Some works that were originally intended to be entertainment have come to be used seriously in academic institutions. These works have deep meanings, or comment on society in certain ways. As such, teachers, professors, clubs, and other scholars use them to teach with in classes.
Encouraging critical thinking is the typical rationale for this type of in-depth study of different works, and is integral to many scholarly pursuits. Now it is being applied to films, books, and other works that were almost certainly not meant for intense study. Some instructors even use works in subjects that initially had nothing to do with them. They have transcended their original purpose to become educational.
Although a creator might have had specific ideas in mind when they created a particular work, many of the ideas that instructors teach to their students end up being Wild Mass Guessing disguised as the hard cold truth. When this happens, it is Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory and What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic? are tropes that describe the phenomenon.
On the bright side, instructors don't get everything wrong, and there are some truly interesting and deep kernels of wisdom to be found in well-made works.
For old standbys, classics, didactic works and school staples, see School Study Media.
- Cells at Work! is highly praised by the medical YouTube channel The Sick Notes (hosted by an actual doctor) and is required reading in at least one Chinese high school.
- 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".
- Osmosis Jones is a popular movie to show in biology classes because it shows how various organs in the human body function.
- There exists a SpongeBob SquarePants worksheet focused on genetics and Punnett squares. It also has fake characters like SpongeSusie RoundPants. This worksheet is often used for middle/high school students to learn about genetics.
- 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 (the aliens talks exclusively in metaphor, without understanding the context their dialogue sounds like unconnected phrases).
- In most college-level communications classes, teachers are required to show a movie and ask their students to apply communications principles to it. Popular choices include 12 Angry Men, Big, Stand by Me and Driving Miss Daisy.
- Minecraft has seen some considerable usage in earth sciences classes.
- Extraordinary Measures. Some professors have used this movie for enacting a forum around it with the idea of showing a bit of what business is around outside the academia.
- The Danish film The Boss of It All (Danish: Direktøren for det hele) is used in some administration classes.
- One Froggy Evening. This one is used towards marketing students. The lesson "make sure the frog sings and dances for everyone before doing anything", it is not the same as the original aesop "enjoy the good things, and not try to profit on them" but for the context it is quite good.
- Dilbert. Mostly for the Economics students learning about the things that happen in an organization. This case is a bit interesting since it was even featured in some editions of an administration book (possibly Robbins). Made more curious since Scott Adams mentions that someone shouldn't take advice from cartoonists seriously.
- Dragons' Den, as well as its American counterpart Shark Tank, have been used by a couple of marketing professors to show students on how to pitch the products. The former show has made episodes that serve as tutorials of the proper way and the improper way to do a product presentation.
- Various MMORPGs with player-driven economies (EVE Online, for example) have been used by economists as study aids or the subjects of papers.
- Singin' in the Rain is often used to teach color theory in film making because of its extensive use of Color-Coded Characters and Color Motifs. The Matrix is sometimes used similarly.
- Citizen Kane is often used to teach cinematography, and as a master work in storytelling and narrative form.
- Yojimbo is used as a genre piece to pick apart Western's as a genre
- Back to the Future is used to teach pacing as all meaningful twists and story beats are spaced almost exactly 30 minutes from each other.
- Magnolia is a favorite of film classes for its central themes and storytelling methods.
- Schindler's List is used to teach color theory and cinematography. The famous splashes of color are especially studied.
- Rashomon. Not only because of the trope it coined ("Rashomon"-Style) but for what it actually managed in terms of storytelling in its time.
- The Fourth Wall-Breaking scene in Wayne's World 2 where Wayne complains about the crummy actor they got in to play a bit part (and who is promptly replaced by Charlton Heston) is sometimes shown in acting classes to demonstrate the difference between merely reading lines and really acting.
- SimCity is often used to help teach concepts in Geography (especially the 2D iterations, which run on pretty much any modern PC and can be licensed cheaply).
- The two geography songs from Animaniacs, "Yakko's World" and "Wakko's America", have been used to teach children the names of countries and states.
- Some schools have used the Arthur song "In My Africa" to teach the names of all 54 countries on the continent.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 the players that quickly killed 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 the 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.
- Inside Out has been used to teach about the human brain.
