General Attitudes towards College Students
Attending college opens a world to a diverse group of people seeking higher education and offers the opportunity to interact with different people and places yet it is usually represented in a skewed form. The representation of college in pop culture influences and can shape how teens perceive the experience will be. The article 6 Movie and TV Misconceptions about College Life breaks down common misconceptions of college students mainly derived from movie or TV portrayals. If young minds are impressionable to the degree that what they see in film shapes their views of the world, then the misrepresentation of this identity will likely misguide expectations of college life to come. What usually takes a backseat and isn’t focused on onscreen is the portrayal of academic life, meaning students seem to have an immense amount of free time to party it up. I find this interesting because in demonstrating high school life there is an emphasis on getting into a great college, once in the school its as if academics aren’t as important, at least not enough when it comes to entertainment value
The Portrayal of Female College Students in Pop Culture
Stereotyping is a popular trend in pop culture. Some pop culture mediums include films, and social media. Stereotyping plays on one narrow characteristic of a social type, used in the context of pop culture stereotyping is used on characters to keep playing on skewed perceptions in the worlds they create. Popular media represent outlets for shaping and informing public perception of institutions and institutional actors found in our society. No stereotype is a fully fair representation of whom the person is, people add up to so much more than what they may look on the surface.
A popular played out stereotype for college students is the crazy party life they have in school. Playing on this party life, female college students are turned into and viewed as sexualized objects meant to look pretty and impress boys, creating a skewed perception of the representation of female college students in film and online. As a female college student witnessing this form of representation is sometimes hard, I see my friends and even sometimes myself trying to fit into an image created by shallow views and unrealistic expectations that have been created in popular teen films and publicized in social media such as Instagram. I think its important to take away the female college stereotype that involves young women in minimal clothing partying on the weekends to get the attention of men and acknowledge other attributes such as ambitions and accomplishments.
There are two popular sides of the college spectrum. One side where an ordinary girl rises in status that comes from a superficial makeover or another where the already beautiful popular girl realizes her looks only take her so far so she tries to show people she is more than her looks. I give credit to the films I will examine they end with the female leads compromising to an equal share of good looks and intelligence, the only problem remaining is that one cannot be achieved without the other. For example the movie House Bunny is about an underdog sorority brought back to life by a former playboy playmate. I think it’s interesting that the premise of the movie is in stereotypes. The unpopular girls need to fit into societies expectations of a female college student in order to fit in, the only way is to bring in someone who already fits the mold. They go into the extreme of the stereotypes only in the end to meet in the middle, a makeover but not too sexualized.
The next film I examined was Legally Blonde, which centers on the materialistic blonde sorority stereotype. The problem in this film is that it takes losing a man for the protagonist to realize her full potential, by full potential I mean that she her thinking the highest achievement she could accomplish was becoming president of her sorority instead of getting into and graduating from Harvard Law School which she accomplishes by the end of the film. Stereotypes represented in films don’t keep females from achieving their goals, but instead show that their goals cannot be succeeded without motivation of fulfilling a made up archetype usually to garner attention or please the male lead.
Female College Students on Social Media: Instagram
The tendency to sexualize women in pop culture has created a world where young girls need reassurance by people or friends online through likes and comments. This type of exposure in media content has led to women sexualizing themselves online and can be seen in Instagram accounts that strictly post college female students in bikinis, tight dresses, and short skirts. Popular Instagram accounts that exploit females include “TFM Girls”, “collegxdimes”, “thecollegebabes” which have a combined following base of 1.3 million followers. These accounts post photos that are sent in by college students and tag the girls featured garnering them thousands of followers. Accounts like the ones just mentioned thrive on a system of social approval and likes, with validation in views and success in followers. The problem is that what is shown on social media is a carefully posed, most likely filtered image of people trying to adhere to a false sense of identity while promoting their idolized self.
Entering college life is a transition period for young adults. Many are susceptible to trying to fit into images they think are most accepted. As a female college student the growing archetype I see commonly represented in pop culture seems to be more sexualized than modest. This can be seen through films and social media, so much so that young girls are knowingly presenting themselves in this manner. I find that this popular sexualized representation will continue to grow onto younger generations in this social media age because the depictions bring with them an idolized identity of stereotypes that seem more common then they really are. This can be damaging to a woman’s self-esteem if pop culture doesn’t do anything to represent the typical female college student as anything more than her looks.
Green, D. (2014, December 23). The Sexualization of Women on Social Media. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from https://prezi.com/g8ownawubhry/the-sexualization-of-women-on-social-media/
Hoverman, K. (2005, September 19). A look at the stereotypical college student. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://collegian.csufresno.edu/archive/2005/09/19/opinion/student.shtml
6 Movie and TV Misconceptions About College Life. (2014). Retrieved May 25, 2016, fromhttp://www.theprospect.net/6-movie-and-tv-misconceptions-about-college-life-17994