The False Depictions of College in Movies

By: Michael Aaron Coopersmith |

When one would look at National Lampoon’s Van Wilder and Animal House, a veteran college student might note that the college setting of these movies holds no relevant comparison to college life. It just might be the fact that actual college life can be incredibly boring.

Look at the day to day schedule for a college student: get up, eat breakfast, go to one or multiple classes between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., then head back to your home to do work assigned until you decide to fall asleep and start the cycle over again.

In general, this is something that we must all take part in to ensure that we get a degree.

But this cycle skips two days: the weekend acting as a refuge from the tediousness of college. These two days allow college students to blow off pent-up steam through club organizations, hangouts with friends, or debauchery. 

College movies capitalize on these weekend moments because they’re more memorable and carry more passionate energy about them.

For reference, look at the 2002 movie: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. This comedy stars Ryan Reynolds as the college-socialite, Van Wilder. Wilder is the finger on the pulse for every social event going on around campus, yet having the ability to make any event into something that could not be forgotten.

The major conflict he faces in the film is being cut-off by his wealthy father, thus causing him to host amazing parties for a monetary fee.

Wilder’s character at the beginning captures the same feelings towards having a good time while at college. Students are now given the freedom to be who they are, live passionately, and have fun. This feeling was entering the common consciousness of the freshman student body.

Something that we should also keep in mind is that movies gift the viewer a good sense of escapism.

Animal House depicts a college fraternity’s antics and the opposing school administration. 

While the fraternity gets into dicey and hectic situations, they usually end up being reprimanded by the school’s administration. But, after having enough of the administration’s restrictions, they go down in a blaze of glory and disrupt the annual homecoming parade. 

The movie comedically ends with each member of the fraternity becoming respectful professionals. 

Some might say that this would capture the wildness of youth, of how far one can go with their fun. Yet, the fact that while we may become free from the restriction of parents, the administration seems to become its replacement. Most movies have a more comedic take, that the administration will do everything it can to suppress this radical fun.

Maybe some can take solace that they can have the opportunity to “wild-out” before having to become an orderly and productive member of society.

College movies shall remain a staple of movie genres, even though the exact content does not represent college life. But it does capture the feeling of young adults becoming free from control and the insanity of this transition period into adulthood.

If you enjoyed this article, check out other opinion articles including The Search for the Perfect Porcelain Pot across Radford on The Tartan.

Featured Image: Cast of Animal House

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