10 Lies That Movies Told Us About Going to College
One of the most surprising things about 'Monsters University' is just how much of a typical college movie it is. Granted, it's full of that typical Pixar warmth and charm, but the overall story revels in a template as old as 'Animal House' and 'Revenge of the Nerds.'
Other than the fact that it stars monsters, 'Monsters University' is just another entry in a long line of "snobs vs slobs" movies set at institutions of higher learning.
Like so many of its college comedy brethren, 'Monsters University' has skewed the facts of college life for dramatic purposes, occasionally reveling in cliches that have been around for decades but have little bearing in the real world. In fact, cinema has painted an incredibly inaccurate (but highly entertaining) portrait of college life over the years. Watching a lot of movies before heading off for your first day of classes is sure to prepare you for a very different experience than you'll actually get.
So, without further ado, here are 10 incorrect things that the movies have taught us about college.
Beginning with 'Animal House' and continuing to this very day, the college comedy has continuously had a low opinion of the dean of students. Always presented as a pompous jerk who favors the rich, cool kids over the lovable nerds, the dean has always been the guy to boo and hiss at; the villain who masterminds the misery of the film's heroes. Generally, these kinds of films end with this character getting his comeuppance, which usually involves his fancy suit getting drenched in food or paint.
Here's the truth: in real life, a college dean probably generally doesn't have time for vendettas against a particularly outrageous frat house. Seriously, he or she has a university to run. If you go to a college where the dean actually knows your name, then congratulations -- you're either at a very small school or are a truly exceptional student. If you think your dean is out to get you, you've been watching too many campy '80s sex comedies. But vindictive, cruel professors who have it out for you? Yeah, those totally exist.
More college movies than we can count follow a handful of losers who attempt to join the coolest fraternity on campus, fail miserably and spend the rest of movie creating their own frat in an attempt to take down the popular guys. Getting into a fraternity (or rather, failing and starting your own) is frequently presented on screen as the most important thing you can do in college...but it's not. Good heavens, no.
In the real world, a lot college students laugh and roll their eyes at the idea of joining a fraternity. Some people opt for frats and sororities while others join clubs, play sports or just get really, really drunk at a bar.
If movies accurately represented real life, college would be less about getting a higher education and more about boobs. According to the thoroughly obnoxious world of '80s college comedies, sexual escapades lie around every corner and getting laid is as easy as being a lovable dork with a heart of gold (and even easier if you're one of those fraternity schmucks).
But the real truth of the matter is that college is still the real world and sex does not lie around every corner, waiting for you to stumble haplessly into it. You still date. You still attend parties. And, you still fail to get laid more times than you can possibly count.
But don't despair! Although your college experience probably won't resemble the wacky sex shenanigans of many '80s comedies, chances are strong that they also won't resemble the other variety of college movies. You know, the ones about the people who can't get laid at all. Heck, there's an entire subgenre of sex comedy about nerds who want to have sex. However, they're the worst kinds of movies and should be disregarded entirely if you ever hope to have sex during your four years at college.
If you find yourself comparing your sexless life to that of an '80s college comedy, you're probably one mental break away from peeping on a girl's locker room.
You know the cliche: the quietly noble team of losers or the uncool frat think that all is lost. Maybe the dean is going to expel them. Maybe a rival group has ruined their reputations. Anyway, things couldn't be worse when they learn about that Amazing Competition At The End Of The Semester That Will Change Everything.
Cue an inspiration speech. Cue a quirky supporting character saying something goofy. Cue training montage. Cue the heroes winning the day and humiliating the bad guys in the process. While colleges do offer plenty of extracurricular activities, the chances of one arriving just in time to completely change everything about you while destroying the reputation of your enemies are small.
In fact, if your plan to get back on top involves a special college competition, you're probably much lower than you thought you were. Not to mention, half of the school isn't going to care if you win an obstacle course/trivia challenge. They're too busy, you know, going to college.
It's another cliche that permeates virtually every college movie out there, so let's kill it right now: you were not destined to meet your roommate. Your roommate will not always be your best friend. Your roommate will not always be your greatest rival/enemy. You will not always initially hate your roommate but grow to love and respect him or her as you overcome similar challenges.
In fact, if you're like most college students, you'll probably cycle through three or four roommates over the course of your schooling. Maybe you'll hate one of them. Maybe one will become a good friend. Most of the time, they'll just be that guy/girl you have to share some space with for a semester or two.
You've seen 'Revenge of the Nerds,' right? Of course you have. And if you haven't, you probably have a good idea of what it's about: nerds rising to the occasion and taking those obnoxious jocks down a peg. Well, we have good news for you, nerds. You see, times have changed. You are now accepted. Social divisions in colleges have started to blend and shift and you now belong to one of the largest, hippest cliques out there.
In fact, there are tons of jocks out there who would genuinely find what you have to say about 'Doctor Who' pretty interesting. Leave those water balloons and over-the-top revenge pranks back in your high school days. College is safe for you now.
Oh, the irony! Here you are, paying thousands of dollars to continue your education, but the real lesson you need to learn is in the folksy wisdom of that helpful, wisecracking maintenance man! Or what about this: students struggle to solve complicated mathematical formulas but that secret genius of a janitor can solve it effortlessly! College movies love the idea of finding wisdom and smarts in unlikely places, but let's face the facts -- real life isn't 'Good Will Hunting' and sometimes a janitor is just a janitor. How do you like them apples?
Although a popular urban legend for years, the concept of the "pass by catastrophe" was popularized by several films ('Dead Man on Campus') and TV shows ('Law and Order') in the late '90s and early '00s, leading to an entire generation of misinformed students.
The legend states that if someone kills themselves at college, the school will automatically award that victim's roommate(s) with a passing grade for the semester, because how could they possibly be judged after enduring such trauma? It's all horse hockey, but no matter how many times you link to the Snopes article on the subject, people still believe it and Hollywood keeps making movies about it.
The biggest, weirdest lie that film has taught us about college life is that you don't have to study. This is, to put it mildly, incorrect. While cinematic college students spend all of their time collecting life lessons from cafeteria chefs, battling the evil dean and preparing for that big contest that'll change everything, real college students are brewing their fifth pot of coffee, making notecards and trying to figure out if they can squeeze in another trip to the library before the big test the next day.
In reality, college is a lot of reading and a lot of writing and lot of being extremely stressed out and miserable while you watch your future crumble around you. In other words, we kind of don't blame the movies for making all of this stuff up.