Yale in popular culture

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Yale University, one of the oldest universities in the United States, has been the subject of numerous aspects of popular culture.


The narrator of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Ishmael, thus explains his education: "A whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard."[1] Melville's famous invocation may have been autobiographical,[2] and has been co-opted by other authors to describe unorthodox places of higher learning.[3]

  • Owen Johnson's novel, Stover at Yale, follows the college career of Dink Stover (whose prep-school life at the Lawrenceville School had been chronicled in earlier novels). A counterpart to Tom Brown at Oxford, it was once a byword. F. Scott Fitzgerald's fictional Amory accepted the novel as a "kind of textbook" for collegiate life.
  • Frank Merriwell, the model for all later juvenile sports fiction, plays football, baseball, crew, and track at Yale while solving mysteries and righting wrongs.[4][5]
  • In the popular Gossip Girl teenage novel series, one of the lead characters, Blair Waldorf, is waitlisted at and ultimately accepted to Yale. She attends Yale, while two friends who were also accepted opt out of attending college altogether. Near the end of the series, Blair's mother and stepfather have a baby daughter, who is named Yale.
  • Diana Peterfreund's novel, Secret Society Girl, takes place in Eli University, a thinly veiled version of Yale. Additionally, the main character is initiated into the secret society Rose & Grave, an allusion to the common naming scheme for secret societies at Yale.
  • Yale appears prominently in F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby (as the alma mater of narrator Nick Carraway and the antagonist Tom Buchanan), and also in his short stories "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "Bernice Bobs Her Hair."
  • Allusions to Yale occur frequently in the writings of Tom Wolfe, who earned a Ph.D at Yale. In his novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, bond trader Sherman McCoy is described as having a "Yale chin." A character in A Man in Full carries the middle name "Ahlstrom," which he was said to have been given in honor of religious historian Sidney Ahlstrom; this is an allusion to Sydney E. Ahlstrom, who was an historian of religion on the Yale faculty from 1954 to 1984.
  • Stephen Carter's novel, New England White, takes place at a university in "Elm Harbor," a city which bears a striking resemblance to Yale's home of New Haven. Carter is a law professor at Yale and a building from the university is featured prominently on the book's cover.
  • In Sylvia Plath's classic novel The Bell Jar, the protagonist's "hypocritical" boyfriend Buddy Willard is described as being a Yale man.
  • Yale is strongly satirized in Thomas Pynchon's 2006 novel Against the Day. Among other elements, one of the major characters, Kit Traverse, is described as making a deal with the devil to get into Yale. Kit's Yale education was financed by arch-villain Scarsdale Vibe, after Kit's father was killed by henchmen of his.
  • Tom Perrotta's 2000 novel, Joe College, is set at Yale in the 1980s.
  • Dr. R. Lars Porsena in Red Orc's Rage by Philip Jose Farmer was trained in psychiatry at Yale University. He utilizes a state of the art method of group therapy which he says he developed at Yale. This character is based on real-life psychiatrist A. James Giannini who completed his residency at Yale; this is noted in the novel.[6]


