Five TV shows you won’t believe you can study at university

August 24, 2016
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For many of us TV is just another way to procrastinate, but for others it can actually contribute to a university grade. There are a ton of shows that have been examined in academic papers (Twilight and Philosophy, anyone?) but the study of certain shows will literally show up on peoples’ transcripts, which is actually kind of awesome. Unfortunately a few of these courses aren’t running anymore, but that doesn’t mean we don’t hold onto the hope that our own unis might get some sense and start teaching it…

Philosophy and Star Trek

This is actually a no-brainer. Anyone who has watched the Star Trek TV series will know how concerned the characters are with philosophical questions and socio-political issues. The course has three short papers and one presentation or debate. If they don’t give extra points for doing a presentation as a ‘Captain’s log’, or by ending the essay with “live long and prosper”, then frankly there will be nothing left in this world to believe in. You can take this one at Georgetown University.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Portland State University isn’t the only college to offer Buffy Studies. There are several(!) universities around America that have run courses on the 90s supernatural drama. Buffy courses haven’t run consistently anywhere yet, but they get introduced from time to time at American colleges.

Allow me to take this opportunity to remind you – this show has been the source of hundreds if not thousands of academic essays. These essays range from topics like feminism, gender, existentialism, morality, fascism (huh?) and, of course, postmodernist canon. A show that once had the line “if the apocalypse comes – beep me” can be studied, on a multi-faceted level, by you. Let that sink in.

The Simpsons and Philosophy

What is crazier than studying a show where a high school girl stakes vampires while delivering a pun? Studying a show about a yellow cartoon family probably comes close. This course actually ran at a well-respected school, The University of California in Berkeley. Like Star Trek it was philosophy based, which means they probably discussed Nietzsche in the context of Springfield’s political system.

Imagine studying the episode where Bart sells his soul? This, like many others episodes, sparked legitimate academic interest when it aired, so it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a whole course load of ideas to be discussed. Philosophically pondering The Simpsons… What a time to be alive.

South Park and Contemporary Issues

Anyone who has watched a sufficient amount of South Park (especially in its most recent years) can see why there was a course on this show at McDaniel College in Maryland. The show tackles issues as diverse as racism, gay rights, religious freedom and, well, just how many times they could kill Kenny. With that in mind, a course that explores the show’s internal philosophy and politics would probably be very enlightening. At least for a show your parents thought was just a continuous run of fart jokes.

The Sociology of Seinfeld

This course, which can be studies at the State University of New York at Oswego, makes the most and least amount of sense for existing. The “show about nothing” was always about something – and that something was clearly four jerks who alternate between not knowing and not caring that they’re jerks. There is certainly something to be said for studying the sociology behind such an astutely observant show that picked apart so many aspects of our daily lives. Plus, this show gave us The Soup Nazi.

I’m not saying you now have a legitimate reason to say you’re “furthering your academic knowledge” by watching several seasons of these shows and then reading an essay. But at least now you have a sort-of excuse!

Ally Jurgens

Ally is a uni student who is shockingly good at remembering facts no one cares about involving TV shows and films. She also writes a bit.

Image: The Simpsons official Facebook page

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