Yale University 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.


  • Moby-Dick, 1851 - 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]
  • Stover at Yale, 1912 - Owen Johnson's novel 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]
  • The Great Gatsby, 1925 - Yale appears prominently in F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel 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."
  • The Bell Jar, 1963 - In Sylvia Plath's classic novel , the protagonist's "hypocritical" boyfriend Buddy Willard is described as being a Yale man.
  • Red Orc's Rage, 1991 - In this novel by Philip Jose Farmer, Dr. R. Lars Porsena is said to be 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]
  • Joe College, 2000 - Tom Perrotta's novel is set at Yale in the 1980s.
  • Gossip Girl 2002-2011 - In the popular 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.
  • The Namesake, 2003 - In Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, the protagonist Gogol attends Yale instead of his father's alma mater MIT, setting up barriers between himself and his family.
  • Against the Day, 2006 - Yale is strongly satirized in this novel by Thomas Pynchon. 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.
  • New England White, 2007 - Stephen Carter's novel 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.
  • Americanah, 2013 - The protagonist in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel has relationship with a liberal African-American Political Science professor at Yale. Various fictional incidents at Yale, including a faculty luncheon and a protest are also described.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • The Flintstones, 1961 - 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."
  • Gilligan's Island', 1964-1967 - In this television series aired on CBS, 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.
  • The Simpsons, 1989–Present - In this animated sitcom, Mr. Burns, Springfield's richest and most powerful citizen, as well as owner of Springfield's nuclear power plant, is said to have graduated from Yale and be a member of Skull and Bones. In the episode 'The Caper Chase', Mr. Burns visits Yale hoping to endow a program in Nuclear Plant Management, but is rebuffed by students.[7]
  • Beverly Hills, 90210, 1990-2000 - 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.
  • Boy Meets World, 1993-2000 - Topanga Lawrence gets accepted into Yale after being put on the waitlist.
  • Frasier, 1993-2004 - The character Niles is said to have attended Yale.
  • King of the Hill, 1997-2010 - Kahn Jr. has a Yale pennant hanging over her bed.
  • Mission Hill, 1999-2002 - One of the protagonists, Kevin, dreams about going to Yale. The school is briefly shown, with a large number of students who are stereotypical nerds like Kevin himself.
  • Gilmore Girls, 2000-2007 - 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.
  • Grounded for Life, 2001-2005 - Brad O'Keefe fictionally gets an interview with Yale, and is later granted admission. Lily Finnerty, also from the show, gets an interview too (by lying).
  • A Minute With Stan Hooper, 2003 - Norm Macdonald's character Stan Hooper on this ill-fated sitcom attended Yale.
  • The L Word, 2004 - 2009 - In the show, 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.
  • The Company, 2007 - This miniseries followed the career of a young Yale graduate recruited into the CIA during the Cold War.
  • Gossip Girl, 2007-2012 - 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.
  • Traveler, 2007 - In this short-lived ABC series , 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.
  • The Suite Life on Deck, 2008-2011 - On the last episode of the series, Bailey gets a letter to go to Yale after graduation while Cody does not.
  • "Glee" 2009-2015 - 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 to 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."
  • "Good Luck Charlie", 2010-2014 - Teddy Duncan dreams of having a great future and going to Yale University, to which she applies. In the beginning of "Accepted" (Season 4, episode 18), she gets wait-listed, thus frustrating her to the point of persuading her friend, Victor Delaseur, who also applied to Yale to go to Harvard so there could be an open spot for her. At the end of the episode she gets accepted. When the series ends Teddy and Victor end up going to Yale University together.
  • The Get Down, 2016–Present - In this Netflix series, the main character, Zeke is shown attending a Yale event for minorities hoping to secure admission to the school, but ends up in a scuffle with 2 Yale alumni. Zeke's boss Mr. Gunns is also said to be a Yale graduate, who often implores Zeke to apply to his alma mater.
  • Suits, 2011–Present - In this American legal drama, Harvey Specter's rival lawyer, Travis Tanner, is said to have both undergraduate and law degrees from Yale. In Season 6, the head financial trader 'Stu' is also a Yale graduate and flaunts his degree in front of Harvey Specter.
  • The Last Ship, 2014–Present - In this TNT series, Rachel Scott receives her PhD in Virology and Public Health from Yale University.
  • Veep, 2012-Present - The protagonist Selina Meyer is said to have studied in Yale Law School. In Season 6 Episode 2, she attempts to establish her Presidential Library at Yale, but gets rejected by the administration[8]
  • Billions, 2016–Present - Charles Roades Jr., the fictional US Attorney for New York's Southern District, played by Paul Giamatti, is said to be a Yale graduate just like his father. The Yale Club of New York City is also depicted in certain episodes.
  • 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
  • Batman is said to be an alumnus of Yale Law School. His Yale Diploma appears in a panel in the 1974 DC comic "Night of the Stalker", and has been verified by DC Comics illustrator Sal Amendola[11]


  1. ^ The text of Moby Dick is published online by Project Gutenberg https://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 https://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. ^ "The Caper Chase". SimpsonsWiki. Retrieved 9 April 2017. 
  8. ^ Goldstein, Jessica. "Veep Recap: The Old College Try". Vulture. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  9. ^ Loussikhian, Kyler. "Kicks" (PDF). Yale Herald. Retrieved 10 April 2017. 
  10. ^ Mancini, Vince. "Brad Pitt And David Michôd’s ‘War Machine’ Is An Absurd, Tragicomic Home Run". Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  11. ^ Lassila, Kathrin. "Why Batman went to Yale". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 16 July 2017.