Saturday, October 24, 2009

How Not to Go to College

It's a wild Saturday night here in Phoenixville. With Mary off working the 4-midnight shift, and my plans to go grocery shopping thwarted by local flash floods, I settled instead for baking chocolate chip cookies and watching TV, which turned out to be the trashy college comedy Accepted. Which, I had forgotten, stars a young future Serena Van der Woodsen, along with Justin Long and a memorable Lewis Black as a poor man's Paul Goodman.

I was struck, however, by the portrayal of the college admissions process. Mind you, the whole point of the movie is that Justin Long doesn't get into college, which means that a good deal of the movie examines the college admission process, in some detail. And yet it manages to get nearly every detail wrong, starting with the premise: are we supposed to believe that the ambitious parents of the main character would not have paid any attention to their oldest son's college admission process until it was all over?

Things were even more egregious in last season's college admissions storyline on Gossip Girl. The Upper East Side denizens are falling over themselves to wine, dine, and blackmail wealthy alumni donors, admissions deans, college counselors, and the like for admission. Even better was that somehow Dan's ability "get into the Yale English department" (?!) hinged upon a professor reading his work and agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for him. I worked in admissions at a fairly elite northeast school, and I can say that all of this is ridiculous.

Nobody says that movies and TV shows are realistic, but the target audience for these things are high schoolers and twenty-somethings of the middle and upper-middle classes, kids who are intensely sophisticated about the college admission process. Wouldn't they find these weirdly unrealistic plot elements as distracting as I do? And I'm going to guess that the writers, directors, and producers of these shows are from the same sort of bourgeoise background as the target audience, and also went to college themselves, and thus presumably make these things knowing full well how wrong they are.

Anyways, back to the cookies.

1 comment:

0re0 said...

What? There is another way to get into the Ivy League other than "wining-and-dining?" Damn.