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Elite school references in film 
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Post Elite school references in film
Was it truly the crappy vision of the Ivy League schools, in their documented corruption of the educational foundations of their respective institutions by colluding to exclude merit-based scholars, to become props at the disposal of Hollywood hack writers to drop their names as references to convince audiences of the intellectual qualities of bimbo-like actors?

If I hear one more dropping of the name Harvard in reference to the education of some underdeveloped character in another, for me, instantly crappy film, I think I might puke.

The commercialization of America's "highest" institutes of learning has to be one of the most grossly disappointing developments, in a time of grossly disappointing developments, due to its long-term impact. How much respect has been drained from the bricks left behind?!? I don't mean this so much as a knock on the students there. I watch the Simpsons. I can recognize the brilliance in a good many of the students. I find it a shame, though, that the administration of the institutions has allowed their academic respect to diminish in such a fashion. Of course, they have no direct control over Hollywood, but my feeling is that there is a form of connection there.

In any case, the societal discussion is one matter, but am I the only one who notices and is disturbed by these increasingly common (and necessary, due to a lack of writing ability?) references?

It was bad enough when the 90210's of television felt the need, another matter when it has been abused to such an extent on the big screen.


Wed May 27, 2009 1:06 pm
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Post Re: Elite school references in film
I don't go to MIT, but i'm really sure real MIT students and professors aren't as stupid as the characters in last year's "21"


Wed May 27, 2009 1:37 pm
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Post Re: Elite school references in film
Ricky Polim wrote:
I don't go to MIT, but i'm really sure real MIT students and professors aren't as stupid as the characters in last year's "21"

lol :)


Wed May 27, 2009 1:46 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
Ricky Polim wrote:
I don't go to MIT, but i'm really sure real MIT students and professors aren't as stupid as the characters in last year's "21"

wasn't that supposed to be based on a real story, i heard that somewhere. maybe its just bullshit. i dont know.

anyway, yeah. it is a cheap trick. and an overused one. but id say in some cases, it does work.


Wed May 27, 2009 1:59 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
Yeah, and forget film/tv--what about in the professional world and in politics? It's just Yale this, Harvard law that! Of course Obama went to Harvard--what a poorly written character!


Wed May 27, 2009 2:11 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
aameen wrote:
Ricky Polim wrote:
I don't go to MIT, but i'm really sure real MIT students and professors aren't as stupid as the characters in last year's "21"

wasn't that supposed to be based on a real story, i heard that somewhere. maybe its just bullshit. i dont know.

anyway, yeah. it is a cheap trick. and an overused one. but id say in some cases, it does work.


It was based on a real story, but embellished for Hollywood. I have a working hypothesis that when a movie says "based on a true story" its quality dictates that you run the other way.


Wed May 27, 2009 2:15 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
Trevor wrote:
Yeah, and forget film/tv--what about in the professional world and in politics? It's just Yale this, Harvard law that! Of course Obama went to Harvard--what a poorly written character!


:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

but he didnt win cuz he was from harvard, he won cuz he could say "I'm not Bush" better than McCain. so i wont exactly put it to exploiting the harvard name. rather the bush name. :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:


Wed May 27, 2009 2:23 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
Trevor wrote:
Yeah, and forget film/tv--what about in the professional world and in politics? It's just Yale this, Harvard law that! Of course Obama went to Harvard--what a poorly written character!

Perhaps I should have been specified fictional characters for the slower members of the audience. Now we know why voiceovers are overused...


Wed May 27, 2009 2:44 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
authun wrote:
Trevor wrote:
Yeah, and forget film/tv--what about in the professional world and in politics? It's just Yale this, Harvard law that! Of course Obama went to Harvard--what a poorly written character!

Perhaps I should have been specified fictional characters for the slower members of the audience. Now we know why voiceovers are overused...


