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From Entertainment to Education

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Some works originally intended to be entertainment have come to be studied and approached seriously in academic institutions, as they have deep meanings, or comment on society in certain ways. They have transcended their original purpose to become educational.

Encouraging critical thinking is the typical rationale for this type of in-depth study, which is integral to many scholarly pursuits. Sometimes it is applied to films, books, etc. that were almost certainly not meant for intense study, and even in subjects that initially had nothing to do with them.

At worst, many of the ideas that instructors teach their students end up being Wild Mass Guessing disguised as truth. When this happens, it is Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory and What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic? that describe the phenomenon.

In a best case scenario, there are some truly interesting and deep kernels of wisdom to be found in well-made works.

Many popular works based on historical events have been used in history classes.

For old classics, didactic works and school staples, see School Study Media. See Edutainment for works that were intended as both entertainment and education from the beginning.


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    Biology and Medicine 
Films輸nimated Manga Newspaper Comics
  • The Far Side: One of the collections has a foreword by a college professor who notes that he puts up the comics on a bulletin board at the beginning of the year, leading to much confusion among students. And as time goes by, the students see the comics again... and "roar with the confident laughter of the enlightened".
Western Animation
  • When introducing middle/high schoolers to genetics, it's fairly common for a SpongeBob SquarePants worksheet focused on genetics and Punnett squares to be used, due to the SpongeBob characters having easily recognizable characteristics (like yellow skin and a square body), along with the characters simply being familiar with students.

Films有ive-Action Live-Action Television
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Darmok" is taught in communications classes. The episode is about friendly communication between cultures that are at first incomprehensible to each other, and explores the importance of syntax, semantics, and cultural context. The aliens speak exclusively in trope-based metaphor, so that without understanding the context their dialogue sounds like unconnected phrases. The aliens, apparently aware of their unique psychology, have a first contact protocol that involves establishing a shared set of experiences between two delegates, which can in turn be used as a Rosetta Stone between cultures- in Picard's case, realizing that "Darmok and Jalad" is a reference to a story much like "Gilgamesh and Enkidu". ("And his eyes were opened!")

  • The Danish film The Boss of It All (Danish: Direktøren for det hele) is used in some administration classes.
Newspaper Comics
  • Dilbert. Mostly for Economics students learning about things that happen in organizations. Interestingly, it was reportedly featured in editions of administration books.
Live-Action Television
  • Dragons' Den, as well as its American counterpart Shark Tank, have been used by marketing professors to show students how to pitch product ideas. The former has made episodes that serve as tutorials of the proper and improper ways of doing a product presentation.
Video Games Web Video
  • In the case of Economy Watch, the show can be considered educational due to the discussions it has on various economic topics, though its jokes can be fairly edgy or inappropriate.

    Film and Filmmaking 

  • North America: Portrait of a Continent, being an accurately-detailed pictorial map of North America, naturally proves useful for subjects such as geography, history, culture, and local flora and fauna. Several copies of the map were donated to schools for just this reason.
Video Games
  • SimCity is often used to help teach concepts in urban geography (especially the 2D iterations, which run on pretty much any modern PC and can be licensed cheaply).
Western Animation
  • The Animaniacs songs "Yakko's World" and "Wakko's America" have been used to teach geography of the entire world and the United States, respectively.
  • Some schools have used the Arthur song "In My Africa" to teach the names of all 54 countriesnote  on the continent.

    Government and Politics 
Western Animation
  • Schoolhouse Rock! is used for a variety of subjects. However We The People is notably used to help students remember the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

