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18. Another place where this meritocracy is critiqued is through the application process: “I don’t have a clue [what to do with the rest of my life]” is Bartleby’s entrance essay in Accepted. The entire movie Admission is about the process, and how an officer in the admissions department at an Ivy League school is convinced to consider alternative forms of knowledge and success in students from underfunded schools. There is in fact a genre of admissions movies, films like Orange County, Risky Business, The Spectacular Now, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Each of these films focuses on the college admissions letter as a framing device and even as a narrative technique. Trying to figure out how to write a letter that will get them into college is a means of kick-­starting self-­reflection and development. Amy Vidali studies such letters for their normative power, and the films use the prospect of going to school or getting into school as means of making characters grow up, realize their true priorities, or focus on their dreams—­they don’t even need to set foot on campus to be conditioned by the selectivity and the norms of academia. Many of these movies are also about how these potential students might be able to even afford to go to college in the first place. In Stealing Harvard, the plot is driven by the need to deliver a girl from her lower station in life, and, as you might predict, theft becomes the only feasible solution.


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