Hollywood’s Portrayal of College
There are two different views on the reality of college life. Some people believe that it’s a time after high school when people continue their education and get a degree. However, some people believe that college is more of a social experience/opportunity and find more time to have fun than to study. Within the last fifty years, Hollywood films take college life and create an image of wild adventures and fun in a college setting. From living in a dorm-style residence hall or living in a Greek house, movies depicted college life to be all about fun. The sheer number of movies that portray fictional college life as a party have persuaded people to believe that the real college life should also be about partying and having fun. “Because of their romantic fascination with a supposedly high-living, glamorized lifestyle, public interest in the college-age set was unusually high” (Quote/Umphlett). Anti-Intellectualism degrades and dumbs down people in society; movies do this when they depict the college life as a whole. People that have seen movies that depict Hollywood’s entertaining image of college life believe that college could be all about having fun.
Class lectures in films are more relaxed and have a smaller and more familiar classroom environment. In movies, sometimes a big lecture room is merely a backdrop for student/friend conversations. The professors use the white/chalkboards to give the students their notes or information on the class lecture. In a bigger setting with more people, students most often raise their hands to answer questions. In movies, students are usually taking notes or reading the textbook the whole class and are free to leave when the teacher dismisses. The students in the classrooms are arranged by people that know each other and the students most likely know almost everyone in the room.
In a more realistic view, class lectures are quieter, and students are more respectful when a teacher talks. Teachers don’t usually single out students when asking a question or bombard them with questions (Summary/Brennan). Teachers use projectors or overheads to project the notes or information for the students in the class lecture. Teachers are more interactive with their students and do things in class to show that the students are paying attention. In bigger lectures, teachers usually ask an open-ended question where anyone can shout out the answer rather than waiting for a response. Students usually know when their class ends so they are getting ready to leave once the time ticks down.
The way students give out invitations to a party is also a little different than invites in college in real life. In movies, students will publicly announce the party invite during class, in the hallways, or even while walking around campus, shouting it at people. Sometimes students that are involved in a sorority or fraternity will go around and give invites and leave out people that they see as ‘not fitting in”. Most of the people that are seen with an invite or getting an invite are good looking and attractive.
In reality, when students are planning on throwing a party and they want it big, they do it in a more subtle way. Usually, the students will make the flier online and just mass text it out or post it on social media. The invite is usually for anyone unless it’s just for other frats or sororities. Students don’t walk around campus shouting out the party and where it is because they don’t want it to get busted before it even starts. If there is drinking involved at the so-called party, the students throwing the party won’t make that clear until the people arrive, or it’s kept on the down-low. For the most part, when students send invites, they will send it or tell people they know personally and then tell them to bring friends.
In movies, college parties are taken to a higher level. For example, in the movie Neighbors, the students that live in a fraternity throw parties that are excessively big. The frat house is in the middle of a neighborhood and they have no respect for the other residents. They have neighbors that complain about their partying and how the family can’t sleep at night because of the loud music and destruction that happens from inside the house. The family next door eventually calls the cops and the cops are on the fraternities’ side and the police don’t shut down the party. The frat guys turn up the music and get louder and they get no fines and have fun with no consequences.
In some movies, student organizations will throw a party on campus or right off campus. In the movie, Pitch Perfect, after the Acapella groups finish their initiation there is a party on campus where they all listen to loud music and drink adult beverages. On that note, in the movie, Project X, a student gets harassed and bullied and isn’t very popular. His closest friend gives him the idea to throw a huge party at his house while his parents are out of town. They go around and tell everyone about the party and where it is, and they expect that no one will show up. As the movie goes on, people start to show up and the party gets bigger and bigger. Eventually, the house becomes too crowded, so everyone starts to fill up the backyard. The cops get called by a neighbor that complained about the noise, but the two guys ignored the neighbor because they were having too much fun. The cops don’t catch anything, and the party goes on, which causes more trouble for the student that threw the party. The party becomes too big that the street is even becoming packed with people. When more and more complaints get called into the cops, they come back and everyone is refusing to leave, and they start throwing stuff at the police. The party is so chaotic, that the police reinforced the SWAT team to come and help break this party. There are so many people that they have to use a helicopter to dump large amounts of water on the house to get everyone to scramble. The house and the whole street catch on fire and make more of the situation much worse. The kid and his friend make it out and don’t get in any legal trouble but the only punishment he gets is from his parents.
