3rd 2009
Counterfeit campuses?

Posted under: American history, art, jobs, students


Gilman Hall, Johns Hopkins University, 1913-15

Via Inside Higher Ed, Some Johns Hopkins students are honked off that their campus is being used as a stand-in for Harvard in the shooting of a new movie, “The Social Network,” about the invention of Facebook.  Having spent time on both campuses as a guest in the 1990s, I can say that the Homewood campus looks just about nothing like Harvard.  Kudos to one of the first commenters on the Baltimore Sun article, who asks, “Wow, did they manage to change the architecture from Neo-Georgian to Gothic as well?”  (Actually, to be fair, some of the comparison is in fact Georgian to neo-Georgian.  Harvard went Georgian in the eighteenth century, so at the time Hopkins was founded in 1876, it was big into Gothic Revival.) 


Memorial Hall, Harvard University, ca. 1870-78

Many buildings are brick on both campuses (although JHU’s bricks are newer and therefore orangier)–that’s about where the similarities start and end.  The Homewood campus feels like a suburban college campus, with several wide open greenswards, and it has little if any relationship to the city neighborhood in which it’s situated.  Harvard’s campus is integrally knit into the city of Cambridge–that’s the big difference I perceive, moreso than the different kinds of architecture. 

My advice to JHU students (not that they’ve asked for it, of course) is to be cool and knock off the complaining–it’s not the movie shoot, it’s the b!tching about it that makes you look second-rate.  JHU is a kick-a$$ school where anyone would be thrilled to matriculate–have some pride!  Who the heck wants to watch a movie about writing software anyway?  This sounds about as exciting as the yet-to-be released movie “Tenure,” which was shot at Bryn Mawr in 2008.  (Sounds like a straight-to-DVD and video dump, to me!)  What’s next?  A suspense movie called “Tenure and Promotion:  The Committee?”  A horror movie called “The Provost?”

No wonder Hollywood ignores us, for the most part.  Whatever David Horowitz says, we’re extremely boring people.


16 Responses to “Counterfeit campuses?”

  1. perpetua on 03 Nov 2009 at 11:11 am #

    I think it’s generally good advice to JHU students: KNOCK OFF THE COMPLAINING. Your extremely privileged lives, wealthy parents, and expansive futures should be *enough*. So you couldn’t get into Harvard? Excuse me while I find a real tragedy to get worked up about. Maybe about a half a mile to the west where people are dying of poverty?

    /End rant. I spent years imprisoned in Homewood. I would put up with state schools and their byzantine bureaucracy and endemic salary freezes over elite private schools any day of the week on twice on Sunday.

  2. Indyanna on 03 Nov 2009 at 11:45 am #

    How did they ever get people to call it “matriculate,” anyway? Do you still have to be able to translate the Latin on your diploma to become a fully certified diplomate?

    Doesn’t Harvard do lucrative movie tie-ins, with their $11B endowment plumet last year? This reminds me of the case, famous a good while back, with Matt Damon in _Good Will Hunting_, when Good Will trashed that grad. student on colonial economic historiography in a “Cambridge” bar, invoking James Lemon, Gordon Wood, and if I’m remembering right, Daniel Vickers, in detail and with pagination. I heard that Vickers later said that the “Harvard” room used in a subsequent scene was actually the same one in which he remembered having wooed his wife at the U. of Toronto many years before. Something like that, anyway. I think you could look it up if they’re still archiving the H-Nets that far back. If they want to do a wild collegiate sendup called “Red Brick,” I might have a little something I could show them.

  3. Historiann on 03 Nov 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    That “Good Will Hunting” scene was my favorite, of course.

    perpetua: The good thing about most students at public unis is that there’s very little complaining. The bad thing is that (IMHO) they could stand to be a *little* more grade-conscious and performance-conscious. But all in all, I’m glad not to have the complaints or the grade-grubbing.

  4. rootlesscosmo on 03 Nov 2009 at 12:57 pm #

    What’s next? A suspense movie called “Tenure and Promotion: The Committee?” A horror movie called “The Provost?”

    “Research Assistant II: The Revenge.”

  5. Hotshot Harry on 03 Nov 2009 at 2:13 pm #

    RE: Good Will Hunting, I think the brief scene of Robin Williams’ character teaching his course at Bunker Hill Community College is the most accurate depiction of collegiate teaching I’ve ever seen on film.

  6. dance on 03 Nov 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    No, no, no. The Tenure movie is supposed to be a comedy, I am totally looking forward to it. We may be boring people, but we don’t have to be in movies! Just imagine plotlines involving TAs sleeping with undergrads, other grad students sending anonymous letters, an entire dept testifying in the custody battle when a dept marriage breaks up (just to use some real life examples) or the fun that could be had with all the lecherous and crazy behavior documented in job interview stories and dissertation tales. I can totally see the montage of three campus visits within two weeks.

    Well, okay, maybe an ensemble TV series would be a better form than a movie. But all it takes is a good scriptwriter.

    I *am* having a hard time figuring out a facebook movie, though—I mean, sure “student entrepreneurs hit it big” is a fine plot, but doesn’t really require facebook to be so central it’s the title.

