Post Academic


The Alcoholic Horndog Tenured Professor Stereotype: Wonder Boys

This movie is the Great White Whale in the Alcoholic Horndog Professor Stereotype series. It features a novelist-professor running around in a pink bathrobe fretting about how he can’t finish his novel, only to be redeemed by a quirky younger student whose last name is “Leer.” The description is enough to send my blood sugar into the stratosphere. Oddly enough, this one managed to be tolerable.

Meet the Professors:
Grady Tripp: A bathrobe-loving professor who wrote one good novel a long time ago and who is churning out a follow-up as large and as frightening as the opus from “The Shining.”
Walter Gaskell, Chair of the English Department: This dude is so dumb his blind dog knows he’s having an affair before he does.
Sara Gaskell, the Chancellor and Chair’s Spouse: Like many fantasy academics, she has a lot of spare time to maintain her marriage, her affair, her pregnancy and her greenhouse.

Hot Pepper Rating: There must be a pepper in there somewhere if these professors are fraternizing with each other.

Likelihood of Having an Undergrad Piece on the Side: Although Grady fends off the inexplicable affections of nubile Hannah (Katie Holmes), it’s implied that he’s enjoyed his fair share of the ladies and married one or two of them. The big change in Grady’s character is that he discovers his true love is a woman his own age.

Boozing and Drugging Quotient: Wine, pills, pot, self-pity.

Mental Condition: Grady has frequent “spells” that may be attributed to his lifestyle. Or maybe that bathrobe smells so bad that it makes him pass out.

Financial Fakery: Grady rents out a room to a student, so that seems logical. Yet the chair of the English department has the monetary wherewithal to purchase a jacket worn by Marilyn Monroe. As for the chancellor, being an administrator means you get a nice greenhouse.

Teaching Talent: Well, if you call acting as an accessory to a crime or two inspirational teaching, then I guess Grady is a good teacher.

Quotations: Grady in response to the fact that he’s trying to hide the murder of his lover’s dog: “I’ve got tenure.”
Grady to a student crashing at his pad: “I’m a teacher, not a Holiday Inn.”
Rip Torn: “I [weighty pretentious pause] am a WRITER!”

Conclusion: Michael Chabon wrote the book, so I thought it would at least be a well-written piece of syrupy professorial fluff. I was afraid that it would make professors look like useless skirt-chasing creeps, but it makes being a professor–or at least a creative-writing instructor–look like more fun than most other movies in the genre. Jury’s still out on naming a dog “Poe,” though.

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2 Responses to 'The Alcoholic Horndog Tenured Professor Stereotype: Wonder Boys'

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  1. Gary said,

    Friend got to wondering about film depictions of academics, (particularly grad students if any), after watching “Candyman” last night.
    This post guided our search…and realization of entrenched type/trope, proliferating during past decade, from finds thus far
    (we hadn’t known “Tenure” existed; thanks!):

    A Serious Man (2009)
    A Single Man (2009)
    Smart People (2008)
    Elegy (2008)
    Starting Out in the Evening (2007) * grad student co-star
    Art School Confidential (2006)
    The Squid & the Whale (2005)
    We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2004)
    Kinsey (2004)
    The Life of David Gale (2003)

    Any interesting / unusual roles or representations? Conclusions of sartorial-behavioral correlations??


    • Thank you so much! I hadn’t heard of “Art School Confidential” or “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” so I think we’ll have to tackle those in the series. And “Smart People” is on deck for next weekend, so stay tuned!

      And enjoy “Tenure”! I think it’s one of the better (or least painful) ones in the series.


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