July 17, 2011


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Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead
This is also quite well-known—Christina Applegate has faked her resume in order to get a job at a fashion house. Her Vassar status is part of what gives her entrée, and makes the boss believe she can do great work.  A later line seems to imply that the boss may herself be a Vassar graduate. A character point for intelligent, determined, and capable.

Grand Canyon
Thanks to Evelyn Starr for this incredible catch—those are Vassar running shorts and you can see it if you pause it at just the right point. Evelyn says she read an article where Mary McDonnell pointedly wanted the character to be a graduate, and ordered the shorts from the bookstore herself.

Beverly Hills 90210
This was the hot show during my time as a student—large crowds gathered in the dorm multi-purpose rooms to watch and be snarky every week. Andrea was the only character in the crew with half a brain, so Vassar seems a logical school for her to be interested in.  Vassar as character point for a place for smart people.

The State: Episode 1 
This was a sketch comedy show from the mid-90s with a lot of great people. The Vassar joke is an easy one, as a marker for "high-class." Plus it sounds funny.

Shining Through
An unusual contrary, negative viewpoint about Vassar. (See also Coming Soon.) Melanie Griffith in this World War II drama is not a member of the upper class; here she is confronted with being shut out of a job because of that and she throws back the line about the quality of Vassar students into the interviewer’s face.

Another family sitcom with a smart daughter looking at colleges. Vassar makes the list of possible options. Vassar as character point for smart, as we’re seeing more often in this period. With a little twist in a joke around how expensive it is. (See also Gunsmoke about Vassar’s cost.)

Thanks to Davida Sidrane and Christopher Deutsch for the tip.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Warrior of the Lost World)
This show has a curious science-fiction premise, where the world’s worst movies are screened by the bad guys for our hero and two robots. They would then make snarky comments about the movie. (And the movies are real, Z-grade schlocky films.) This 5th-season episode has them viewing a film called Warrior of the Lost World. I don’t have the strength to figure out the movie’s whole premise...especially since the Vassar joke is in one of the snarky comments, not the movie itself. Vassar sort of as character point for a place for a strong female.

Thanks to Whitney Freemesser ’95 for the tip

A science-fiction series based off the camp-classic movie, about a group of immortals who fight each other with swords until only one is left. In the course of this episode, the hero meets a wealthy businessman with a Vassar daughter.  Vassar as character point for a smart and wealthy woman.

Dolores Claiborne
Another famous one, based on a Stephen King novel. King’s sons were going to Vassar around this time and Vassar starts showing up in his books in the period—sometimes outright, sometimes more coded (Needful Things had a character named Mr. Jewett). The character point was retained for the screenplay, but this is far from the typical presentation of a Vassar girl—an angry, embittered, dark, jittery, and heavily self-medicated woman who went to Vassar on scholarship.

The Daytrippers
A funny indie movie starring Hope Davis ’86. Davis is looking for her husband, who’s lied to her about his whereabouts; she tracks him to a party and finds a drunk Marcia Gay Harden. Vassar as character point to no real purpose, except perhaps as an in-joke since Davis is actually an alum.

Thanks to Jim German for the tip.

Living Single
An African-American-led sitcom from the 90s and one of the few instances of Vassar in African-American-themed material. Vassar here as a character point for class distinctions; not really a joke, but setting up toward one.

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