Between the Lines
As the saying goes, “Representation matters.” Representation in this context means seeing someone on the screen who looks like you. It can provide validation—seeing little recognizable details from your life tells you that other people have made the same observations, that those details are worthy of being told in a story. Representation can also expand the imagination—you may not know you can be something until you see someone just like you doing it, even if in a work of fiction.
Yet in government, elites seem increasingly unwanted. President Donald Trump has come to power by waging a war against elites. Elite institutions like this one, which disproportionately produce the leaders in Washington, D.C., are now facing backlash for supposedly leading students to believe their own superiority and doing little else.
Obviously I knew the admissions office’s final decision, but I wanted to see their steps along the way. What were their impressions of me? How were they evaluating me? I knew that their deliberation would not purely be one of merit. The myth of “meritocracy” in college admissions, particularly in Harvard’s admissions, has been debunked. There are the suspicious stories of famous, seemingly less-than-qualified candidates gaining acceptance over others. There are also the suspiciously similar admit rates for certain demographics each year.
Despite its increasing overuse, the phrase “fake news” points to a real problem. We are usually focused on the “fake” in “fake news.” The rise of egregiously false stories and their financially motivated creators makes us less informed and more distrustful of major American institutions. A recent MIT study found that false stories spread faster than true ones on social media. Technology companies, journalists, and politicians have all acknowledged this, and are trying to combat the problem.
For me, part of the fun of following awards season is getting to judge how believable the movies’ claims are. That is why, even without seeing all the frontrunners, I can develop favorites. But this year, it has been hard to distinguish between the movies based on their media campaigns. Perhaps because so many movements in 2017 have given voice to populations traditionally overlooked in American society, multiple movies are laying claim to the “moment” without stretching disbelief.