And maybe you should understand what sarcasm and jokes are


Wed May 27, 2009 2:50 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
I think he might have been joking?...maybe? lol

i'm referring to authun's comment.


Wed May 27, 2009 2:53 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
authun wrote:
Was it truly the crappy vision of the Ivy League schools, in their documented corruption of the educational foundations of their respective institutions by colluding to exclude merit-based scholars, to become props at the disposal of Hollywood hack writers to drop their names as references to convince audiences of the intellectual qualities of bimbo-like actors?

If I hear one more dropping of the name Harvard in reference to the education of some underdeveloped character in another, for me, instantly crappy film, I think I might puke.
I understand where you’re coming from. I’m sure I don’t have to add that it’s a lazy habit that bad writers use to signify that their characters have intellectual depth.
Quote:
The commercialization of America's "highest" institutes of learning has to be one of the most grossly disappointing developments, in a time of grossly disappointing developments, due to its long-term impact. How much respect has been drained from the bricks left behind?!? I don't mean this so much as a knock on the students there. I watch the Simpsons. I can recognize the brilliance in a good many of the students. I find it a shame, though, that the administration of the institutions has allowed their academic respect to diminish in such a fashion. Of course, they have no direct control over Hollywood, but my feeling is that there is a form of connection there.

However, this paragraph made me chuckle—just a little. Anyone who has experience attending or teaching at these kinds of institutions knows that they are extremely flexible when “academic respect” comes into conflict with finances. Prior to the early Twentieth century, Ivy league universities were little more than finishing schools for the privileged. Things have changed; still, it’s a legacy they haven’t completely dissociated themselves from. So don’t count on schools to protest Hollywood name dropping. At the same time, don’t be disappointed, because as elite as these institutions may be, they’ve never had the kind of integrity some people seem to imbue them with.

Truth be told, I’m not sure what they could do to actually stop this trend, even if they were so inclined. But my (unnecessary and uncalled for) rant aside, I agree that it’s a piss poor way to define a character.


Wed May 27, 2009 4:45 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
People are on to the laziness inherent in dropping Harvard, Yale, Princeton. Throw out Dartmouth, Cornell, and Brown -- you might be losing some people. And University of Penn? People hear that and think "state school".

It's always a pleasure to see a narrative develop on an unnamed campus or at, say, Tulane. That said, I understand the work that bringing up the big Ivies accomplishes. It doesn't cheapen the schools (how could it?) but it does cheapen the script if it isn't necessary to the story. Just like 555 telephone numbers. Or a dial tone when someone hangs up on you.


Wed May 27, 2009 5:53 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
majoraphasia wrote:
People are on to the laziness inherent in dropping Harvard, Yale, Princeton. Throw out Dartmouth, Cornell, and Brown -- you might be losing some people. And University of Penn? People hear that and think "state school".

It's always a pleasure to see a narrative develop on an unnamed campus or at, say, Tulane. That said, I understand the work that bringing up the big Ivies accomplishes. It doesn't cheapen the schools (how could it?) but it does cheapen the script if it isn't necessary to the story. Just like 555 telephone numbers. Or a dial tone when someone hangs up on you.

I don't think it cheapens anything.

My joke about politicians going to Harvard was actually in service of a point. A lot of prominent people went to Ivy League schools. It's not something being made up for the movies. It's not even laziness in my opinion. It's a signifier for the audience that a character is an intelligent and important person.


Wed May 27, 2009 6:10 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
Trevor, in principle you have a point: it can help signify that an individual is intelligent or prominent. But it’s an overused device. And often it is lazy. How many examples come to mind of characters depicted as either Ivy League grads or high school seniors about to go off to an elite university?—and to make matters worse, these characters usually demonstrate little or no intellectual ability. The protagonist as young man or woman about to leave home for Yale or Princeton is so overused it’s become a cliché.


