Forget class: Movies and TV to make you smarter


graphic by Tyler Herron

Conventionally, to get a good, stable job in this world, I’d need at least a master’s degree. Or if I really want to get to the big times I’d need a Ph.D. But I think there is a possibility that I can achieve those levels of intellectual hierarchy by different means.

I have watched countless hours of movies and TV shows in my 19 years on this earth, and from them I have gleaned priceless and timeless knowledge no professor nor parent could pass on to me. Like when I watch “House of Cards,” I am learning that the toxic world of politics is dangerous and wrought with corruption. Or when I watch “Breaking Bad” and learn that if you have a large trailer, a master’s degree in chemistry and a psychotic partner, you can build a drug empire and ruin the reputation of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

TV shows and movies can discuss and analyze complex topics and ideas without forcing viewers to sit and listen to someone try and explain them. In “Arrival,” director Denis Villeneuve’s latest masterpiece, I learned that an alien species will one day land 13 massive spaceships in random locations across the earth and eventually teach the human race to not kill each other over little things and learn to cooperate. The film also dealt with complex ideas like time, love and how Amy Adams hasn’t won a single Oscar, but Nicholas Cage has.

If I ever wanted to become a doctor, I could just watch “Grey’s Anatomy.” All I have to do is push through the absolute garbage acting, and if I really listen to what they are saying, I can figure out how to date McDreamy before he gets killed by bus (which, by the way, is easily the stupidest way to kill off a character ever). Additionally, if I wanted to learn how to be a successful and surprisingly likable serial killer, I could just watch “Dexter” to see the character carve his way into our hearts and nightmares.  In “The Fate of the Furious,” Paramount Picture’s latest successful attempt at tricking the sheep into watching Vin Diesel try to act, I could learn that friends are family and practical laws of physics, conventional means of communication and the basic techniques of acting aren’t necessary to make a billion-dollar hit in the box office.

While Trinity has many great professors and students, none of them could teach me the things that movies and TV shows can. One of my many dream jobs is to be a film director, to lead people much more talented than I and try to create a cohesive and fun 90-minute film while hoping that it makes enough money for me to pay off the producers. I can’t learn those skills from a chalkboard or by paying $45,000 a year at some liberal arts college in San Antonio. I can only learn the true nuance of the silver screen by gluing myself to it for years and years until I have a full grasp of why Dwayne “˜The Rock’ Johnson is the most successful actor of 2016.

Being a film buff isn’t for everyone. Some people enjoy eating healthy and sweating a lot, while I enjoy plopping myself on my bed and watching “Friends” for the fifth time. Everyone has their own way of finding happiness and learning outside the classroom. But if those health nuts and gym rats ever get tired of tearing their muscles apart, the newest season of “Game of Thrones” is superb. I would love to learn how to ride a dragon.