“This is so cheesy in the greatest way.”
Viewing the trailers for Accepted, one can easily come to the conclusion that it is simply another movie about the wacky hijinks kids will get up to at college when they refuse to let ”The Man” tell them what to do. It’s movie about youthful rebellion in the vein of Animal House or Van Wilder. The movie unabashedly throws itself into the genre while gleefully waving the well used tropes about. But in addition to that the movie does actually have something poignant to say.
Like Revenge of the Nerds which bandied about the concept of how being different didn’t mean you were less deserving, Accepted takes the stance that everyone is deserving, yet not even the pretty popular people are actually getting. Among the crowd of misfits and losers, the main character of the movie, who normally would be the slacker archetype that coasts through life, spends most of his time fast-talking people to get what he wants out of life and actually ends up putting in a lot of effort into his schemes. He didn’t get into college because his direction through life, in no small part to his manipulating of the rules, meant he did not conform to the “college standard”. There is also a star football player who would have gotten a free ride, but lost his scholarship due to an injury. Then there is the girl who devoted her life since elementary school, sacrificing and struggling, to getting into Yale but didn’t make it because her family didn’t have the connections or the money. This is where Accepted begins its commentary on the modern education system.
I graduated college five years ago, and the memories of it are still fairly clear in my mind. This is very evident by how, to this day, I wake up sweating and struggling to remember unfinished homework, tests that need to be studied for, and missed classes. College was sold to me as a place where I would learn how to be an adult, how to cope with the real world, and discover who I was and what I was going to do with the rest of my life. It’s a charming concept, and something most people of my generation looked forward to. When I got there, I came to understand that college a business first and part-time school. Pick a degree. Pay exorbitant amounts of money. Fulfill the requirements. Leave. Anything else is done on your own time. In the movie, the uptight dean of the rival school makes a big point about how the prestige of a college comes from how many people they turn away. Exclusivity and demand allows them to be better known and thus charge more. Once he finds out about the South Harmon Institute of Technology, he is more incensed by the presence of a business rival then by the fact that the school is fictitious.
The parents in Accepted push their children to attend college then become disappointed when they don’t get in. It is accepted (pun intended) that without having gone to college, their children will face bleak pointless lives having no more effect on society than draining resources. In my second to last year of college Edward James Olmos came for an evening and said pretty much the same thing; a college degree is the equivalent of a high school diploma from when he was in school. Also he made a big deal about how people will take advantage of you if you don’t speak multiple languages.
By the end of the movie, we got a speech about colleges behaving like factories, imposing lines of thought, and homogenizing. We always joked about formal education turning people into automatons, but college was supposed to be when we could learn what we decided we needed, and thus differentiate ourselves in a way that made us both unique and worthwhile. Yet, it ended up being frightfully similar. “Why can’t we both exist, huh? You can have your grades, and your rules, and your structure, and ivory towers, and then we’ll do things our way. Why do we have to conform to what you want?” I will admit that the methods of S.H.I.T. are probably impractical and doomed to fail, but does that mean that the hundred years of tradition at Harmon University are the only way? Characters learned how to really discover themselves through sculpture, and meditation, and culinary arts, and engineering principles by way practical applications in halfpipe construction. Why must there be a prejudice against people who go to a liberal arts school versus the ivy league or vocational school methods? Can’t other systems work? What about taking the traditional systems and restructuring them in different ways? The same results are met, but the difference is the method in which the knowledge is presented.
One of the real gems of this movie is the inclusion of comedian Lewis Black as a washed up college professor who got sick of the old system. There are scenes that are obviously scripted, but he also has several where it is highly likely that the director pointed a camera at him gave him free reign to vent. It’s what he does best. While a lot of the things he covers he usually goes over in more depth in his standup work, these sound bits fit in great here as well.
“Do me a favor, enjoy your time here. You’ve got four years. These are the best years of your life. And then, you’re fucked.”
RedOmega says: Yeah, I graduated from college a little more than a year ago. The whole system is [...]. I came to the conclusion long ago that it's not so much about the education as it is about social sorting (you must have this much money to enter the middle class) and socialization. The 'college experience' is half of what's sold--i.e. living (ostensibly) on your own, independent from your parents, partying, etc. Which has nothing to do with education and can easily be accomplished without paying $100k to get a piece of paper that says you're good at jumping through hoops. Forgive the cynicism. College was the worst decision of my life. [...] The topic of college is one of the few things in the world that makes me genuinely angry.