So MTV’s new show “College Life” premiered a couple weeks ago and while it looked completely exploitative, I figured I’d DVR an episode and see if it was anything like their “True Life” series that is quite good. Only a few minutes into the show, it was obvious that MTV was once again trying to glamorize life at college through the eyes of four “regular” students–the party dude, the good girl, the troubled scholar and the ethnic outcast. Once I got over the generic character stereotypes and into their “lives,” I really got a glimpse into what college was all about: parties, drinking and relationship troubles.
MTV tries to remove themselves from the equation by saying that all of the material is shot by the students, but that doesn’t mean the producers don’t edit and manipulate the story lines to make (barely) compelling television. Sleeping, eating and sitting around watching TV while doing homework are probably three of activities 90% of all college students spend their time doing, but they’re nowhere to be seen. Instead we have kids getting busted for drinking in the dorm (yes), girls arguing over stupid problems with boys (yes) and people getting blurred out because they refuse to be on camera (sure). But because the show chooses to ignore things like going to class, participating in clubs and doing activities off campus, it’s basically saying they aren’t important and don’t deserve to be portrayed on a show called “College Life.” Don’t be fooled, you’re being sold the lie.
Not to be outdone though, those tricky marketers at MTV decided to run clips of Asher Roth’s “I Love College” during commercial breaks. This song is easily the biggest pile of shit that has been released this year. I don’t care that he’s a white rapper or that he sampled a Weezer song, but that somehow he is deemed the “next big thing” and that a song like “I Love College” can be acceptable to a mass audience. I completely get it though; if I were smarter and had no morals or pride I could have written the same song, a tailor made jam for a drunken singalong at a frat house kegger. College kids smoke weed, drink, (try to) have sex and are reckless. You write a song about all those things and it guarantees you instant popularity. (How else do you explain Sublime?) I know it’s just a stupid song but are those really the reasons you should love college?
I think my point is that kids are getting dumber. You watch a show like “College Life” or hear a song like “I Love College” and I wonder what is the message that we’re trying to get from it? Asher Roth loves college because he likes to party (yea dude!) and he’s smart enough to capitilize on a horrible trend. MTV loves college because it provides them a new demo to sell to and make money off of. Look, I had a great time at college despite my school’s eccentricities and am completely aware that not every school or student values social lives over academics. But if pop culture continues to present college as as breeding ground for date rapists instead of a place for learning and self discovery, then we’ll all end up dumber. Movies have been doing this since forever but they are works of fiction, meant to exagerate and entertain. When “College Life” bills itself as the absolute truth through the eyes of actual students, well then that’s just wrong. The bigger issue is that I am able to recognize this as a problem, rant about it and go on with my life. But what about impressionable kids who know nothing about college and are just fed propoghanda? Will they grow up thinking that college is just one big party? I’m sure I sound like an old synical old man, but this whole thing just doesn’t sit well with me. Maybe this will all sort itself out and go away like most MTV shows or maybe we’ll have a bunch of Van Wilder’s applying for jobs in the next few years. Time will tell, now get off my lawn.