The Pop-culture College Student
When it comes to what it means to be a college student in the pop culture world, there are particular parts about us that are highlighted more than others. It seems that many TV shows and movies aren’t trying to accurately depict college students and college life, but more poke fun at it. They make it seem that the life of a college student revolves around three main things: partying, hooking up, and lastly school. The whole college life is often times seen as one big party. While some of the biases and stereotypes that media sources have generated about college students are somewhat true, it only represents a small population of college students. The problem I see is that many people think that that’s how everybody acts in college. The stereotypes and gender biases created by media sources have become social norms for how one should act in college.
When watching movies like “Van Wilder: Freshman Year” or “21 and over”, the main message one may get from these two movies is that all college students are party animals, even the nerds. If you don’t drink or in the case of “21 and over” didn’t want to rage over spring break, you are considered a loser (“21 and Over”). In “Van Wilder: Freshman Year” the main character, Van Wilder, begins his freshman year at Coolidge college; a heavily religious, sexually oppressed, anti-partying school. The students were considered prudish and even lame at times because no one did any of the traditional college things. When Van came on to campus and introduced the students to the world of drinking and heavy party, he quickly became the cool man on campus (“Van Wilder: Freshman Year”). The movie made it seem like something was socially wrong with the students because none of them partied or openly had sex until Van came along. One thing I noticed in the movie was that even though the students obeyed the strict rules placed on them, they all secretly desired to become crazy, sex driven party animals. It was as if that was the number one thing all students on campus wanted to do. In these movies, going to class or doing anything that involves education is considered a distraction from the “important” activities of college. For example in “21 and Over” one of the main characters, Jeff Chang, has a big medical school interview the day after his 21st birthday. Instead of staying in and choosing to celebrate his 21st birthday after the interview, his best buds talk him into going out that night, claiming that celebrating his 21st birthday is much more important than being rested for his big interview. (“21 and Over”)
When it comes to gender biases for college students, there is a noticeable difference between how men are presumed to act in comparison to how women are presumed to act in college, especially when it comes to the Greek system. In most movies and TV shows all the hot college guys and girls are either in a sorority or a fraternity. The “hot” college girls are usually seen strutting around campus in skimpy outfits or bikinis and are very promiscuous. When it comes to guys, they are often depicted as hot heads that are all about partying and getting laid.
Going back to the movie “Van Wilder”, I really noticed the female stereotypes being played out. All the hot girls in the movie were skinny, with big boobs, and fairly promiscuous. In fact, all the girls on campus more or less had that same body type. There’s a scene in the movie where Van and his buds one night sneak into all the girls rooms on campus to steal their vibrators, part of one his many plans to turn the campus upside down. To no surprise, every girl on campus that night was masturbating and if they weren’t, you could bet they had a dildo hiding around somewhere (“Van Wilder: Freshman Year”). In another scene, as an attempt to help their loosing football team win, Van talks the cheerleaders into become hot and expressing their inner desires. The girls later come out in skimpy two pieces that barely cover any of their assets (“Van Wilder: Freshman Year”). The movie plays into the stereotypes placed on college girls but takes it to the extreme. It can makes one feel that as a female college student, your only focuses should be sleeping around, your body image, and joining a sorority to become one of the “hot” girls.
In regards to men, I really noticed the gender stereotypes being played out in the movie “Neighbors”. Unlike the other two movies listed above, Neighbors isn’t solely focused on college as a whole but does focus more on the Greek system. In the movie, a young couple and their new born baby are forced to live next to a fraternity house after a fraternity at the local university decides to buy the house for sale right next to theirs. The frat brothers are depicted as being solely focused on two things, sex and upholding the brotherly tradition of throwing the most epic party at the end of the year (“Neighbors”). Even though not all the guys are the best looking, their considered the men on campus because they’re in a fraternity. Every guy on campus who isn’t in a fraternity wants to be like them and every girl on campus wants a shot at them. There’s a scene in the movie that shows the guys selling handmade molds of their penises as a fundraiser to make some repairs to their house. It seemed like every girl on campus flocked to buy a dildo from them; even their neighbor’s wife secretly bought a dildo from them (“Neighbors”).
The movie plays into the stereotype that college guys are very egotistical when it comes to their penis and that their lives revolve around partying and getting laid. It also plays into the stereotype that as a college guy, in order to “get the ladies” and be consider one of the cool guys, you have to be in a fraternity. I also noticed that the movie plays into the idea that if your focused more on school than you are partying, your considered lame. I say this because there’s a scene in the movie where one of the head frat brothers, Pete, misses a frat brother meeting because he decided to attend a jobs fair instead of the meeting. The jobs fair was obviously more important but his frat brothers didn’t agree with his decision because it strayed away from the “brotherly way of life”(“Neighbors”).
When I look at how college students are depicted in popular culture, I feel like movies and TV shows are more poking fun at how college students are assumed to behave rather than trying to depict the reality of it. In an article titled “ Pop Cultures War on Fraternities”, it talks about how movies like “Animal House” and its many decedents don’t glorify the Greek system, but actually mock it (Fetters). It points out that the movies actually make frats seem like evil places and that the people who “subverted what they stood for, and cheekily called themselves a fraternity while doing it, were awesome”(Fetters), not the fraternity. Being a college student myself, and more specifically a female college student, I can say first hand that what is portrayed by popular culture of college students is not 100% percent true. I know plenty of college students whose main focuses are not partying and trying to get laid. Yes, there are the occasional wild parties and hook-ups, but for most of us it’s not our whole lives. When it comes to the Greek system, not all the members act like what you see in the movies, and to be completely honest, they’re not the cool kids on campus. Joining the Greek system is a good way to make friends quickly and be involved in an exclusive community but so is joining a sports team or club on campus.
It’s easy to buy into the image that popular culture has created of college students, especially if you’ve never been to college; I know I did before I went into college. But once in college, I quickly realized that what’s seen in TV shows and movies only represents a small population of college students. When I look at how college students are portrayed in the movies I listed above, especially when it comes to the Greek system, it’s very comedic. It seems like their poking fun at college students instead of trying to accurately depict us because of how over the top they go. Unfortunately unless one is aware of this, I feel like many people think that that’s how all college students act, or if you going into college, that’s the socially accepted way to act. When it comes to popular culture and its depiction of particular groups, in this cased college students, the stereotypes and gender biases created by media sources seem to become social norms for how one should act.
Lucas, John, dir. “21 and Over.” Dir. Scott Moore. Virgin Produced: 01 Mar 2013. DVD.
Fetters, Ashley. “Pop CUlture’s War of Fraternities.” The Atlantic. N.p., 28 Feburary 2014. Web. 17 May. 2014.
Glazer, Harvey, dir. “Van Wilder: Freshman Year.” Van Wilder. Paramount Home Entertainment: 14 Jul 2009. DVD.
Stoller, Nicholas, dir. “Neighbors.” Universal Pictures: 09 May 2014. DVD.