A more realistic college party wouldn’t get to an extent where the SWAT team would need to intervene. When students throw parties, they are more contained and the people throwing it don’t usually let it get too out of hand. There is usually loud music and lots of people but not too many people. If the law gets involved the party will be stopped and there is usually charges on people that are there or just the people that own the house. If a party starts to get a little crowded or begins to become a mess, the students that threw usually stop people from coming in or start clearing out the party.
In the movie, 22 Jump Street, uses a storyline of two cops that go undercover as college students. The two main characters are played by Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, go on a huge spring break where everyone from the university goes and attends a big rager party. On a huge beach in San Juan, Mexico, there is a huge spring break rager with loud music and a bunch of underaged drinking. People dance around and act ridiculous with no authority, or consequences for their behavior, and it just goes on for hours.
Spring break in reality, is just a holiday break that students get from school to go home or go on a trip. If students choose to go with friends on a trip for spring break, they go somewhere where it’s warm and where they can have as much fun as they can. Instead of going somewhere where there will be huge parties and an excessively large beach that will be taken up by other college students, the students just get a little group of friends and spend it together. If students go to a huge party and it’s in public, people are constantly getting arrested and charged from the police because of public intoxication or there are drugs being passed around.
Characters in movies which involve higher education to earn a higher degree and get a much bigger job always have a happy ever after which is what audiences expect from movies like that (Paraphrase/Donahoo). Cinematic images of college life take no notice of the issues of academics and authority with students and how they use their time. Most Hollywood films that use a college as the main setting usually focus on the social life and Greek organizations that students will be most associated with. In most movies, young men and women are focused on romances and just having fun. Young women put all of their attention on their body images and in finding romance. Another thing that women do is find higher education or employment. Female-on-female feuds in sororities are another thing that is put over academics. Women that are higher level in the sorority, seem to treat the newer initiates poorly and push them around. Women in sororities are seen as preppy, ditzy, and mean. On the other hand, men in fraternities are seen as jocks, partiers, and stupid. In reality, most sororities and fraternities require a certain GPA to get initiated. In movies, Greek organizations are portrayed as party throwers and the ultimate social queue when in reality, most organizations have to participate in community service and academic causes.
In some movies, characters that are really smart tend to use it and only do things that they know is right. Somehow in storyline, the smart and caring character finds someone that is very bad for them and they do things that they normally wouldn’t do. Most romance movies have storylines where the characters change who they are because they have found excitement that they haven’t felt in a long time. Instead of having more study time and less social hour, movies tend to increase the social hour and have less time for academics. In some aspects, Hollywood will portray a college student as someone who is very outgoing and can easily make friends just by walking up to people.
In movies, Hollywood will portray a collegiate graduation as a class that were freshmen together and graduate together. In some movies, there are students who will meet friends with different majors and futures but if the end of the movie has a graduation scene, they are always graduating together. Also, students in movies that have different friend groups and different schedules, somehow always have enough time during the day to do a bunch of things. Hollywood portrays more free time to do things with friends than actually saving time to study and get good grades. Students will get with their friends and go out and somehow are able to get into bars when they are supposedly freshmen in college. They go through college and do things without hesitation and just glide through with no problem.
The dorm life in movies are usually more luxurious and laid back. The dorm rooms are more spacious and give a more home-type feel. In the movie, Pitch Perfect, Becca’s dorm room is spacious and clean and very updated. Another example, the movie has a scene where Becca goes to take a shower and you see her acapella group member in another shower with a boy. Most Hollywood movies portray the dorm life as what it could potentially be like in a fraternity. The big hallways, lots of people, everyone in the hallways socializing, are things that the movies show a dorm life setting would be. Also, in the movie, 22 Jump Street, people are in the hallways drinking and having dorm parties that flow into the hallways. Underaged drinking, loud music, and possibly drugs are bouncing around through the hallways and nobody is getting in trouble for it.
