There’s nothing far-fetched about a school with a strong communications and media program inviting an actor to speak at the school, which is what will happen at Emerson College on Dec. 4, when funnyman Will Ferrell will make an appearance. The problem is, it won’t technically be Ferrell speaking to students and delivering a heartfelt tale about his perseverance and making it in a tough industry, or following your dreams and not listening to critics who tell you to “get a real job” and that “studying liberal arts is for ‘losers’” – both invaluable lessons that college kids need to hear. Instead, Ferrell’s character Ron Burgundy from the “Anchorman” films will impart such wisdom as: “Go see my new film, ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,’ out in theaters soon.” And it won’t just be an appearance by the fictitious newsman. To fully sell the con, the school will rename itself the Ron Burgundy School of Communications for the event.
Naturally, the story has been picked up throughout both the entertainment and the serious-minded media, including a quote from Emerson president Lee Pelton, who says Burgundy “understands the power of media, as well as hairspray, firsthand.” Most of the media mentions have turned on one of the film’s iconic catchphrases. “It’s kind of a big deal that Emerson College is changing the name of its school of communication,” reads the AP report. LOL?
Despite recognizing that colleges do publicity stunts all the time, something about the invitation to a fictitious character who, sure, is a media figure in the fake world in which he exists, feels like a cheap gag at students’ expense. (The cost of sending a student to Emerson including tuition and living expenses is about $50,000 a year, incidentally.) It’s not as if it’s exactly an exclusive “get,” either. As Defamer points out, “Anchorman 2” will do a promotion with literally anyone, from car companies to underwear to ice cream.
Perhaps, then, this is an actual valuable lessons for Emerson students, the media professionals of the future. Everything is an advertisement and that in order to make it in this business, you have to sell out to the highest bidder. I’ll think about that the next 5,000 times I send a check to Sallie Mae to pay off that MFA I stopped pursuing.