  7. Clio Bluestocking on 03 Nov 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    Well, there is a whole t.v. show about a community college. My colleagues and I want to become consultants for it.

  8. anon on 03 Nov 2009 at 6:32 pm #

    The Corporation doesn’t mind its alums running or funding Hollywood, but it holds firm on prohibiting any productions on Harvard soil.

    If you’d let one HBO punk film there, *all* of them would do it.

  9. wini on 03 Nov 2009 at 9:21 pm #

    The 2001 comedy How High was filmed at the campus of my graduate school in Los Angeles. The film is about weed that makes you so smart you get into Harvard, and there was a set piece on campus for months and month that said “Harvard” on it. I don’t think anyone complained, though.

  10. Rad Readr on 03 Nov 2009 at 10:14 pm #

    Having spent a bit of time as a student and faculty person in Southern California, I have seen my junior high, high school, college, and current employer featured on shows, movies, and commercials. My alma mater shows itself to be sooooo LA by bragging about it (although the Marx Brothers movie is a cool entry). Thank you, Hollywood, for helping fund my scholarship!!!

    Occidental’s beautiful campus and proximity to Hollywood have made it a natural movie location beginning with MGM’s The Cup of Fury in 1920. Our film credits include:

    Made of Honor (2008) with Patrick Dempsey
    The Holiday (2006) with Kate Winslet and Jack Black
    Orange County (2002) with Colin Hanks and Jack Black
    Jurassic Park III (2001) with Sam Neill
    Don’t Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996) with the Wayan Brothers
    Clueless (1995) with Alicia Silverstone
    Real Genius (1985) with Val Kilmer
    Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
    The One and Only (1978) with Henry Winkler
    The Impossible Years (1968) with David Niven
    Take Her, She’s Mine (1963) with Jimmy Stewart
    Tall Story (1960) with Jane Fonda (her screen debut) and Anthony Perkins
    Pat and Mike (1952) with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy
    Goodbye, My Fancy (1951) with Joan Crawford and Robert Young
    That Hagen Girl (1947) with Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan
    Second Chorus (1941) with Fred Astaire (“the worst movie I ever made”)
    Pigskin Parade (1936) with Judy Garland (her screen debut) and Betty Grable
    Horse Feathers (1932) with the Marx Brothers

    TV credits include “Eli Stone” (2008), “The Riches” and “Criminal Minds” (2007), “Monk,” “The L Word,” and “InJustice” (2006), “The West Wing” (2002), “Beverly Hills 90210″ (1993-94), and a host of other shows, made-for-TV movies, and commercials, including “Lou Grant,” “Remington Steele,” and “Cannon.”

  11. Mamie on 03 Nov 2009 at 10:55 pm #

    Quite a coup for Occidental to claim both “Second Chorus” and “That Hagen Girl,” which often appears on lists of the worst movies ever made. Plot summary: Ronald Reagan spends most of the movie as Shirley Temple’s putative father, then they run off together, apparently to marry. Ick.

  12. perpetua on 04 Nov 2009 at 7:07 am #

    As for academics being boring, I was just reminded about how scintillating we can be, while watching “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” on netflix last weekend. Talk about drama.

  13. Penny on 04 Nov 2009 at 8:04 am #

    Yes, Southern California schools at all levels are in film and TV all the time. Whenever a tv character is supposed to be at an Ivy League school, we watch closely to see whether it’s really UCLA. The high school in the next town actually had to set a limit of 40 days of filming per year, because it’s so tempting to take the money, but more than that is really too much. Or, to be precise, it’s too much if you still want to function as a school.

  14. Ellie on 04 Nov 2009 at 8:46 am #

    The Corp doesn’t quite ban all filming on Harvard soil. When I was in Cambridge, parts of that horrendous Brendan Fraser movie about the guy who drops his thesis through a sewer grate onto Robin Williams, who’s been living in the basement of Widener, were filmed in Radcliffe Yard. They had to get the Michigan library to stand in for Widener itself, though. My understanding was always that the reason for the ban was precisely what anon @ 6:32 and Penny suggest –they’d either end up with campus totally overrun with film crews or have to have a full-time office devoted to deciding which HBO punks to approve.

  15. Fratguy on 04 Nov 2009 at 1:52 pm #

    Rad Readr,

    Impressive list (mostly), especially Clueless.
    Unfortunately my alma mater can boast only “The Winter Carnival Movie” (yes, I believe that was the title, made too early to go even straight to video) and “Carnal Knowlege” starring Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkle (ok, everyone, all together now …. EWWWWWWWWW)”Animal House” was based on the screenwriter’s experiences in Alpha Delta but not filmed in the upper valley.

  16. Indyanna on 04 Nov 2009 at 6:21 pm #

    A place I know lays claim to “Groundhog Day,” but then I learn much of it was filmed somewhere near Chicago. Who else besides me thinks that every dean, provost, and chief academic officer should be required to spend every February 2 writing on the board (even if it’s a whiteboard!) a thousand times “Keep the Talent Happy,” “Keep the Talent Happy,” “Keep the Talent Happy?”

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