In reality, most dorm rooms don’t have much space to have a more apartment look to it. Dorm rooms are pretty minimal with its space and the rooms usually lack privacy. The dorms have shared bathrooms and limited living space but enough to fit two bed and maybe a couch. Students are not allowed to have dorm parties but also not allowed to have drugs without punishment. The typical dorm life has 24-hour quiet hours and people are constantly being told to lower sounds or music if people complain. Men aren’t allowed in the girls’ restrooms and vice-versa.
Another topic of the college life is move-in day. In many movies, they show the main character(s) having a few bags and suitcases with stuff for their dorm. The student is shown by themselves with no parent or guardian to help get settled in. They are to go to college on their own and be almost completely independent. They go out and investigate the activities fair and try to find a club or organization to join to meet new people.
In reality, most of the time you see students with their family on move-in day because they are there to help their child move into college. It is a time where parents spend their last few hours with their children before letting them go into adulthood. There are usually things on campus that the student and their parents can go and see things and get a better feel of the campus. Once the parents set off back home, leaving their child behind, the student will go out and meet new people or go to find clubs or organizations to join. Most students use move-in day to walk the campus to memorize their route when they have to go to classes the following week.
In movies, students don’t have cars to get them places if they leave campus. They are usually taking cabs or buses for transportation. If the setting is warm, the students will be seen driving mopeds or walking everywhere that isn’t on campus. Somehow the students will meet someone off of campus that have a car or some type of transportation service to get them where they need to go. When students go out with their friends to a bar or a club, they usually leave when the bars close. As they are walking back, they take a short cut back which leads them through dark allies, and they get themselves in some trouble. The outfits that the characters wear somewhat differ than what people usually wear for a typical night out. When students go out with their friends, they will go with a bigger group but then end up coming back with like two or three of the friends. Some will stay out or go to peoples places even though it’s a school night and they have classes early in the morning.
In reality, most students that live a state or two away will drive their cars to college to be able to get places if they get a job. Most cases, colleges that are in bigger cities will have subways or cab services that students will take to get downtown. If the university happens to be in a smaller town or city, they will have a car or a friend with a car to get them places that don’t take place on campus. Mopeds are great way to get around and a popular thing that students invest in so that way they don’t have to walk everywhere especially if they need to go all the way downtown.
Anti-Intellectualism is thing that is everywhere, and most people can’t stay away from it. The way people spend their money and what they spend it on are just a few examples of how it dumbs the society down. It degrades the way people use their resources on an everyday basis and substitutes for easier and faster way to do things. Instead researching things in a book, people use a computer or cellular device to look things up because it’s faster and easier. People pay for Netflix and binge shows back to back instead of going out for a walk or earning a wage. The way Hollywood portrays the college life in movies is one way to degrade how it seems to how it really is in reality.
- Brennan, Collin. “Real or Nah??: ’22 Jump Street’ versus real-life universities” USA Today 11 Nov. 2019, https://www.usatoday.com/story/college/2015/08/14/real-or-nah-22-jump-street-versus-real-life-universities/37405501/
- Donahoo, Saran. “Hollywood’s Representations of College Women and the Implications for Housing and Residence Life Professionals.” 11 Nov. 2019, http://eds.b.ebscohost.com
- “6 movie and tv misconceptions about college life.” The Prospect 11 Nov 2019, http://www.theprospect.net/6-movie-and-tv-misconceptions-about-college-life-17994
- Solórzano, Daniel. “Teaching and Social Change: Reflections on a Freirean Approach in a College Classroom.” Teaching Sociology 11 Nov. 2019, https://www.jstor.org/stable/1317466?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
- Umphlett, Wiley. “The Movies Go to College.” Hollywood and the World of the College-Life 11 Nov. 2019, https://books.google.com/books