Dartmouth battles hard-partying reputation in pop culture, too


A scene from the movie, ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House.’ (1993 MCA TV)

Even before Dartmouth president Philip J. Hanlon delivered a scathing speech this week about “extreme behavior” plaguing the reputation of the college and causing application numbers to drop, the school has battled its hard-partying reputation in pop culture.

The most famous example, of course, is 1978 movie “Animal House.” The film spoofed the out-of-control frat house culture and is partly inspired by Dartmouth fraternity Alpha Delta Phi, thanks to Dartmouth alum Chris Miller, who helped pen the screenplay.

In addition to the John Belushi classic, there are plenty of more modern examples of TV and movie references that imply the Ivy League institution prioritizes other activities over studying. As the TV Trope Web site says, on television, Dartmouth is often portrayed as a school “where everybody dual-majors in Wall Street ethics and partying.”

A brief list:

“The Simpsons”: In a 2000 episode, a Christian singer has a tune that includes the lyrics “I was drinkin’ like a Dartmouth boy.” During another episode later that month, a character talks about “trick pouring” beer, which “incidentally qualifies for course credit at Dartmouth.”

“The Mindy Project”: Creator Mindy Kaling went to Dartmouth and seems to delight in making Peter, the newest doctor, a Dartmouth alum: He’s a brilliant OB-GYN but also a guy who watches porn at work. In his first episode, Peter boasts that he took something called “the hippocratic broath,” which is “kind of a philosophy that me and my fraternity brothers came up with as a way to live your life to the bro-est.”

“Until now, I’ve not been able to satirize my favorite kind of Dartmouth character, which is a kind of well-educated frat guy, who’s both congenial and ultra into his frat,” Kaling told EW.

“Grey’s Anatomy”: Meredith Grey, Dartmouth alum; so is show creator Shonda Rhimes, and the show hints that Meredith had quite the partying past in college.

“The Colbert Report”: Stephen Colbert’s fictional alter-ego is a Dartmouth alum who pledged the SAE frat, as he proudly told a reporter who recently came on his show to promote her story “The Dark Power of Fraternities.” Colbert couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about: “All we did was good works like the occasional food drive,” he said, then referring to some other, um, interesting activities during pledge week. “That’s just bonding!”

“Superbad”: The 2007 movie followed a crazy night had by high school seniors about to graduate, and showcased two Dartmouth-bound characters, played by Michael Cera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. As the Dartmouth student newspaper noted, “While the film doesn’t distinguish Dartmouth from its peer institutions, it most accurately depicts what many students here are like: smart, slightly nerdy kids who want to drink and [have sex].”

“Mad Men”: Pete Campbell was apparently a Dartmouth alum — and we all know he enjoys his drinking.

Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter and pop culture blogger for the Style section. She joined the Post in May 2008, a week before she graduated from the University of Maryland, and worked on Lisa de Moraes' TV Column and blog.
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