- 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.
- Sociology + Physiology: Shortly after its completion, Twitch Plays Pokémon Red was examined in some sociology classes in order to study both the rapid, spontaneous nature of meme theory and group dynamics on a large scale.
- 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.
- Physics + Psychology + Biology + Many, many more: The Big Bang Theory is predominantly about a number of genius-level characters in high-level sciences, and their dialogue is exceptionally accurate with a large number of in-jokes that are harder to get without knowing the material. Dr. David Salzberg of UCLA is a consultant and all the white board equations are genuine, apparently his students are encouraged to attend a filming session and pay attention to the boards to see how much they catch on. Any given episode will have the characters make a reference to some higher level material, often juxtaposed with humor, making it very popular for classroom videos. In particular, Sheldon training Penny using Positive Reinforcement (humorously, Sheldon makes a common mistake regarding Negative Reinforcement, which the show corrected years later).
- His Girl Friday is used in some Creative Writing courses to explain rapid fire dialogue for use in stage plays.
- Car enthusiasts use special-targeted television programs, such as Top Gear, to learn English whilst learning more about cars and mechanics.
- The film Amélie 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.
- At least one math tutor, who was a criminology teacher in a Hadera, Israel high school would show his students A Clockwork Orange in a show of interdisciplinary instruction.
- The scene from The Wizard of Oz in which the Scarecrow gets his brain is often used in geometry classes due to the mistake in the Scarecrow's statement. On at least one occasion, the reference to it on The Simpsons is used instead.
Random guy in the stall: That's a right triangle, you idiot!Homer: D'oh!
- 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.
- The Star Fleet Technical Manual used to be required reading at the Naval War College, because the U.S. Navy wanted graduates thinking about how to fight the war several wars after the next 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 for similar reasons.
- The Wind and the Lion. One segment of the film involves U.S. Marines marching through a town and attacking a palace with 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.
- Peter and the Wolf and any variations are used in schools to teach children to identify musical instruments.
- 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.
- 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?
- Calvin and Hobbes. Considering that Watterson actually touched a few good points about the current (and things that haven't changed since the creation of the strip) state of education (such as the examination parts for example), ideas around philosophy (a bit obvious when you consider it takes after John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes).
- Gattaca is often used in ethics classes to discuss whether it is morally acceptable to genetically engineer children.
- A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen is used to study feminist ethics and the self.
- 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.
- If you study physics long enough you'll probably run into the Galaxy Song from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
- A geologist once did an analysis of the distribution of ore veins in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in order to speculate about the possible plate tectonic shifts that could have occurred to shape the province of Skyrim.
- The Sims is used frequently to examine what-if scenarios of certain situations, and to teach young students about family dynamics and the real world. After all, video games and interactive learning are effective teaching tools.
- The Simpsons. Many episodes are used by teachers of social sciences to drive discussions. It is often seen as a better, more in-depth critique of society than the likes of South Park.
- Memento, to better understand anterograde amnesia (that is, the inability to create new memories).
- The Karate Kid has been used in psychology classes to teach about learning.
- Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader is used as a case study in borderline personality disorder, as he hits six of the nine criteria (five being necessary for a diagnosis).
- The "Not the mama" scene on Dinosaurs has been used in a few psychology classes teaching Karen Horney's womb envy theory.
- Shows like Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat have been used at various levels to help teach aspects of different cultures.
- London's Burning: Some footage filmed during rescue scenes made its way into Fire Brigade training videos, albeit usually the parts where actual firefighters were playing themselves, the producers and the London Fire Brigade having an arrangement where the show's location shoots would double as a training exercise.
- In The Simpsons Lisa pretends to be a college student and attends a semester-long class on The Itchy & Scratchy Show.
- Artemis Fowl. A demon named N'Zall managed to steal a book from the humans, and set about reforming their society (training with crossbows, taking human names) to guard 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 (calling itself Leon Abbot) knew humans were far beyond crossbows as weapons, he just used the threat to rule over the demons.
- 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 he proceeds to answer the rhetorical question "Who IS the boss?" and upending the driving point of the class. He later takes a class on analyzing Nicolas Cage and determining if he is a good actor or not, he ends up having a nervous breakdown.