Could be worse, could be The Paper Chase (1973)
August 12, 2019 6:31 PM   Subscribe

"1. You encounter a strange, cult-like group that lives in almost total isolation from the outside world. They jealously guard their arcane knowledge and practice some exceedingly cruel rituals. You observe or participate in at least one incredibly awkward sex act. Very strange things happen, sometimes under the influence of narcotics, but you ultimately feel at home there because they give you a sense of family."

Is it a critically acclaimed horror film of the 2010s or your Ph.D. program?
posted by Eyebrows McGee (38 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is so true that it is painful.
posted by k8t at 6:37 PM on August 12 [15 favorites]


I came to say what K8t did.
posted by Orlop at 6:43 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


McSweeneys can always be relied upon for good grad school humor, including this stone cold classic:
F.A.Q. The Snake Fight Portion of your Thesis Defense.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:43 PM on August 12 [30 favorites]


The Get Out one made me bark-laugh. (I am not now nor have I ever been in a PhD program, but have been PhD-program-adjacent for many years. Seriously, get out.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:47 PM on August 12 [10 favorites]


Mr Mitten just read this to me; disturbingly accurate.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:56 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


“Although if you get a poisonous snake, it often means that there was a problem with the formatting of your bibliography.”

Like they even needed to explain this part?
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:04 PM on August 12 [8 favorites]


You are drawn to a low-paying position by the promise of prestige and an opportunity to pursue your passion. Alarmingly quickly you realize that you are both unprepared for the role, and also that your passion kind of sucks. You alienate your friends and family in the single-minded pursuit of your goal, eventually finding a niche in doing what the institution wants, but which is too ethically grim for most others. Again, with alarm, you find that you actually enjoy this work (more so than your naively held 'dream' of being a creative), and are willing to do it for very little in compensation: largely just recognition by the system itself instead of any meaningful material benefit.
posted by codacorolla at 7:13 PM on August 12 [7 favorites]


Don't know about other law schools but just experienced through contact high (family support) of a graduate of the school in the Paper Chase and they do have classes where the prof asks socratically and calls out random students to answer from the previous nights few hundred pages of readings. There also had classes where the prof rambled on about his personal philosophy.
posted by sammyo at 7:14 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


came here to say "so true," stayed to favorite literally every comment.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:27 PM on August 12 [9 favorites]


Oh God McSweeneys.

Movie or PhD program: Your mother, you, and your daughter all have replicated the same toxic pattern in apparently different small, insular ritual communities, from which each of you emerged damaged and haunted, speaking a twisted argot no one outside those communities understands. Your mother, you, and your daughter each in turn try desperately to convince everyone else in the world not to do what you have done, but they do not listen, and you seem fated to give birth to likewise doomed daughters.

My kid is pregnant and I'm terribly afraid this child too will end up with a doctorate. It's like a genetic disease in my family.
posted by Peach at 7:48 PM on August 12 [18 favorites]




> 9. The various females around you are far more interesting and do a lot more, but somehow a mediocre white guy ends up as the anointed one of the powers-that-be.

Holy shit, what a fucking mood.
posted by brook horse at 8:09 PM on August 12 [20 favorites]


In the sequel:

You magically get a position within the cult and are told how fortunate you are. You then spend the next years of your life doing menial tasks for people higher in the cult to continue to prove your worth.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:17 PM on August 12 [10 favorites]


Mining these for D&D plots
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 8:25 PM on August 12 [5 favorites]


Lord of The Rings.

There was a blog a dozen years or so ago called Metafilm (I think? Now gone) that did film reviews with an emphasis on metaphorical interpretations (The Matrix was a fave of theirs). Their reviewer posted an essay about how Frodo's arduous struggle up mount Doom to throw the ring of power into the chasm was an enactment of the process of writing & presenting the PHD dissertation. Makes sense to me.
posted by ovvl at 8:41 PM on August 12 [5 favorites]


#10 is absolutely dead-on for me. Except that for me, "living deliciously" apparently == "writing code." Which I don't exactly disagree with at this point.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:04 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


My weekly reminder that I really, really want to go see Midsommar...
posted by kaibutsu at 9:33 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Their reviewer posted an essay about how Frodo's arduous struggle up mount Doom to throw the ring of power into the chasm was an enactment of the process of writing & presenting the PHD dissertation

Eagles didn't save me from "with revisions."
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:50 PM on August 12 [12 favorites]


> Except that for me, "living deliciously" apparently == "writing code." Which I don't exactly disagree with at this point.

wouldst thou like the taste of java
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:14 PM on August 12 [10 favorites]


You find yourself in an opulent but sinister setting that possesses subtle but undeniable links to antebellum slavery.
The academy will be a better place without the participion of this author. I'm sorry, on everyone's account, that it took so long to figure that out.
posted by eotvos at 12:28 AM on August 13


Spoilers for various horror movies, also for your PhD program.
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:14 AM on August 13 [10 favorites]


In my final year of graduate school, while ostensibly writing my dissertation, I procrastinated away many hours torrenting and watching horror movies. Like, seriously, I watched them all. It was my escape. The more stress, the darker the horror movie needed to be. And I never made this connection between horror and my actual graduate school life. Wow.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:16 AM on August 13 [7 favorites]


Silence , proles!

what is the impact factor of your scribbling on this "web log"

the beatings will continue until morale improves
posted by lalochezia at 1:21 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]


U think I joke
posted by lalochezia at 1:25 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Duly forwarded to my wife (along with the "fighting a snake" article), who is hopefully a few months away from her defense.

