We all have our heroes. When Parks and Recreation was on TV, I loved watching Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson. I’m Ron on the outside, Leslie on the inside. As the show progressed I learned more about Amy Poehler as a person and was continually impressed. From Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls to SNL to her partner work with Tina Fey, she has been a powerhouse for a good long time, and a feminist icon to boot. I got her memoir “Yes Please” on a Kindle sale and now that I have the next month and a half off, I will finally have a chance to read it!
All of this makes my disappointment in her newest movie The House that much sharper. When I saw the initial teaser trailer it immediately put a bad taste in my mouth. Family in the suburbs with a daughter who gets into a top university, then upon discovering they don’t have enough in savings to send her to that college (like you didn’t realize that when she started applying? This isn’t something you looked into before her acceptance letter arrived?) they decide to open an illegal casino to make enough money to send her to college. In subsequent trailers they seem to “break bad” as they sink deeper into the casino and begin to enjoy running it.
I want to see this as a high satirical statement about the ridiculousness of the cost of higher education in this country – that families must go to great lengths to get their children the education they need to get good jobs, or rather the chance at good jobs. I am intelligent enough and well informed enough to see that this could be more than just a silly Will Ferrell movie.
All I feel is a very deep insult.
The idea that parents have enough money saved up to pay for their children to go to college is laughable. Scholarships, state reward programs, grants, and other non-debt options are in high demand and are not available to all. Private student loans have unbelievable interest rates and are not held to the same standards as federally funded Stafford or Direct loans, which offer more protection and more deferral options (note: for now). But the truth of the matter is that when parents can’t afford 100% of the cost of tuition, there are options for students to pay for higher education.
My parents couldn’t afford to send me to any college. Not even close. Not even a sparkle in their eyes. When they helped me get loans, they said specifically that while legally they were co-signing and could be compelled to pay the loans, I had better always pay them because they would not (really “could not”) help any more than just offering their names and credit histories. Bachelor’s, Master’s, and 2 years of a Doctoral degree later, I am very educated and have a lot of good experience, but I have looooooaaaaaaannnnssss for days. And I’m all alone. No one can help me if I can’t pay them. I can’t discharge them in bankruptcy (fuck you Congress), and my chances of making every payment on time for ten straight years as is required for FULL loan forgiveness is…hahahahahah….I’m sorry wait… I’m ROFL….*deep breath* okay I’ve got it under control.
So the fact that this movie makes a joke about the fact that these parents would do crazy illegal things rather than have their daughter take loans is offensive to me. Federal loans are available to children from families of all incomes. They are a last resort but they are an option. This movie shames me. This movie makes me feel dirty, poor, and furious. Every time these trailers come on I get angry. And I’m not just angry, I’m disappointed.
I’m disappointed in a role model. Amy Poehler really let me down by being a part of this movie, and I haven’t even seen it yet. Student loan debt is a huge problem in this country, higher education costs are an important issue, and this movie just seems to throw a giant pie in the face of both concerns. More broadly poor people in this country endure enough ridicule, enough shame, enough hoops to jump through to get the same help and opportunities as those with more money and connections to work with. More than a pie in the face, this movie feels like a slap in the face.