There are many films featuring universities such as Harvard and UCLA, but what about UF? It was this question, posted on the unofficial UF subreddit that prompted a discussion about films linked to the university.
Popular mentions included the “Scream” franchise — a slasher series based on the 1990 murder spree of, Danny Rolling, otherwise known as, “The Gainesville Ripper.” Others alluded to Netflix documentaries such as “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez” and “The Legend of Cocaine Island” for their depictions of Gainesville and Alachua county.
The documentaries specifically, examine true crime incidents, such as the rise, fall and subsequent first-degree murder conviction of UF alumni, Aaron Hernandez — and the attempts made by an Archer businessman, Rodney Hyden, to discover and distribute 70 pounds worth of cocaine buried in Puerto Rico, according to the Gainesville Sun.
To Ashley Hamilton, a 20-year-old UF advertising and international studies junior, it was unfortunate to see the documentaries investigating negative topics, she said. On one hand, the films portray the sense of community Central Floridians have, but they also showcase corruption within the local government, especially in the Aaron Hernandez documentary, she said.
“It [the film] was talking pretty negatively about the Gainesville and UF police system in regards to letting student athletes get away with anything,” she said. “I think that’s what led to [Hernandez] having an inflated ego and sense of self-importance.”
As a Florida native, it was exciting to see the UF community and places she recognized in the films, she said. But she found it disappointing that the culture of the area is inextricably tied to its criminal reputation, she said.
Yet, she’d rather the people of North-Central, FL have some semblance of a voice in the media than none, Hamilton said. It’d be nice seeing a more positive perspective, one that touches on the sense of belonging people feel here, she said.
“Everyone knows everyone, if you’re stuck on the side of the road someone will come help you,” she said. “I see it in Gainesville as well there’s definitely a sense of, ‘We’re all in this together.’”
However, not all the movies mentioned in the post’s comments sprouted from sinister roots.
James Adkins, a 33-year-old UF English senior enjoys horror films and “creature features” of all varieties — but the 2019 movie “Crawl” exceeded his expectations, he said.
The thriller features three things — a category-five hurricane, a student on the UF swim team and a pack of territorial, man-eating alligators. Though Adkins thought it would be cheesy, it ended up being one of his favorite movies of the year, he said.
“The movie got a lot more deep, especially right off the bat, than I expected,” he said. “That was definitely one of the positives, is that it was getting to this multifaceted character and showing different parts of her.”
Though the film accurately portrayed Floridian’s flippant attitudes surrounding severe weather alerts, it didn’t stray too far from the stereotypes, he said. The worst offender being the characters’ reactions to the alligators attacking them, Adkins said.
“I think there’s this really big stereotype of Floridians being like, ‘Oh it’s just a gator, I’ve got it by the tail,’” he said. “The movie walked a weird line between treating the gators as lizards versus treating them as actual threats.”
In all, the movie adequately portrayed Floridian lifestyle while still fitting into a trope, Adkins said. The representation isn’t unwanted, even though it includes hurricane parties and Florida man memes, he said.
“Some representation is better than none,” Adkins said. “I think that attention, whether it’s good or bad, could provide for opportunities that couldn’t arise if there was no attention at all.”
Contact Lonnie Numa at [email protected] and on follow them on Twitter @lonaald.