The antics of young college students seem to have become one of the favorite subjects of Hollywood filmmakers. The films seek to entertain with images of alcohol-fueled parties full of horny, archetypal college students. Animal House, the quintessential college movie spurred a long line of college movies that have since perpetuated this stereotypical image of college life. But, are these portrayals reflective of reality?
Usually, the answer to this question would not be too difficult for me to come to. It seems logical to deduce that because movies are meant to keep you engaged, that the college life on screen is a hyperbole of the real world. After all, it wouldn’t be terribly entertaining to watch a student studying in a dorm room or in a lecture hall, right? So, it makes sense that these crazed images of college students are a result of what fills the most seats or sells the most DVDs. However, with the recent viralization of a certain Duke alumna’s “thesis” the world and media gripped tightly onto a shred of the real college life.
Karen Owen chronicled her sexual escapades with various Duke athletes and then ranked their performance in a Powerpoint, which she modeled as a senior honors thesis—“An education beyond the classroom: excelling in the realm of horizontal academics”. She only sent the presentation to a few close friends, but before long the thesis was spreading all over the Internet. The now infamous Owen seems like she could have fit right into the plot of any college movie. Many media outlets certainly began questioning what was going on after class at Duke University, putting it on the map yet again after the Lacrosse scandal.
This brings me to the creation of this blog. The portrayal of college students in the media, specifically in film, has become a subject of great interest to me. Sure, often the characters within the typical college movie fall into distinct, often predictable categories, but if there is anything that I took from the whole Karen Owen debacle is that the issue is much more complex than I originally thought.
I will go through typical college flicks, old and new, and dissect how and why students are portrayed committing such debauchery. Why is the media so compelled by these images? Where did the inspiration for these characters come from? How are colleges and their inhabitants depicted differently as time transpires? And most importantly, to me, how does Duke fit into all of this?