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Lost in America

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Do not rent How I Got Into College (1989). Oh, you weren’t planning to? Never heard of it?

It’s a late ’80s teen comedy, one of a slew of them comprising a mini-genre exclusive to a time and place – America, the 1980s, with some late-70s product thrown in. You know, Animal House, Caddyshack, Back to School.

So you want me to tell you about how it sucked? It didn’t. That’s not why you should avoid it. It’s actually sweet, innocent, romantic, playful, inventive, joyous, and feisty. That is why you should avoid it. Life in these united states in this early 21st century bears little resemblance.

I watched it at a friend’s house over the weekend. We’d seen it when it was new. I loved it then, and I loved it all over again. The difference is, I once believed it. It’s what I’d want life to be like. Hell, I could have written it. Not then, but now.

I guess I’d make it more cynical now. Or I’d write it knowing of its naivete, but wanting to inspire nonetheless.

How I Got Into College is about having dreams and following them, even if that simply means following a girl. It’s about love of something larger than yourself – in this case, a small liberal arts college. It’s ultimately about two American Dreams. One typically cold and calculating: money and power are the ultimate goals and any means in pursuit are justified; the other about celebrating individualism, diversity, equal opportunity, and the life of the mind.

So don’t rent this film and subject yourself to a stark reminder of how far and how fast we’ve slid into the chasm of the former, morally bankrupt dream, and how distant seems our belief in true higher learning, our better instincts, and openness to change.

In How I Got Into College the good guys and girls win. Right now, America, by contrast, is lost.

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About George Partington