Spotting the Peace Corps on T.V, and in the Movies
Thanks for the ‘heads up’ idea from Alana DeJoseph’s (Mali 1992–94)
Over the last 60 years that the Peace Corps has been a part of America (and the world) it has influenced our culture in many ways. One of the funniest experiences for us RPCVs is when we hear a popular movie or television character referring to the Peace Corps.
So let’s have a challenge: In the comments below, please list any popular media mentions of the Peace Corps!
To get you started, here are two:
1985 — American comedy film directed by Nicholas Meyer
and starring Tom Hanks and John Candy: Volunteers
and starring Tom Hanks and John Candy: Volunteers
2018 — Animated TV series Rick and Morty: Season 4, Episode 8
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My favorite all time comment is in “Animal House” – When John Belushi realizes he is going to be expelled from college, he says, “Seven years down the drain. I guess I’ll have to join the Peace Corps.”
Although I must say, when we packed our son off to college to study Meterology, a very demanding
scientific major, his parting words to us were disconcerting when he said, “I hope it is just like Animal House.”
How is his Meteorology degree working out for him? Maybe he can still join the Peace Corps? 😉
I saw it recently on Nine Perfect Strangers – final episode.
In “The Devil Wears Prada” in a heated argument, on the street in front of the high-end restaurant where he works, Andy’s boyfriend exclaimed: “Andy, I make port wine reductions, I’m not exactly in the Peace Corps!”
One of my favorite movies! Now if only we can get Meryl Streep to talk about the Peace Corps 😉
My son assures me that there is a Peace Corps element in the online strategy game Civilization.
Also, of course, who can forget Elaine’s Tupperware party in the jungle in the movie Airplane (1980).
Cringeworthy conclusion to Shallow Hal, thanks so much Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Agreed! Sometimes those references make you squirm. (But I still bounced up and down in my chair when I heard them say Peace Corps!)
Fun article, thanks, John!
Thank Alana. She started the research.
Everyone in the Peace Corps office was talking
about Peter Sellers’ new comedy “The Pink Panther” that had
just opened at Cine El Pacifico in Lima’s upscale neighborhood
of Miraflores. The villain, David Niven, boasts that his nephew,
played by Robert Wagner, “is considering joining the Peace
Corps,” but then warns him, “better be careful you don’t give the
family a good name.” The New Frontier was box office hot. We
couldn’t have felt better about our upcoming adventure.
The Peace Corps sent Marie and me, and Mike and Sheila….
FROM the newly released:
JFK & RFK Made Me Do It: 1960-1968 by Sweet William
August 2021… Peace Corps Writers Worldwide
Reviewed by Marnie Mueller, Ecuador 1963-65
Such a different perspective from some of the other pop-culture mentions!
Oh, and also in Dirty Dancing (1987), Baby considers joining the Peace Corps (among many other things).
I have cause to see my old acquaintance, Ray Sokolov, in two weeks, and this piece brought to mind his hilarious 1975 Peace Corps novel, NATIVE INTELLIGENCE. He was never in the Peace Corps but he was spot on in this satire. I just checked and it’s still up on Amazon and Goodreads.
Not a movie, but in the long playing series, The Waltons, I believe the youngest daughter Elizabeth went into the Peace Corps.
That’s a great reference!
In Netflix’ original series Orange is the New Black, described on IMDb like this:
Convicted of a decade old crime of transporting drug money to an ex-girlfriend, normally law-abiding Piper Chapman is sentenced to a year and a half behind bars to face the reality of how life-changing prison can really be.
main character Piper in season 1, episode 8 (around 55 min) explains to fellow inmate that her fiance has written an article about her and that he got most of it wrong:
“I’m not some cool story at a yuppy fuckin’ cocktail party: You did a year in the Peace Corps? I did a year in prison!”
Two more mentions in Orange is the New Black on Netflix:
– Season 7 Episode 6 around 41 minutes and 45 seconds: some mention of a relative who was in the Peace Corps and married “an African princess”
– Season 7 Episode 9 around 23 minutes and 25 seconds: meekly attempting to hide her prison stay from her new office co-workers, Piper claims she was in the Peace Corps doing some development work. She quickly recants and admits to her prison stay.
Call out to our fellow RPCV and founder of Netflix Reed Hastings: How about asking your writers to include mentions of the Peace Corps that go a bit deeper than punchlines?! 🙂 I can still see the humor in that!
I enjoyed reading these comments and remember several of the shows mentioned.
Some time in 1989 or 90, a woman character in a sitcom thought about joining the Peace Corps. She received an application in the mail, but decided not to join. I can’t remember the name of the show. Maybe Laverne and Shirley?
I was working as a PC recruiter at the time and answered a phone call from someone from the show asking if PCVs had to do door to door fundraising in order to go overseas. I told them that PC was funded by the government, so I guess they changed the plot line on that episode from fundraising to getting an application.