about being smart in a sea of dumb… and hence one of the best movies about being a college student.

The professors? They’re more screwed up than you are. Cuz if there’s anything worse than spending four years at an institute of higher learning, it’s spending your whole life there. See A Beautiful Mind, Wonder Boys, etc.

College doesn’t really teach you anything you need to know to succeed in life. You learn all that stuff outside class, like from older women who seduce you or by dealing drugs to your fellow students or by working for the mob. See The Graduate, The Rules of Attraction, The Freshman, etc.

Sports — and by being, ahem, an athletic supporter — is where it’s at. Who needs academics? Extracurriculars are the shit, man. See Rudy, Drumline, Horse Feathers, etc.

College is how they finalize their indoctrination of you into the conformist lifestyle. See Accepted.

Girls who go to college are so, like, totally adorable. Isn’t it cute how they try to improve their brains and stuff? See Legally Blonde, Mona Lisa Smile, etc.

College sucks, but later on you’ll look back and consider it the best years of your life. Pathetic. See Old School, etc.

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  • Kathy A

    What? No mention of Real Genius? The best college film ever made, IMO, and the only one to get the Smart Kids right–we actually enjoyed school (most of the time), didn’t all get laid on a regular basis, and were still (relatively) normal while actually possessing brains.

  • T6

    I never really quite understood the paucity of College Movies and TV shows…I mean college is like High School…but you don’t have adult supervision, are over the age of consent and…never have to go to class!

    Other things I learned about college:

    -Secret Fraternities rule the country.

    -Nerds are to laugh at…but so are Feminists…who, inexplicably somehow still live in the 1970s.

    -There are way more black people in colleges on Film than there are here at UCLA…but some of them are actually white people in disguise.

    -There are no grad students in college.

    -College is a time to come out as gay…but you won’t actually end up with a boyfriend at the end of the movie…but you’ll be an awesome sidekick for the female lead.

  • fuggle

    Any chance of doing one of these things for action movies?

    [/sarcasm] They’re quite inspiring.

  • MaryAnn

    I could possibly be persuaded to do that, fuggle…

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