Post Academic

Fake academics on TV and in the movies

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on October 17, 2010
Tags: , , , , ,

So didya know that Drew Barrymore plays a grad student in her latest movie, Going the Distance, which assumes you knew that such a film existed?  I have nothing against Drew Barrymore or anything, but “grad student” doesn’t really come to mind when you think of her, does it?  Apparently, she plays a Stanford journalism grad student in a long-distance relationship, the latter of which, oddly enough, doesn’t seem that far-fetched a premise, considering that is actually something folks deal with.  Apparently, though, the film has been a box-office bust and not a critically well-received one, either.  I haven’t seen the film, don’t plan on seeing it, and I’m betting it won’t make it on “The Alcoholic Horndog” series, so you could check out this blog post on it instead.  But we do learn two things: 1. film plots that involve grad school life too centrally aren’t very popular and 2. Drew Barrymore really wants to be a J-School grad — didn’t she play one in Never Been Kissed, too?

Anyway, it got me thinking about other fake academics in TV and film, though I’ll have to rely on my sketchy memory of these things.  This could become a mini-series along the lines of Academic Horndog, if you, our readers, can help us brainstorm…

Ross Geller from Friends (played by David Schwimmer): Ugh–I was never a Friends fan, and the fact that Schwimmer’s character was some kind of prof really irked me.  I never watched the show enough to follow what was going on, except that he was an archeologist (paleontologist), so I’ll have to quote the hilarious Wiki entry about the Ross character’s occupation as a Prof:

Ross later works as a professor at New York University and causes a stir among his colleagues by dating one of his students, Elizabeth. Eventually, he is given tenure, despite that fact that his papers (including a publication on sediment flow rates) are supposedly widely discredited, forgetting a class once, boring his students to sleep and occasionally giving grades without even looking at students’ work.

Awesome!  So Geller gets tenure despite being a horndog, probably getting bad teaching evals, and being a crap scholar.  Hmm…maybe that hits too close to home for some, since I bet we’d like to imagine some tenured folks we know are guilty of all the above, huh?

Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford): With all the swashbuckling in the Indiana Jones movies, it’s easy to forget that Dr. Jones was supposed to be an archeology prof by trade.  According to Wiki, he taught at a fictional college called Marshall College in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I don’t know, the movies don’t really play up the academia angle so much and the ’80s Ford was probably too hunky to be a geek, but you can’t tell me you didn’t feel like jumping out your window during office hours with long line waiting outside your door.  Except your queue probably wasn’t swooning in the hallway waiting to be in the presence of your hot self.

Roger and Virginia Clarvin, AKA “The Lov-ahs”, from SNL (Played by Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch): Maybe my friends and I were the only ones who thought these semi-recurring characters were great, but remember how Ferrell and Dratch played past-their-primes (in many ways) fifty-something ex-hippies/ex-swingers who loved hot-tubbing on early 2000s SNLs?  You know, they were the ones who called each other “Lov-ah”, usually grossing out random guests like new faculty and other straight-laced folks by hamming up memories of overindulgent sexcapades involving leg of lamb and baklava, if I remember correctly.  Ferrell was definitely the more memorable character with a totally prof-like wardrobe and beard, but Dratch totally reminded me of a real-life prof — you Anteaters reading this might know exactly whom I’m talking about too.  Anyway, lechery, beards, reliving past glories, bad poetry, awkward get-togethers all make for a pretty good facsimile of academic life.  If only they could’ve worked in a Trader Joe’s tout…