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James Franco’s “Undergrads” Has Students Divided

Sammi Wong |
February 1, 2012 | 1:17 p.m. PST

Staff Contributor

A scene in the "Undergrads" trailer that has now been removed (jamesfrancotv.com)
A scene in the "Undergrads" trailer that has now been removed (jamesfrancotv.com)
James Franco’s new web series, “Undergrads,” has caused a significant amount of backlash from the University of Southern California undergraduate community. The series, which centers on the lives of four undergraduate students, has been the center of controversy since a teaser of the series was first released on Jan. 24.

The trailer was a compilation of various party scenes and alcohol-related clips that demonstrated the worst of the Greek community and student body.

Offensive remarks about girls being fat or guys chasing down shots with high fives were featured as highlights in the trailer.

The series, which was set to premiere on Thursday, Feb. 2, has now been postponed indeterminably because of all the negative attention that it has generated. The trailer of the web series has also been removed from Franco’s website.

Many students at USC are angry that the series only illustrates a one-dimensional facet of college life. Others are frustrated about the lack of diversity within the main characters of the series: all of who seemed to be Caucasian, in the Greek system, and party-crazed. Among other remarks that USC students made, the fact that James Franco attended rival university UCLA, which could be why USC was targeted for such negative attention.

That is not to say, however, that the series has only received negative opinions. There are many students at USC who are honored and proud of this series. A “Daily Trojan” article, written by Sheridan Watson commented that the show isn’t so bad because there is no harm in admitting that USC is a school that loves to party.

“I find the show quite hilarious-looking. I mean, if you can’t laugh at yourself then you can’t laugh at anything. And if anyone tries to say that what the producers portray in the show is the antithesis of SC life, then they’re in fierce denial,” Watson wrote.

Watson has a point. USC is a school with a firm reputation of having a crazy and active social life. It is a university where approximately 25 percent of the student population is in the Greek community, infamously known for activities like sex on a roof or sexist emails.

The reason why this show is going to be incredibly negative on the school’s reputation is not because it demonstrates a social scene, but because viewers are unable to realize one thing: that this series represents a small fraction of the student community.

Reality TV shows like “Jersey Shore” have turned an entire region in the U.S into a joke. People associate the “Jersey Shore” with Guidos and tanning-obsessed girls even though that represents only a small fraction of the population of people who live there.

Once this show airs, people will undoubtedly make generalizations and assumptions about this entire school of over 17,000 undergraduate students based on the action of a few hundred that they see.

While the actions of those few hundred might be hilarious to watch, it is certainly not fair for them to turn the university into a joke.

Reach writer Sammi Wong here


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Anonymous (not verified) on February 2, 2012 5:40 PM

"Undergrads" is trash and if Franco wanted to film this garbage, he should have done it at his alma mater where they party just as hard but look stupid doing it. Watson completely misses the problem here- it's not about what the video shows, it's what it doesn't show or even acknowledge (based on the teaser), so it is degrading to students both in and out of Greek life. We play hard here at USC, but we most certainly work even harder. "A half truth is a whole lie. ~Yiddish Proverb" At the end of the day if were pulling the grades and can rage along the way- who cares? We're not stupid. If you're going to tell our story tell all of it or you look f*cking moronic.

Anonymous (not verified) on February 2, 2012 6:11 PM

Talk about rush to judgement! Judging a series on a 3 min trailer. Why don't you wait til you see the show. The producers have already said the show shows all aspect of univ life at different colleges. USC gave him permission to film there and now officials are whining? Please... The trailer is meant to attract interest in the show which it did. If you don't like it don't watch it. It will be shown on Franco's own website and made primarily with his $. People need to chill out and stop being overly sensitive. If you don't think this happens at colleges you are either in strong denial or never attended.

Anonymous (not verified) on February 2, 2012 9:27 PM

"At the end of the day if were pulling the grades and can rage along the way- who cares," to whoever responded, learn to read. They never said it "doesn't happen" they said it's only a half truth, which it appears to be on the teaser.. And what you are saying not to "judge" is impossible, because the teaser ONLY shows "spoiled rich idiots".. and I'm not sure if you're aware but typically trailers are to promote what people show in their film/ the main focus so unless Franco is dumb, he advertised what his show is about. If you're an SC student and like the representation that this promotes by all means go ahead and embrace it. But think ahead of how your future employer may perceive you after watching undergrads ;) I personally would rather them see a documentary about our academic accolades and integrity

Anonymous (not verified) on February 1, 2012 1:35 PM

Ah, the end of this is opinion not "entertainment news". That kind of genre-shifting is just irresponsible in what should be a straight-forward, facts-based article.