  • Diagnosis and Depiction of Partial Epileptic Seizures: The classic 1945 film A Matter of Life and Death by Michael Powell was cited by Diane Friedman for its unusually accurate depiction of a real medical condition, with clinically accurate dialogue used by characters and symptoms portrayed accurately, in addition to the surgical details.
Live-Action Television Video Games
  • Architecture + Creativity + Mathematics + Programming + Survival: Minecraft has been used in school for years to teach these things. Architecture and creativity from building, mathematics and programming from Redstone, and survival from the game's general mechanics. Part of the official website is even dedicated to this.
  • Medicine + Sociology + Psychology: World of Warcraft, in 2005, a new raid dungeon was introduced. The end boss could place a powerful disease, Corrupted Blood, on players to quickly kill them. Some enterprising "Petmaster" players realized that their pets could safely carry the disease out of the dungeon and into the cities to Troll other players. A player-made epidemic swept the game; the central hubs were filled with corpses, the disease spreading harmlessly to NPCs who infected other players, healers attempted to cure the infected, eventually resulting in people abandoning the cities altogether. The servers eventually were shut down to force a fix preventing the disease from leaving the dungeon. The event is now known as the Corrupted Blood Incident and has been used by universities as a study in how epidemics spread; how a disease from a remote region is brought to urban centers by asymptomatic carriers, how people respond to the threat — some deliberately seeking it out — and how authorities react to such events. It has also received some attention as a study in terrorism, given that players deliberately infected cities and plotted how to cause as much damage as possible. Eerily, the study would gain an upswing of attention 15 years later in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Web Original
  • Sociology + Physiology: Shortly after its completion, Twitch Plays Pok駑on Red was examined in some sociology classes to study both the rapid, spontaneous nature of meme theory, and group dynamics on a large scale.
Western Animation
  • Schoolhouse Rock! for a variety of subjects. The most notable example is "The Preamble", whose chorus teaches the words of the titular part of the Constitution of the United States.

    Language Arts and Writing 
  • The works of Pixar have been used to teach storytelling techniques, to the point where they have an online course devoted to the sort.
  • His Girl Friday is used in some Creative Writing courses to explain rapid fire dialogue for use in stage plays.

Generally speaking, immersion via movies, games, and other media all aid students in learning second or third languages. Special interest can also lead to learning a new language.


  • The film Am駘ie is a twofer; it's shown in French classes as entertainment and language immersion.
  • If you learn Latin, be prepared to see the "Latin grammar correction" scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian.
Live-Action Television
  • Car enthusiasts use special-targeted television programs, such as Top Gear, to learn English whilst learning more about cars and mechanics.

  • The Joe Pesci comedy My Cousin Vinny is often shown in law school classes as an example of accurately researched courtroom procedure.

    Law Enforcement 
Live-Action Television
  • Jack Webb was a stickler for detail and, for that reason, Dragnet and Adam-12 have been used by police academies to teach proper procedure. Right down to always wearing a seat belt while in a patrol car.

Film有ive-Action Western Animation

  • The Battle of Algiers, a meticulously-researched depiction of the Algerian War of Independence that was co-produced by the leader of the Front de libération nationale (FLN), was used in The '60s by various leftist and nationalist groups as a how-to guide for conducting guerrilla warfare. Andreas Baader, one of the leaders of the West German leftist terrorist group the Red Army Faction, is said to have regarded this as his favorite movie. On the other side, in 2003 the Pentagon also screened it as part of a primer on counterterrorism at the height of the Iraq War.
  • The Gregory Peck movie Twelve O'Clock High was used by the United States Air Force Academy to teach the four basic leadership styles, as Peck's character uses all four styles to whip his bomber squadron into shape. It is also used for leadership training at the Air Force's Non-Commissioned Officer Academies.
  • The Wind and the Lion. One segment of the film involves U.S. Marines marching through a town and attacking a palace witch an infantry charge. According to The Other Wiki, the Real Life U.S. Marines play that segment for its advanced infantry classes for midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Watch the last part of the scene here.
  • Romance novelist Georgette Heyer did so much research into the Regency and the Napoleonic Wars that her novel An Infamous Army has been added to the recommended reading list at Sandhurst Military Academy thanks to its superb depiction of the Battle of Waterloo, and extracts from it have been used to teach military strategy.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers was put on the US Marine Corps and Navy's recommended reading lists soon after publication and remains there today—the only work of science fiction ever to receive such widespread recognition from the US military.