> My kid is pregnant and I'm terribly afraid this child too will end up with a doctorate. It's like a genetic disease in my family.

When my wife started her PhD we were trying to explain the concept of grad school to our niece, who was six at the time, and told her that in a way Auntie Card Cheat would be going into Grade 19 in September. She got kind of a stricken look on her face and asked "Do I have to stay in school that long?" and my sister/her mom was like "No. No you don't!"
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:49 AM on August 13 [6 favorites]


I am doing my very best to avoid passing along the sociocultural pathologies on which this humour relies. Obviously I don’t control every aspect of my trainees’ experience - but to the extent that it’s within my power I’m trying to create an environment, within my research group and my department, where reasonable working hours, intellectual generosity, kindness, fairness and inclusiveness are the norm.
posted by louigi at 6:57 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


Oh God, it's so true...
posted by medusa at 7:37 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


When my wife started her PhD we were trying to explain the concept of grad school to our niece, who was six at the time.

The looks on normal people's faces (people of all ages) when I matter-of-factly explain things about academia to them is, to this day, the best thing I got out of going to grad school.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:59 AM on August 13 [11 favorites]


I've been trying to figure out why this particular piece pissed me off so much.

There are many genuinely bad things about PhD programs today in the US. We need strong and ubiquitous grad student unions, advanced notice of teaching assignments, and better salary distribution, healthcare, dental care, and childcare.There are bullies, exploitative advisors, and sexual harassers that can make a grad student's life hell, and not nearly enough robust policies to deal with them. All of these need to be fixed. (Which is pretty much the same as any industry job, except that we don't make you sign NDAs.)

But. . . in general, being a grad student is fantastic. On the list of jobs one can have in the world, it's quite high up on page one. "You're going to pay me more than my parents ever made to spend years thinking about cool shit and teaching it to other people? Sign me right the fuck up!!!" I'd rather be a grad student than do nearly any other job.

If you're going to compare getting paid not-quite-enough to study cool stuff to chattel slavery, we have nothing more to talk about. The amount of asshole entitlement required to write that statement in public is astonishing.
posted by eotvos at 8:49 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


In my experience, academics don't "jealously guard their arcane knowledge" so much as resign themselves to the fact that no one outside their group really cares.
posted by jomato at 8:49 AM on August 13


The horror isn't that you're being recruited as a slave, eotvos. It's that you're being recruited as a master.
posted by clew at 9:31 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


It varies from position to position, but I was in one of the better funded programs on my campus, and I basically scraped by. If I didn't have a side-gig and a TA overload opportunity, as well as a friend renting me a cheap apartment, and transportation I could buy cheaply from a friend of the family, then I'd just assume I would have gone into more debt (putting aside the debt that I went into for my Masters, which was a professional program and had no guarantee of funding).
posted by codacorolla at 10:05 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I am doing my very best to avoid passing along the sociocultural pathologies on which this humour relies.

I work at a university as staff. 60% of my department are children of academics who did not pursue PhDs themselves, as we all looked at our parents and decided, nah, I'm good. Being academic brats gives us a leg up in dealing with our faculty clients as we know the world and how it all works and can relate to them pretty well. We're all very happy to not be in it ourselves. Even outside my job, I'm friends with several other kids of high-achieving academics and we all went the opposite direction. There is hope!
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:02 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


"You're going to pay me more than my parents ever made to spend years thinking about cool shit and teaching it to other people? Sign me right the fuck up!!!" I'd rather be a grad student than do nearly any other job.

My dad made more in the 1970s, working part time at a grocery store, than I made during 7 years of being a grad student living on a stipend. I guess it is nice that you had a good time and apparently made an adult salary (???) doing so, but your experiences are not universal.

You find yourself in an opulent but sinister setting that possesses subtle but undeniable links to antebellum slavery.

So you've never been to the UVA campus? Or the UK campus? Or the Georgetown campus? Or the Oxford campus? Or the [fill in like 1000 other major universities here] campus? I think you might have missed the point-- it is a reference to the wealth of prestigious universities built on labor derived from chattel slavery and legacies from wealthy slaveholding families, not comparing the experience of being a grad student to chattel slavery. jeez.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:06 PM on August 13 [24 favorites]


Well, I don’t think it was that bad; I rather enjoyed my years as a grad student. Now, a surgical internship ....
posted by sudogeek at 1:52 PM on August 13


You're going to pay me more than my parents ever made to spend years thinking about cool shit and teaching it to other people?

There's gotta be a significant inequality between fields here, no? In terms of how much you actually get paid to be a grad student, and in terms of how good your Plan B is if you don't make the outside shot at a permanent academic job.
posted by atoxyl at 2:33 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I just went to a meeting where I ran into an old grad school friend. We went on a boat tour of the city, and a little kid sitting behind us was telling his (aunt?) how he wasn't going to do anything when he grew up, just stay at home. His aunt suggested that perhaps he'd need to get a job, but he insisted that no, he's just live with his mom. She suggested that someday he'd want to have his own home and he'd need to pay for food and rent. Nope. We kept looking at each other, knowing both of us were rooting for the kid.
posted by acrasis at 3:12 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


“You're going to pay me more than my parents ever made to spend years thinking about cool shit and teaching it to other people?”

Just because some of us are privileged enough to go to grad school and even get paid decently for it doesn’t mean it wasn’t its own uniquely terrifying horror shitshow.

For many of us it’s the realisation that we’ve made a hugely terrible mistake. It’s the door we shouldn’t have opened to the ivory tower we can’t escape. But hey, buck up peach, you’re a princess.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:22 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


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