While most of us are familiar with the myths of college life perpetuated by film and television, many feel the world of higher education has been sullied with overly decadent and promiscuous activity.
James Franco, actor and sometimes director, has created his solution to the unrealistic portrayals of university living. His new project, a web reality series titled Undergrads, follows a group of students at the University of Southern California and their nightly adventures.
Franco’s creation has not been well received, though. The main body of the show is filled with wild parties of excess and frequent run-ins with the police.
USC students and faculty are deeply upset at the light their university has been shown in, not to mention how the alumni feel, especially since the school has been working hard in the last few years to fix its image. This is partly due to recent scandals such as the photos of students having sex on the roof of a school building, Pete Carroll’s sudden departure followed by the athletic department fiasco and the horrible viral email of the female ranking system suggested by fraternity members.
I can understand the school and those who work and study there being upset. I would be too if some sort of show came out featuring the “wild party scene” of Cal State Fullerton. However, this just damages a school that is already damaged by scorn, jealousy and its own questionable actions.
The quaint nickname given by those who despise the institution, the “University of Spoiled Children,” may be accurate in some respects, but it doesn’t give any credit to all of the students who work hard to get into that institution.
USC has trained some of the best in every field of quite possibly everything, but it is common human nature to focus on the bad something or someone does instead of the good.
That being said, was it Franco’s intention to damage the reputation of the school?
No, even he says that it was his intention to provide a real and accurate record of what college life is like in order to combat the fantasy realms of shows like Greek, or films such as Animal House. But what he’s shown has not helped in any way.
USC has a history of being a little over the top when it comes to parties and nightlife, but is that so surprising? It is USC, one of the top schools in the nation in the heart of Los Angeles. Every school has a reputation. This show could have been just as damaging to another institution had it been Chico State, “the Party Mecca of California,” or UC Berkeley with its “high population of hippies and druggies.”
What it comes down to is this: What is the purpose of the video? It was to show the truth about the nightlife. Does it do that? Yes. Do people have to be happy about that? No.
Can they be angry that Franco isn’t showing the arts programs or the many philanthropic endeavors that the school is involved in? Yes, but would anyone really watch a show about people organizing charities or practicing for a recital? Of course not, that’s why he made a more visceral and controversial show.
Honestly, had this show come out 10 years ago, there wouldn’t be this much of an outcry of indignation. Because of the issues in recent years the reaction is hyper-sensitive, especially since USC is supposed to be fixing its image to attain more aid for its more benevolent projects.