  • Peter and the Wolf and variations are used in schools to teach children to identify musical instruments.
Western Animation
  • Tubby the Tuba (1975), and the original 1945 song inspiring the film, has been used by music teachers in primary and secondary schools to teach students about the principles of music, musical instruments and their relationship in a symphony orchestra.

    Philosophy and Ethics 
  • Gattaca is often used in ethics classes to discuss moral questions regarding genetic engineering.
  • The Island (2005) is used to facilitate discussion of human cloning in Korean ethics class.
  • Minority Report is used in ethics classes to discuss whether it is moral to arrest someone for a crime they haven't committed yet. Furthermore, is it lawful not to warn the prospective criminal and offer reformation?
Live-Action Television
  • Some Star Trek episodes are used by teachers in this context, for example the TNG classic "The Measure of a Man", where Picard has to prove Data's "humanity" to a court of law to prevent him from being disassembled as a piece of machinery.
Newspaper Comics
  • Calvin and Hobbes (a bit obvious when you consider it takes after John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes).

  • An interesting variation with Armageddon (1998) as it's not used to teach knowledge, but rather to test it. The film is so rife with Hollywood Science, that NASA allegedly uses it to see how many inaccuracies recruits are able to identify in their management training program.
  • If you study physics long enough you'll probably run into the Galaxy Song from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
Live-Action Television
  • Beakman's World episodes are used to demonstrate science concepts.
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes are used in many science classes around the world.
  • Several books have been written to analyze the technobabble found in Star Trek. Such books explain the underlying scientific principles and speculate about which technologies can be plausibly developed (if they haven't already).
Video Games
  • A geologist once did an analysis of the distribution of ore veins in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, speculating about possible plate tectonic shifts that could have occurred to shape the province of Skyrim.
  • Kerbal Space Program is used to teach physics, specifically orbital and celestial mechanics.
  • Minecraft is used in some earth science classes.
Western Animation

    Sociology and Psychology 
Film有ive-Action Live-Action Television
  • The "Not the mama" scene on Dinosaurs has been used in a few psychology classes teaching Karen Horney's womb envy theory.
Video Games
  • The Sims is used frequently to examine what-if scenarios, and to teach young students about family dynamics and the real world.
Western Animation
  • The "Giraffe in Quicksand" skit in Robot Chicken is sometimes used to teach about the five stages of grief.
  • The Simpsons. Many episodes are used by teachers of social sciences to drive discussions.

    World History 
Fan Work Film有ive-Action
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - Used as part of history courses in high school to supplement the World War II unit, something that has been widely criticized by Holocaust historians given that the book is infamously poorly researched and perpetuates the myth that the German civilian populace was unaware of the Holocaust. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum commented in 2020 that the novel "should be avoided by anyone who studies or teaches about the Holocaust."
  • Life Is Beautiful - Used in middle and high school history courses to supplement the World War II unit.
  • The anarcho-syndicalist commune scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is often used as a humorous illustration of the evolution of political theory and rise of revolutions from the 17th to 19th centuries.
  • The Patriot (2000) - In US classrooms as a supplement to the Revolutionary War unit.
  • Schindler's List - Used as part of history courses in high school to supplement the World War II unit.
Live-Action Television
  • Horrible Histories- Used in classes in the UK as an introduction to various periods of British history. Non British schools will use the topics not related to British history such as Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome.
Video Games Western Animation

Live-Action Television Video Games
  • SimCity has been used in urban planning classes.

    In Universe 
  • Artemis Fowl. A demon named N'Zall managed to steal a book from humans, and set about protecting their own society against human invasion. Doubly subverted, in that the book was very poorly researched (Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe being the least of its problems) and that the demon, knowing humans were far beyond crossbows as weapons, just used the threat to rule over the demons.
Live-Action Television
  • Community has the characters at a low-rent community college and much of the offered curriculum is esoteric. Abed, the Meta Guy of the group, takes a class entirely dedicated to Who's the Boss?, and proceeds to answer the rhetorical question "Who IS the boss?", upending the driving point of the class. He later takes a class on analyzing Nicolas Cage and, attempting to determine if he is a good actor, ends up having a nervous breakdown.
Western Animation