Pitch Perfect V. Actual College A Cappella: Fact or Fiction?

In the hilarious new movie Pitch Perfect, Beca (Anna Kendrick) reluctantly attends her college’s activity fair, where she happens to pass by some aggressive a cappella recruiters from The Barden Bellas. “Oh, right, this is a thing now,” Beca remarks dismissively (right before getting sucked in and making it her entire life). Indeed, Hollywood has finally taken note that a cappella has become a huge part of campus life, and the aca-people among us couldn’t be happier. Pitch Perfect basically nailed what it’s like to be a member of these self-important singing subcultures, but there were a few misleading plot points worth clearing up.

FACT: A cappella groups are cults.

In the movie, the new Bellas are initiated in a ceremony that involves oaths, candles, and sacks over their heads. In my college a cappella group, we initiated new members via a similar ceremony. We also took great pains to indoctrinate them in the group’s lore and unfounded biases. We’d then brainwash them to think it was unacceptable to quit, no matter if they were failing classes and their social lives were falling apart. We were their family now. So, yeah, pretty much what the movie said.

FACT: A cappella involves an absurd amount of rehearsal.

During the first rehearsal with the new Bellas, pitch Aubrey (Anna Camp) tells the girls they’ll be rehearsing at least two hours a day, seven days a week. In truth, when you’re in jam prep (readying for a big concert), the time commitment can be even worse. Members are expected to not only memorize tons of new material (mostly involving variations on the word “dah”), but legit groups will be tackling choreography, skits, marketing campaigns, and fundraising. Varsity athletes got nothing on most alto sections.

FACT: You’ll meet your best friends… and they’ll be big weirdos.

The new class of the Barden Bellas is a motley crew, but that’s pretty standard for a group of people brought together mainly for their vocal ability. Sure, college a cappella groups take great pains to vet for personality (some schools have a “rush” process similar to that of the Greek scene), but when it comes down to it, if a “reformed” cannibal can belt a high C, she’s going to get the tap. And since you’re all spending so much time together anyway, you might as well become bff’s for lyfe (or until she eats you).

Pitch Perfect movie still

Universal Pictures

FICTION: The International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) tournament actually matters.

No one really cares about nationwide a cappella competitions. Maybe some groups do, but they’re hyper-produced and cheesy. (FULL DISCLOSURE: when I was in it, my a cappella group did not advance past the first round of ICCA’s, so…). Collegiate a cappella is much more about the jams, road-trips, international tours, Dreamgirls sing-a-longs, and singing group community spirit (aca-parties!) than anything else.

FACT-ISH: Nodes are debilitating and scary.

SPOILER ALERT: At a crucial moment in the Bellas’ rehearsal process, soloist Chloe (Brittany Snow) reveals she has been living with nodes. While the movie was right insofar as vocal nodules (basically, cysts on your vocal cords) are totally a thing and totally awful, the proper course of action would have been to put Chloe on vocal rest immediately. In the movie, Chloe continues to fully participate in the group, just not singing the high notes, which probably only exacerbated her medical issues. C’mon Chloe, don’t you want to go on to sing in the next blockbuster musical feature?

FICTION:  Your a cappella love interest plays for your team, after all.

Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  Jesse (Skylar Astin) from the all-male a cappella group The Treblemakers serves as Beca’s persistent suitor.  I’m sorry, but a guy so sweet, talented, funny, and CUTE does not exist in the heterosexual a cappella landscape.  The straight ones know they’re hot commodities (ladies do love a dude who can croon in eight-part harmony) and are jerks as a result.  In real life, Beca would have leaned in to kiss Jesse at the end of the movie, and he would have freaked out and come out of the closet.

Do you know anything about the college a cappella scene? Want to contribute to our fact-checking? Let us know in the comments!

Photo of Rebel Wilson on the blog index: Universal Pictures, Peter Iovino.

11 thoughts on “Pitch Perfect V. Actual College A Cappella: Fact or Fiction?

  1. im just wondering, do most a cappella groups like these have auditions like in the movie, and in that same style?
    Do most people are a thespians in high school just go into musical theatre/music majors and not join these a cappella groups, are these groups usually made out of people who love to sing but never really did it in high school?
    Do most schools also have rival a cappella groups within their school?
    Also would joining an a cappella group help book roles in theatre or not really, and it would just be better to major or minor in music at college?

  2. um i dont know but i also need to know if the college is real ?

    cause it looks like it would be a cool one but ya i dont know i think its different but im not positive

  3. Yeah I read all of this and I just wanted to know if they are making a second pitch perfect and I really want to meet the cast so can someone please help me and tell me how to contact somebody so that I can meet them? PLEASE!

  4. A cappella groups were sent by Satan so that people with incredibly boring voices could come together and suck the life out of good songs.

  5. Oh c’mon, Mel !!! This is fun. Any one who appreciates music has to enjoy this movie. A Capella groups are just like any other group of high achievers that gathers for the pursuit of excellence in their area.

  6. I have carefully listened to the arrangements. They are not free of musical accompaniment. A cappella, by definition, is free from musical instrument accompaniment.

  7. Just saw Pitch Perfect 3 trailer. Looks like its going to be another year of fun ride. Incredibly excited to see the Bella ladies returning on screen. Wish there was something going on between Beca and Chloe in this one. Give something for use queer ladies too, will you Trish 😉

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