Wed May 27, 2009 7:28 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
Trevor wrote:
majoraphasia wrote:
People are on to the laziness inherent in dropping Harvard, Yale, Princeton. Throw out Dartmouth, Cornell, and Brown -- you might be losing some people. And University of Penn? People hear that and think "state school".

It's always a pleasure to see a narrative develop on an unnamed campus or at, say, Tulane. That said, I understand the work that bringing up the big Ivies accomplishes. It doesn't cheapen the schools (how could it?) but it does cheapen the script if it isn't necessary to the story. Just like 555 telephone numbers. Or a dial tone when someone hangs up on you.

I don't think it cheapens anything.

My joke about politicians going to Harvard was actually in service of a point. A lot of prominent people went to Ivy League schools. It's not something being made up for the movies. It's not even laziness in my opinion. It's a signifier for the audience that a character is an intelligent and important person.


Ratel, in his post directly above this very one, is correct. Trevor's joke about politicians wasn't lost on me -- I have yet to succumb to the atrophy of taking everything literally. A lot of people did, in fact, go to Ivy League schools. They're good schools! But Ratel makes the point I failed to make and wish I had: plucky heroine heading off to Harvard in the fall does not a commanding character make. I give a free pass to 21 and the book Bringing Down the House because the students were MIT students -- it wasn't a character signifier meant to take these people extra seriously. If they'd been students at Hidden Valley Community College it would have been the same story, more or less.

Ideally, in literature as well as film, a good writer will illustrate that the character is an intelligent and important person through their actions and words. Writing an ordinary character into freshman orientation at Yale signifies, to me, the writers had no idea how to show intellect in action. And while people may not like 'ordinary' characters, especially from the plucky youth set, there's a number of ways to make a character interesting without investing them with attributes that earn them undeserved power from the audience.

So, to reiterate one more time, it's easy. And because it's so easy, confusing it for lazy is all a matter of being exhausted of seeing it. One time, just once, I want to see an ordinary youth who's struggling with Generic Character Responsibilites while majoring in economics at Rice. And Alberto Gonzales went there so, right away, you know this ordinary youth is a flawed loner that had to resort to his safety school after Yale sent him a thin envelope.


Wed May 27, 2009 10:28 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
Ratel wrote:
Trevor, in principle you have a point: it can help signify that an individual is intelligent or prominent. But it’s an overused device. And often it is lazy. How many examples come to mind of characters depicted as either Ivy League grads or high school seniors about to go off to an elite university?—and to make matters worse, these characters usually demonstrate little or no intellectual ability. The protagonist as young man or woman about to leave home for Yale or Princeton is so overused it’s become a cliché.

That actually clarifies the point for me greatly.
I was thinking mostly of characters who are professionals or politicians, for whom it seemed accurate to have them be Ivy alums.

But for students going off to a university, I agree that could be more of a problem. Even at a good school, only a handful of kids are really going on to attend an Ivy League school. And in high school movies, no one's depicted to be as smart as an actual intelligent high school senior would be. In that case, it is a bit lazy to drop an Ivy name in place of actual characterization or in opposition to how the character has already been characterized.


Wed May 27, 2009 10:54 pm
Post Re: Elite school references in film
Ratel wrote:
Trevor, in principle you have a point: it can help signify that an individual is intelligent or prominent. But it’s an overused device. And often it is lazy. How many examples come to mind of characters depicted as either Ivy League grads or high school seniors about to go off to an elite university?—and to make matters worse, these characters usually demonstrate little or no intellectual ability. The protagonist as young man or woman about to leave home for Yale or Princeton is so overused it’s become a cliché.

Well described. I didn't think of mentioning it's development into a cliché. I have observed, though, that the Harvard drop is abused three times more often than any of the other league schools. I agree wholeheartedly with the Major that U of Penn is much too dangerous in the minds of writers for its potential state school association.

