About Me

My name is Spencer. I'm 23 years old, and I'm a junior at Princeton. So far college has taken me five years. I've taken time off to work, transferred to USC and come back, and learned a lot along the way.

I like to think about life and what I'm going to do with mine.

I've met a lot of people my age with the same sorts of thoughts so feel free to read, take surveys, and comment.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

James Franco's "Undergrads"


As some of you may have seen or recently heard about, actor James Franco has produced a web series depicting the party-side of really any university. He follows a group of cavalier and superficial students throughout a semester as they chase girls, binge drink, hook up, party hard, and, well, you get the point. However, for this "part documentary-part reality" series, he focuses on a group of students from the University of Southern California. Not surprisingly, the end product sparked quite bit of outrage from the school and its students. Nevertheless, let us not forget that this is purely the view of college life shown from a very specific social group. Although offensive to the university as a whole (and surely not a depiction of the majority of students at any university), we must admit and realize that some student do partake in such a lifestyle.

In my opinion, I think that James Franco's intention was only to shine a light on what really occurs at the most extreme end of college parties and Greek life. I don't in any way think that he was trying to criticize and/or deride the reputation of the University of Southern California. In fact, his younger brother, Dave, even attended USC and integrally worked on this project as well. He has been quoted saying:
"This past semester, I was working more behind the camera, and I directed, produced, and wrote this Web series about college life. The basic idea stems from a conversation I had with my friend about how there are really only a handful of projects at most, whether it be film or TV, that really capture what college is like. For the most part, it's all sensationalized and over-the-top. We decided we wanted to give it a very HBO-type look at what really happens in college. We figured, 'It's crazy enough as it is; let's just show what's really going on.' So we followed a handful of kids at USC throughout the semester, and the whole tone is a little strange, because it's part documentary, part reality, part scripted. It's kind of a weird mesh of everything, but it came out really cool. I hope people respond well to it. I'm happy, because we were able to capture what we set out for. ...I went to USC, and watching this footage, I can attest that this is really what it's like. This is what happens on a typical night."

First and foremost, I would like to question Franco's conclusion that college in the movies and on television is not depicted in a realistic manner. While it may be "sensationalized" and "over the top," I think it's a fair caricature of college social life. Even in dramatic, "soap-opera-esque" programs, it's not meant to be taken seriously. It's simply "based" on reality. I don't think any show's creators and producers really expect people to actually believe  what they've depicted. After all, it's not a documentary.

Furthermore, even though I do think the Franco brothers have done something important in exposing the extreme side of university social life, we have to remember that they've displayed only that... the extreme and inherently over the top side of college Greek and party life. Despite the fact that that lifestyle does exist for a certain (fairly large, in my opinion) minority, it does not fairly portray your average student at the University of Southern California (or any university for that matter). In fact, even if the focus was not USC, I do not think that the Franco brothers thought about the ramifications of this web series and whether or not it would be fair to a school that has spent a lot of time, effort, and money cleaning up its reputation (quite successfully, I might add) in the past years. In other words, it's good to expose the raw and raunchy side of college partying, but take it with a grain of salt because most students aren't like that.

The trailer was posted on WhoSay, but they have just recently been taken down based on the public reaction.

Some articles:
Los Angeles Times ExtraLos Angeles Times BlogHuffington PostUK Daily Mail

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