Friday, August 31, 2007

Why is Doonesbury's "Walden College" a slacker school?

From Slate.com. Click image to enlarge.

OK, this has always puzzled me: in Doonesbury, they often talk about "Walden College". Walden is clearly supposed to be Yale. That's where Trudeau started writing Doonesbury, and there are numerous Yale-specific references (e.g. "Harvard of south central Connecticut" in the strip above). But in the Doonesbury universe, Walden is a total slacker school, as this series of strips indicates. Though Harvardians might see nothing wrong with this, I was under the impression that in the real world my alma mater still had some cachet.

Of course, maybe Trudeau just decided that there's a lot more comedic potential in a dis-accredited slacker school. Clearly he's using Walden's plight to satirize certain lax attitudes towards academic achievement. But it just seems very strange, because I suspect Yale is filled with the exact opposite kinds of people from those depicted attending Walden. At least it was when I was there. There were slackers, too, of course, but they didn't dominate the culture.

It is fun to depict the antics of a bunch of uber-slackers (and some recent movies, like Knocked Up, have done this pretty well), but why so clearly identify Walden with Yale? Is he just trying to take our alma mater down a peg? Yale does have a pretty inflated sense of its own place in the world. (If only it had managed to instill a sense of curiosity in our current president...sigh.) And Lord knows there's plenty to satirize. But the depiction doesn't ring true, and clearly isn't meant too. Unless things have changed a lot more than I know. I haven't been there in a while.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Bill in Minneapolis said...

As a long time fan of Doonesberry (and also a Yale grad), Walden does not = Yale. Walden is a parady of an Eastern liberal arts school. Yes, there are many aspects of Walden inspired by Yale (the President is a take off of Kingman Brewster and the Chaplin of Sloane Coffin), but there is no 'Walden Pond' at Yale and the Yale campus is certainly not bucolic.

But, yes, Zonker really did play end for the Yale Bulldogs.

4:11 AM, September 01, 2007  
Blogger grishnash said...

I'm guessing that it's a combination of "write what you know" and the humor value that a slacker college generates. If I was writing a daily comic strip, I know I couldn't come up with a steady stream of fiction totally unconnected to reality for years on end, so I'd probably end up working in the occasional reference to a real life character or place, even when the analogy wasn't perfect. After all, you're not actually a sociopathic mutineer on a hijacked starship, to my knowledge.

8:03 AM, September 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Walden's changed over the years --it was originally more "Yaleish" -- as the strip has developed. The loss of accreditation a while back was a great turning point and the new status as the number one safety school is fun. But the reunions and commencements still have that Old Blue flavor.

4:24 AM, July 24, 2008  

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