Trevor wrote:
But for students going off to a university, I agree that could be more of a problem. Even at a good school, only a handful of kids are really going on to attend an Ivy League school. And in high school movies, no one's depicted to be as smart as an actual intelligent high school senior would be. In that case, it is a bit lazy to drop an Ivy name in place of actual characterization or in opposition to how the character has already been characterized.

The worst are the high school movies and TV shows where the Beverly Hills mimbos and bimbos are to begin their fast track to career networking. Hence, the 90210 reference I made in the original post.

As to your valid numbers reference, Ivy League students are indeed quite outnumbered and, as a result, by no means the chief innovators of new technologies in the U.S., a much less subjective discipline (than politics, for instance).

majoraphasia wrote:
It's always a pleasure to see a narrative develop on an unnamed campus or at, say, Tulane. That said, I understand the work that bringing up the big Ivies accomplishes. It doesn't cheapen the schools (how could it?) but it does cheapen the script if it isn't necessary to the story.

Of course there is a cheapening factor (perhaps not for tuitions), but indeed not for the Tulanes that aren't used with such frightening regularity. These are supposed to be institutes of learning with academic pursuit at the core. This growing trend leaves one with the impression that a number of the graduated students end up in the entertainment industry (certainly true) and apparently feel an overwhelming need to drop the name of their former school. Who knows? Given the administrative attitudes in the U.S. nowadays, maybe the U's are aready demanding money for every drop. Or will be soon. Shouldn't the academic prowess, and accomplishment of the graduates, speak for itself?

I also note some thinking that potentially stems from the same. Given their tendency to judge the States on the basis of the "insight" they gain from Hollywood together with an infatuation to favorably compare their education against that of the "idiots" in America, Europeans often view anyone failing to have attended some sort of elite school as vastly inferior to themselves (not that they wouldn't seek any other reasons they could find). In this case, it has direct negative consequences for Yours Truly.

See that as an ulterior motive for the thread if you must. In any case, all of this plastic fails to garner any more respect from me - quite the opposite!

P.S. How many films in the classic era of Hollywood relied upon this device? If they did, would the actors "play the part"?
P.P.S. I was somewhat inspired by Tony Stark in Iron Man, who I never "bought" as a tech head despite his MIT ;) attendance. The Berkeley vs. Brown discussion with the "journalist" (or was it "ho"? I couldn't tell...) was irritatingly lame. Overrated movie.


Last edited by authun on Thu May 28, 2009 7:15 am, edited 1 time in total.



Thu May 28, 2009 6:31 am
Post Re: Elite school references in film
Off topic for just a second:

Anonymity on this board isn't such a bad thing but it's left me wondering, more than once, if I knew a couple of the posters from college. Here we are, interacting, and we're fooled into thinking we've never met. And we probably haven't. But still... you never know.


Thu May 28, 2009 7:00 am
Post Re: Elite school references in film
majoraphasia wrote:
Off topic for just a second:

Anonymity on this board isn't such a bad thing but it's left me wondering, more than once, if I knew a couple of the posters from college. Here we are, interacting, and we're fooled into thinking we've never met. And we probably haven't. But still... you never know.

Never attended any colleges on a lake. It would probably be fun to live on one, though. :)


Last edited by authun on Thu May 28, 2009 9:02 am, edited 1 time in total.



Thu May 28, 2009 7:16 am
Post Re: Elite school references in film
authun wrote:
majoraphasia wrote:
Off topic for just a second:

Anonymity on this board isn't such a bad thing but it's left me wondering, more than once, if I knew a couple of the posters from college. Here we are, interacting, and we're fooled into thinking we've never met. And we probably haven't. But still... you never know.

Never attended any colleges on a lake. It would probably be fun to line on one, though. :)


It's more fun to live close to the Cuyahoga River, one of the perks of having moved to this area. Each time I see it's beautiful waters I think to myself, "It's really great to be living, and raising a child, near a river that was once so deeply polluted it burst into flame." There isn't a day goes by when my heart doesn't leap up in song.


Thu May 28, 2009 7:45 am
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