  • An episode of The Flintstones entitled "Flintstone of Prinstone" (which originally aired on November 3, 1961) shows Yale's prehistoric counterpart "Shale University." Shale is shown playing a football game against archrival Prinstone University, with part-time student Fred Flintstone playing for the latter university's team. Both universities are members of the prehistoric "Poison Ivy League."
  • On the CW show Gilmore Girls, Rory Gilmore, played by Alexis Bledel, attends Yale, after spending much of her educational career with her heart set on attending Harvard. She is admitted to Harvard and Princeton as well as Yale, and chooses the latter over the other two after much consideration. She drops out at the end of season five, but returns mid-way through season six. Her friend and rival Paris Geller (Liza Weil) also matriculates at Yale after being rejected from Harvard, and both become editors for the Yale Daily News during their time at the school.
  • In Mission Hill, Kevin dreams about going to Yale. The school is briefly shown, with a large number of students who are stereotypical nerds like Kevin himself.
  • Brad O'Keefe, from Grounded for Life, fictionally gets an interview with Yale, and is later granted admission. Lily Finnerty, also from Grounded for Life, gets an interview (by lying).
  • In the show The L Word, the character Bette Porter, played by Jennifer Beals, is a Yale graduate. Jennifer Beals graduated from Yale herself.
  • Aaron Sorkin characters Josh Lyman (The West Wing) and Simon Stiles (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) attended Yale Law School and Yale Drama School, respectively. An episode of The West Wing was framed around a Whiffenpoofs performance at the White House.
  • In episode "4F16" of The Simpsons, Montgomery Burns is revealed to have been a member of Skull and Bones.[7] In several episodes Burns is seen wearing a white sweater with the Yale "Y" or waving a Yale pennant. In another episode it is revealed that Sideshow Bob attended Yale and appears to have been a member of the rowing team.
  • In King of the Hill, Kahn Jr. has a Yale pennant hanging over her bed.
  • The 2007 miniseries The Company follows the career of a young Yale graduate recruited into the CIA during the Cold War.
  • In the television series Gilligan's Island, Mr. Howell calls several different individuals "A Yale Man," most notably in the episode "Don't Bug the Mosquitos," in which he proclaims, "You, sir, look like Attila the Hun—or a Yale man!" to a Mosquitos band member.
  • On Beverly Hills, 90210, class brain Andrea Zuckerman is admitted to Yale but decides to go to California University for financial reasons; she later is impregnated by a UCLA law student who had graduated from Yale College.
  • Norm Macdonald's character Stan Hooper on the ill-fated sitcom A Minute With Stan Hooper attended Yale.
  • On Boy Meets World, Topanga Lawrence gets accepted into Yale after being put on the waitlist.
  • On Gossip Girl, the character Blair Waldorf, played by Leighton Meester, fantasizes about Yale, her dream college. She even owns a bulldog named "Handsome Dan," the name of Yale's actual mascot.
  • On Frasier, Niles attended Yale.
  • In the short-lived ABC series Traveler, Jay Burchell is a Yale Law School graduate, Tyler Fog is a Yale School of Management graduate, and Will Traveler has a graduate degree in chemical engineering from Yale.
  • In the episode "No Chris Left Behind," from the show Family Guy, Chris is sent to the fictional and unfortunately-named Morningwood Academy. The school is a dead ringer for Yale. The most notable reference is the Pewterschmidt family's legacy membership in a secret society whose building is a direct copy of the "tomb" (society hall) of Skull and Bones. Other references can be found in the architecture of other campus buildings, the stereotypical personalities (especially that of James William Bottomtooth IV), and even a mention of Yale in the script.
  • On the last episode of The Suite Life on Deck Bailey got a letter to go to Yale after graduation and Cody didn't.
  • On "Glee", Quinn Fabray decides to apply to Yale University for college for the theatrical program; she is subsequently accepted by Yale. In a future episode, Quinn claims she's looking forward her graduation at Yale as the best in her class. Two episodes make mention of the Waffletoots, a boys' preparatory school a cappella group modeled after the Whiffenpoofs. They are played by the real Whiffenpoofs in the episode "All or Nothing."
  • In the Fox's TV show Fringe scenes are shots in Yale university instead of Harvard University



Former Yale president Kingman Brewster was forthright — and supercilious — in his explanation of O'Hara's disappointments in New Haven: he said Yale didn't give him an LL. D. degree "because he asked for it."[citation needed]
In a newspaper column, O'Hara attempted to make light of the matter, writing: "If Yale had given me a degree, I could have joined the Yale Club, where the food is pretty good, the library is ample and restful, the location convenient, and I could go there when I felt like it without sponging off friends. They also have a nice-looking necktie."

In the 2010 video game Red Dead Redemption Dr. Harold Macdougal assists John Marston in tracking down Dutch Vanderline


  1. ^ The text of Moby Dick is published online by Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/15
  2. ^ Cohen, Hennig; Melville, Herman (1991). Selected poems of Herman Melville. New York: Fordham University Press. ISBN 0-8232-1336-6. 
  3. ^ "William Cullen Bryant and Yale". JSTOR: The New England Quarterly: Vol. 3, No. 4 (October , 1930), pp. 706-716. Retrieved 2007-08-15. Cullen Bryant's Harvard College and his Yale, then, were not Melville's whale-ship but Lawyer Howe's office and the 'cool, comfortable lounging-places' of the hamlet of Worthington. 
  4. ^ University of Georgia: "The Rise of Intercollegiate Football and Its Portrayal in American Popular Literature." Retrieved April 9, 2007.
  5. ^ The text of Frank Merriwell at Yale is published online by Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/files/11115/11115-h/11115-h.htm
  6. ^ PJ Farmer, Red Orc's Rage. NY, Tor,1991,p.282.ISBN 0-312-85036-0.
  7. ^ Forbes Fictional Fifteen: "C. Montgomery Burns." Retrieved April 9, 2007.