Recently, Netflix placed billboards featuring its upcoming show “The Politician” around the USC campus. Set against a loud shade of pink stands the tasteful quote, “I bought their way in, too.” Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her two fictional sons stand simultaneously smug and
self-righteous, the men decked out in USC’s signature cardinal and gold, their collars turned up at an angle indicative of absurd privilege.
This move by Netflix can only be construed as a well-planned publicity campaign. Though the show — which satirizes privilege and power and touches on the particularly relevant college admissions scandal — was filmed prior to the outbreak of the investigations, the location and not-so-subtle choice of colors makes the advertisement’s intent obvious.
Despite being a cheap shot at such a highly publicized wound, the accusation is accurate, unsurprising and in some ways completely warranted.
This has been a half year of exposure and retribution for USC and its fellow upper-crust universities. Since early March, federal prosecutors have continued to unroll a seemingly endless string of bribery and fraud charges against parents and university officials alike. The details follow a now-tired pattern: privileged parent pays off college admissions consultant William Singer and various members of administration in order to ensure the student’s college acceptance.
It would be decidedly best to embrace this comedic exposure so generously gifted by Netflix and allow the light of day to burn away remaining suspicions surrounding USC’s admissions process. With the recent changes in the administration and appointment of President Carol Folt, a new age of genuine prosperity and growth lies within reach. However, the window for this opportunity is quickly dwindling. If kept under wraps for too long, it will only become infected and fester, leaving a legacy of corruption, downfall and missed opportunities.
The ability to stay relevant and on-trend is essential for survival — and Netflix is doing just that. The $157.3-billion company functions as a predator in this capitalistic food chain. Ironically, the same can be said of the accused USC parents and the educational institution itself.
Months of scandal and investigation have weakened USC, leaving the University as easy prey for a power-hungry enterprise such as Netflix. With the billboard attacks, the streaming company has gone straight for those existing vulnerabilities, gorging itself on USC’s still-bleeding reputation.
The University needs to take advantage of this opportunity and assume an active role in rebuilding its soiled reputation. Allowing the “The Politician” publicity to work for both sides would be enough to start some change. In this age of liability, there is no place for empty posturing. Silence may seem to be the best answer, but in reality, it only communicates haughtiness — something that does not benefit a place casually known as the “University of Spoiled Children.” By using Netflix’s billboards for its own rebranding, USC can reestablish some control over its public image without seeming like a whining baby choking on its silver spoon.