I read a while back that the stars of 13 Reasons Why (Netflix’s problematic teen drama) Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford decided that their characters would have matching Arcade Fire posters in their bedrooms. This happened because Minette is a big fan and both actors thought the posters fit their characters personalities.
I think they were right, because I thought the two leads were the most pretentious people alive when I watched the show, and the abstract Arcade Fire posters were the cherry on top. Is that what they intended? Maybe not. Am I wrong for thinking Arcade Fire posters are pretentious? I don’t think so. But it illustrates an important point: people (like me) are going to judge you based on what you have on your walls. Your “Live Laugh Love” poster is going to say a lot more about you than anything you could actually say. Especially in college, where your drunk floormates are inevitably going to end up in your dorm room looking at them.
So VICE ventured into college dorms to check out what students are putting up on their walls and ask them what they want people to think.
Adyn Langlois and Mateus Butterwick, 19
Please explain this very moody poster of teen idol Shawn Mendes.
Adyn: OK, so at first we liked him “ironically” but the more we listened to him, it became a real thing.
Mateus: Yeah, we really like him now.
Adyn: So we bought the poster off Amazon and put it up.
Have you guys seen him live?
Mateus: Yeah, we saw him at WE Day in Toronto two years ago. He was really good.
What do people think when they see the poster?
Adyn: We have to explain to people that we actually like him. It’s not ironic anymore. He makes good music!
Both of you also have Montreal Jazz Fest posters in your rooms. It’s a pretty big cultural shift from Shawn Mendes.
Adyn: Well, we like Shawn Mendes and we like jazz. It’s a taste of both worlds.
Daniella Chan, 21
VICE: You’ve got a lot of Lady Gaga and RuPaul going on.
Daniella: Well, they’re like pretty much mostly gay people, because I’m gay. It’s just all of my favourite people, I just think they’re really beautiful and having queer beauty and art up on my walls is really inspiring to me, and it makes me feel really beautiful.
What do you think people who walk into your room think about them? Do a lot of people recognize the RuPaul stars?
People who aren’t familiar with it are always kind of surprised. But I have mostly queer friends, so that doesn’t happen a lot. With this Gaga poster, people are always like “woah, what’s going on with her eyes?” People are always very inquisitive about them.
Why those specific Gaga posters? They’re pretty wild.
They’re both from ArtPop which is my favourite album and I just like how they look.
You got some art on your other wall?
Yeah, I want to kind of shift from those fandom posters and move towards art that I resonate with.
I guess it’s a more “mature” aesthetic?
Yeah, I’m kinda getting there.
Cameron Pinto, 20
VICE: Explain your poster collection.
Cameron: It’s mostly Nicki Minaj, but a lot of other cool, badass people too. It’s a collection of the people who represent who I want to be,
Lts of Nicki. Did you see that PAPER magazine cover?
Yeah, I’m actually getting that blown up and putting it on the wall. I want to fill the entire space.
It’s a pretty expansive collection for one wall.
Yeah, sometimes they don’t stick! In the mornings I’m ready to wake up and look at them and they’re all on the ground. They just fall on me during the night, it’s pretty sad.
It is because you’re using scotch tape?
They don’t let you nail stuff on in dorms.
So how do people react when they walk in here and see all of this?
People are mortified! They don’t expect it. The first time my roommate walked in I could tell he was shocked.
Do you think your roommate likes them?
No, he doesn’t. But I don’t care.
You got some artsy fandom posters going on.
Yeah, I got Sherlock and some Pokémon. They’re all from FanExpo. I get them from the Artist’s Alley.
Why do you buy artists’ renditions instead of actual posters?
I just think they’re a bit cooler. I like seeing artists at cons and supporting them.
Do you get a lot of people coming in here being like “Sherlock!”
No. No one really recognizes the show.
Tristan Larnyoh, 19
VICE: You’ve got a lot of black tape going on. Take me through your walls.
Tristan: OK so my first wall, it’s “The Wall of Fame,” I’ve got that written in black tape. And then I stick whatever art I’m into right next to it. I’m usually sticking up a T-shirt. But this way people know what’s going on.
You just stick up a T-shirt with black duct tape?
Yeah, I treat them like art, like posters.
This wall has “T-Bone” written on it, what does that mean?
It’s my nickname.
Do people actually call you that?
What’s this wall here? You’ve got a “T” inside a rectangle.
Yeah okay so “T” is my intial, and it’s inside— that was supposed to be a square not a rectangle. Anyways, the “T” is me and it’s in the box because it’s like a reminder to “think outside the box” you know.
But the “T” is in the box?
Yeah, because you’ve got to think of it outside the box.
Yeah, it’s very abstract. I’ve also got this tapestry that has all the major American Dolls on it, but it’s too heavy to put up. I tried but it keeps falling down.
Wait, what. Why do you own this?
It’s just cool, it’s got all the dolls on it. It’s classic.
What do you think other people think of it?
They’d probably think it’s cool too, when they see it. Got to figure out how to get it up.
Sawyer S., 20
VICE: You’ve got exclusively film posters.
Sawyer: Yeah, I’m a film student so I decided people should be able to tell, so I got a bunch of movie posters and put them up.
What do you think people think of the movies you’ve picked?
I think I’ve picked some classic ones, The Godfather, Back to The Future, movies that everyone likes. Hopefully people think I’ve got good taste and stuff. I mean, I am in film.
You’ve got Pulp Fictio n up here too. Do you think it’s Tarantino’s best?
Dude yeah, easily.
Nuvaira Tahir, 19
You’ve got a space theme going on here, was that intentional?
Nuvaira: Nah. I just really like Space Odyssey because I used to watch it all the time when I was younger. And this tapestry with the girl and the moon, I just thought it was cool. Like how she’s alone in solitude, looking at the moon. It’s peaceful.
What do people think when they see you poster?
The first thing people always ask me is whether I’ve actually seen the film.
Have you actually seen the film?
I believe you. Where’d you get the poster from?
My university has these posters sales. I always check stuff out. This was the only poster liked and it was my favourite movie so I got it. It’s a really nice poster, really pretty.
KiKi Cekota, 20
VICE: What do you think your posters say about you?
Kiki: I think they show that my taste is all over the place cause there's no real running theme with them, I have the Travis Scott album cover and then like a poster about Lincoln's assassination and another one about Frida Kahlo so it just indicates that I like a lot of different things I suppose.
What do people usually say when they see them?
People usually comment on the New Yorker covers saying they really like them or are kind of curious about the Lincoln poster. One person said they didn't even know Lincoln had been assassinated, so I'm glad my posters can be educational too.
The New Yorker covers are really nice. Where did you get them?
The New Yorker covers I bought outside the Met for like two bucks apiece and I just really liked how they complimented each other. One's the city during sunset and the other is the city at dusk so they just look really nice side by side. And I love the New Yorker.
Why the little Frida Kahlo portrait?
I've just always loved her and how unashamed she was to be herself and be an independent woman at a time when it was harder to do so. My mom brought me back that portrait from Mexico when she went last winter.
You got things like the New Yorker and Frida Kahlo, do you ever worry that people will think you’re a pretentious snob or something?
Honestly it's never crossed my mind, but now I’m slightly worried.
Follow Premila on Twitter.