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Smith in Popular Culture

Smith College in Popular Culture

Smith College is renowned for its prestigious academics, unparalleled faculty and curriculum along with its array of intelligent and independent female students from around the world. While all of these attributes are absolutely accurate in their descriptions, they are all things that can be found in college guide books and reviews. There is another side of Smith College that is visible only on the silver screen, the tube and in paperbacks. These “claims to fame” are understandably more exciting to Smith background than the “officially” published references; simply because they solidify Smith College’s affect on popular culture.

Smithies Go to the Movies:

– Smith College was the backdrop for the 1966 movie, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” starring such classic celebrities as Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton.1 The statue by Auguste Rodin that stands in the atrium of the Smith College Museum of Art was donated to Smith by Richard Burton following the filming of the movie.

-The 1993 thriller “Malice” starring the famous, Nicole Kidman and Alec Baldwin was partially filmed on the Smith College campus.1

-In the 2007 romantic-comedy “The Nanny Diaries”, the character of Mrs. X (the Upper West Side socialite mother), played by three time Oscar nominated actress Laura Linney, attended Smith College.1

-In the 1940 movie “Too Many Girls” Connie Casey (Lucille Ball) notes that she has no intention of going to Smith, “a college that doesn’t use its real name” and instead wants to go to another, co-ed institution.

Smith on the Small Screen:

-America’s favorite dysfunctional family, The Simpsons, places Smith College among its top choices for their daughter Lisa Simpson in the Episode entitled “I’m Spelling as Fast as I Can”. In this episode Lisa is bribed to purposely lose a spelling bee contest with guaranteed admission and a scholarship to one of the prestigious Seven Sisters colleges (of which Smith is of course included). 2

-The delightful character of Charlotte York, a successful New York art connoisseur (played by Kristin Davis) in the popular HBO show, Sex and the City, is an alumna of Smith College.3

-Sandra Oh’s character, Christina Yang, in the hit ABC drama Grey’s Anatomy is a strong-willed, incredibly intelligent surgeon who attended Smith College for her undergraduate work and then went on to Stanford University for medical school.4

-The five loveable characters of the hit 1960’s cartoon “Scooby Doo Where Are You!” are said to be modeled after the five college consortium. Scooby- Doo is meant to be University of Massachusetts Amherst, Shaggy is Hampshire, Fred is Amherst, Daphne is Mount Holyoke and Velma is Smith. These characterizations are made under the assumptions of stereotypes of the students from the five colleges.

-In the popular t.v. show “Gilmore Girls”, Emily Gilmore (President of the DAR and homemaker extraordinaire), the character played by actress Kelly Bishop, attended Smith College. 1

Smith in Literature:

-The events portrayed in the book Running with Scissors: a Memoir by Augusten Burroughs take place around Northampton and Smith College. 5

-Hunter S. Thompson’s 1999 novel The Rum Diary includes a sensuous blonde character named Chenault, which the protagonist of the story lusts over from the very beginning of Chapter one, went to Smith College. 6


1. The Internet Movie Database-

2. The Simpsons Episodes Guide-

3. TBS “Sex and the City Cast”

4.ABC “Grey’s Anatomy Character Bios” –

5. Burroughs, A. Running with Scissors: a Memoir. Picador: New York. Sept. 5, 2006

6. Thompson, H.S. The Rum Diary. Simon and Schuster: New York. Nov. 1, 1999

2 comments to Smith in Popular Culture

  • Kathleen E. Gauger

    Years ago, Bill Cosby called College Relations and asked for a Smith College sweatshirt, which he wore on one of the episodes of The Cosby Show. This information appeared in Smith Digest.

    Great site!

  • Jennifer

    This is from Wikipedia re: the scooby-doo reference.

    A popular urban legend among Five College students holds that the characters on the Saturday morning cartoon Scooby-Doo represent the five colleges. The legend has Velma representing Smith College and Daphne as Mount Holyoke, with Fred representing Amherst College, Shaggy as Hampshire College, and Scooby as UMass Amherst. Hanna-Barbera Productions, CBS executive Fred Silverman, and some of the show’s writers have said that this story is false,[3] and that the show was actually based on the radio program I Love a Mystery and the TV sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. In fact, Hampshire College did not open until a year after the premiere of Scooby-Doo.

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