Concern has been expressed over the portrayal of Oxford University in the soon-to-be released film The Riot Club.
Access officers and University officials have suggested that the perception of the University portrayed in the film, which focuses on a fictionalised version of the Bullingdon Club, might discourage prospective applicants from poorer backgrounds, or simply those averse to such an environment.
The film, which stars Max Irons and Sam Clafin, is an adaption of the Laura Wade play Posh. The trailer features lines such as “I am sick to death of poor people!”.
Dr Jamie Castell, Outreach Officer at Hertford College, told Cherwell, “I think such portrayals of Oxford do affect access efforts. This film is obviously fictional, and it is obviously fictional from the trailer, but there is no doubt that they reinforce certain inaccurate stereotypes about this University, in particular class, privilege, money.”
He continued, “The trailer is inacurate in a number of different respects. Not only social background, but the notion that Oxford is the oldest university in the world. We’re not even the oldest university in Western Europe by quite a long way. So it’s clearly going for sensationalism rather than accuracy.”
However, remarking on the elitism of the society portrayed in the movie, Castell commented, “The only nice thing in the trailer was its reference to the fact that there are 20,000 students here, which is some sort of gesture towards the diversity that actually exists. The notion that ‘we’ve got to make ourselves the ten that belong to this club’ does in some way give a sense that the sort of behaviour depicted in this trailer would be rejected by the majority.”
“Most sane people would dislike the particular atmosphere portrayed in the movie”, he added.
The Riot Club trailer has come under fire for depicting decadent lives of wealthy Oxford students.
Similarly, Academic Registrar Dr Matthew Hiscock, who works in access, remarked, “Most audiences will know that this is fantasy and not reality, but it can still put off people who are anxious that they wouldn’t fit in to that environment, or who actively dislike that kind of atmosphere. It’s unhelpful for us.”
A university spokesperson was very positive about the access work done by Oxford, commenting, “We hope prospective students, parents and teachers who watch this fictional programme will realise that this stereotype does not reflect the vast majority of Oxford students. We do an enormous amount of access work, spending more than £5.5 million per year and holding more than 2,200 outreach events to encourage students from all backgrounds to apply to Oxford. This work has led to one in ten UK students who were admitted to Oxford in 2013 being from a household income background of less than £16,000 per year.”
One undergraduate, however, was more positive about the film, commenting, “I’m actually quite excited to see it. Most people will realise that it’s fictional. That said, I can see how it undermines access work.”
When contacted by Cherwell, Universal Studios was unavailable for comment on the trailer.