Harvard's Secret Clubs Go Hollywood

By Summers, Nick | Newsweek, February 28, 2011 | Go to article overview

Harvard's Secret Clubs Go Hollywood


Summers, Nick, Newsweek


Byline: Nick Summers

It takes more than a hit movie to disrupt the social pillars that have stood at Harvard for 200 years. But with The Social Network up for best picture and seven other Oscars next Sunday, there are signs of life imitating art imitating life on campus.

Backstage before a recent performance by the Hasty Pudding Theatricals--a group studded with members of Harvard's eight all-male "final clubs," the rarefied institutions that Mark Zuckerberg battles in the film--students were still in thrall of the details that director David Fincher got right. "I'm kind of obsessed with awful movies set at Harvard, like How High and Stealing Harvard," says senior Tyler Hall. "They just get it so wrong, they like got drunk and read the Wikipedia page for Harvard and wrote a screenplay. And then this one is so right, it's creepy." (In interviews, seven separate students noted a particular safety sticker affixed to a dorm-room fireplace.) At intermission, senior D. J. Smolinsky bursts into the greenroom, to cries of "Do the line, do the line!"--a minor celebrity for landing a small part in the movie. (He's one of the students going "Left, right" during the face-mash scene.)

What The Social Network gets wrong, students say, is the degree of depravity at parties thrown by Harvard's eight exclusive final clubs, named for their rank as the ultimate society to join before graduation. It's true, the movie embellishes a lot. (Like that limo bus disgorging glammed-up college girls for a final-club party.) But in some ways the movie has goaded them on. Students tell stories of Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin--rich because of his legal fight with Zuckerberg, but famous thanks to the movie--buying tables for the Phoenix club's incoming class at New York City hotspots during recruiting season.

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