Looking At Female College Students in Media
By: Natasha Poole
Typically, during your senior year of high school you were either looking what colleges to apply for or what other direction to go in. In 2008, about 11,000,000 females and 8,000,000 males were in college that year (2012, Forbes). College plays a big role in people’s lives, whether it is how it helped them prepare for life, get them a career, or helped them meet their future spouse or long-time friends. When I look at popular culture media today, I see female college students depicted as sex, drug, and party, crazed people, with no ethics or morals. I see this as a major problem today, because only 45 years ago 2,500,000 females were in college (2012, Forbes), and now they are wrongfully being portrayed as wild girls with bad intentions. I examined three examples of how this is presents in today’s media, the film, The House Bunny; a popular website and YouTube channel, Collegehumor; and the film, Spring Breakers.
The House Bunny, a 2008 comedy film directed by Fred Wolf, was an obvious film to use, because of their theme of self-transformation to look like a typical college girl. The main character, Shelley Darlington, recently got kicked out of the Playboy mansion for being too old, sets out to find a career and lands a job as a den mother for an unpopular sorority. Shelley has blonde hair, wears copious amounts of tight, pink clothes, and plays the dumb role a little too far. As the movie progresses, she notices her sorority is the weird one, there are shy, smart, and nerdy girls in the house, including one girl with a back brace. She then decides to give them a makeover to make them fit in more at their university, which includes long extensions, tight clothes, and lessons on how to talk to boys and be “slutty.” The girls eventually learn that they they should be their true selves and tone down their new look, while still incorporating it into their lives. I found that many people agree with me, why does physical appearance impact your college career? This movie shows that in order to go anywhere or do anything productive, you must “look good” while doing so. It shows that these girls’ lives are greatly improved due to a make-over (2008, MEDIA PORTRAYAL OF SORORITY WOMEN). But in a study on women in college shows that women who show more of their identification were less likely to pursue math related careers and women who showed less of their gender identification were more likely to pursue math related careers (2007, Keifer). This source made me think more about my argument and made me think that appearance may place a role in college academics. I also found that it just wasn’t the physical appearance that made them fit in with the other female college students depicted in the film, it was how they acted with others. They were told to tone back their quirky personalities and hobbies, while acting more provocative towards the opposite sex. One part of the film really highlighted this, when Shelley decide to throw a party and pushes the girls to have sex with the opposite sex. As a female college student, I am ashamed to be depicted this way. I know many girls that are not “slutty,” do not wear pink, provocative clothing, and dumb themselves down for attention. The behavior in the film is extreme and a bit offencive for real-life female college students.
The House Bunny, Shelley Darlington
Another source of media that misrepresents female college students in the same way is College Humor, a website containing comical articles and short videos. One article that I found was called “The ABC’s of College.” It had a word for each letter that had to do with college life. Some examples are, “A is for alcohol, H is for high, R is for ragers, S is for sex, etc.” I found that each example is a major stereotype for college students, including females. As I kept reading through the website I thought of the site as a satire, something funny that pokes at real life situations. Yes the “The ABC’s of College” is mainly pointing out stereotypes and making fun of them, it is also reinforcing them by not explaining why they aren’t always true.
My last source was the film, Spring Breakers. The movie is about four female, college students who are looking do something fun on their spring break. They steal and cheat their way to have a good time in Florida where they end up going to jail for possession of drugs. The next day they get bailed out by a popular rapper by the name of Alien. He introduces them to more drugs, sex, and violence. I found that spring break was a major part of students’ college career in a movie review of spring breakers (2013, Lemire). The article brought up the point that Spring break seems like a time for students to be free from school and have fun, so I think the film was perfect for seeing the stereotypes of what female college students and what they do on their spring break. In the film, we see them wear swimming suits the whole time and experiment with drugs brought to them by Alien. The movie review by Christy Lemur in the Huffington Post, states that the director of the film, Kornie, states that the movie is a sad reality. I think that this is true because of how popular culture enforces the trend of college students going wild for spring break.
The course has really helped me view media in a different way. I found week six’s activity very valuable because I learned how to really pick apart a piece of media, the Adidas commercial, for the first time, also I got a lot of new and unique ideas from my classmates. I also learned a lot from week 4 when we looked at advertisements. I found that there are a lot of trends in advertisements, like some of their humor targeting men in particular. I related this to my essay and the trends I saw in my sources. Looking back at my sources, the film, The House Bunny; a popular website and YouTube channel, Collegehumor; and the film, Spring Breakers. I see female college students depicted as sex, drug, and party, crazed people, with no ethics or morals. This is a problem because the feminist movements throughout the sixties until now, has made it possible for about 11,000,000 females to attend college, and with the misrepresentation of female college students in popular culture media, I feel like we are downgrading female students and making it harder for them to be taken seriously with the high impact of popular culture.
(2012, July 16). Retrieved December 2, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ccap/2012/02/16/the-male-female-ratio-in-college/
Media Portrayal of Sorority Women. (2008, December 11). Retrieved December 2, 2015, from http://issuestereotypes.blogspot.com
Kiefer, A. K., & Sekaquaptewa, D. (2007). Implicit stereotypes, gender identification, and math-related outcomes a prospective study of female college students. Psychological Science, 18(1), 13-18.
Rosen, C. (2013, March 14). ‘Spring Breakers’ Review: Harmony Korine’s Titillating Nightmare Also Has A Lot To Say. Retrieved December 2, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/14/review-spring-breakers-is_n_2874790.html
The House Bunny [Motion picture]. (2009). Sony.
Korine, H. (Director). (2013). Spring breakers [Motion picture]. Lionsgate.
CollegeHumor – Funny Videos, Funny Pictures, Funny Links! (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2015, from http://www.collegehumor.com