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Subject 101

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Welcome to Tropes 101. I'm your professor, Dr. Terwilliger Roper. Your course syllabus is being passed around now. It has my office hours listed on it. I assume you have bought the text for this course, Basic Tropes in Fictional Media, 10th edition, by Van der Trope.note 

In many academic systems, introductory courses for a field of study are designated "101". That the course is "100-level" indicates that it is intended for beginning or first-year students. That the course is numbered "101" (or occasionally "100") indicates that it is the first such course.

Many subjects actually taught will have at least one 100-level course, especially in fiction. The ones that don't are usually specialized subjects. Occasionally, a fictional 101 course will be way more or less advanced than the course number justifies. Not infrequently 101 will be the only class level ever mentioned. Its ubiquity even allows a character to mark himself as a university student or professor by mentioning [Subject] 101.

The notation of a course as 101 means that it is expected that anyone with normal intelligence and work ethic and minimal talent in the field can successfully complete it, and will thereby acquire the basics of the discipline; also, that anyone with the basics of the discipline will know any fact labeled "subject 101". This connotation leads to the common subtrope "Arcana 101", in which a writer tries to give an accessible flavor to some exotic discipline through introducing it by means of a (usually fictional) 101 course. The sarcastic variant is "Inanity 101", in which the 101 course is in some subject for which it would be unreasonable to expect training to be necessary or useful. The trope title falls more or less under this variant.

Due to Eagleland Osmosis, "[Subject] 101" is often used by non-Americans who have no idea where the phrase comes from — though some British universities have adopted the system, and it is used in Australia.

Not to be confused with Always in Class One (the equivalent would be the earliest offering of the week for [Subject] 101), the trope Room 101 (no matter how much you might hate the class), or the TV series Room 101 (which is named after the former where people send their hates into said room, which, yes, could be these classes).


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    Fan Works 
  • Remembrance of the Fallen mentions two 100-level courses, Romulan 111 and WEP 125 ("Principles of Electronic Countermeasures"), but Eleya is also taking a class designated CMD 305.
  • In the DC Super Hero Girls fic Super Villain Prevention 101, heroes-in-training who have the potential of becoming villains, or are former villains, have Super Villain Prevention 101 as a class.
  • Most of courses are numbered in The Official Fanfiction University Of Middle-earth:
    "OFUM offers a wide range of subjects as diverse as Evil Is as Evil Does 101 taught by the esteemed Sauron himself and Poetry 202 with highly acclaimed author of 'Merry Dol and Dong Dillo: How to keep your neighbours out'; the one and only Tom Bombadil."

    Films — Animation 
  • Monsters University: The titular institution offers a major in Scaring for monsters who want to become Scarers. The most important subject for that major is, of course, Scaring, and its introductory course is "Scaring 101", taught by Prof. Knight. The students learn to perform all of the different scary faces and to analyze a human kid's profile to determine the best approach to scaring them to death, including which scary face to make, the place to creep on from, and noises. Failing this course means being banned from the Scaring major. Both Mike and Sully take it and fail, although for different reasons — the former for simply not being scary-looking and the latter for being a lazy talent.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At the beginning of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Casey Jones offers to school Raphael in "Pain, 101" after Raph's interference allowed two purse-snatching lowlives to escape him (though, it should be said, without the purse).
  • In Fantastic Four (2005):
    • After Doom traps Mr. Fantastic with liquid nitrogen and a chair:
      Doom: Chemistry 101: What happens to rubber when supercooled?
    • With an Ironic Echo in the final battle, when the Thing cracks open a fire hydrant towards the flaming Doom:
      Mr. Fantastic: Chem 101. What happens when you rapidly cool hot metal?

  • In Devon Monk's Magic in the Blood, Business Magic 101 was one course she took. It didn't help with the matter at hand.
  • In Seanan McGuire's Velveteen vs. universe, Heroing 101. An extremely far ranging course.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free, Leo Graf is trying to take over a space station, by organizing a bunch of kids.
    Revolution 101 for the Bewildered, Leo decided grimly, should be his course title.
    Or worse — 050: Remedial Revolution...

    Live-Action TV 
  • When Boy Meets World moved to the college years, Corey Matthews decided to try breaking out of the usual expectations and signed up for advanced and unusual college courses. When he realized that he is completely unprepared for taking advanced quantum physics courses, he tried to switch back to the normal college track. Including saying that he would sign up for any class with "101" in its name.
  • Community has every episode named after a college course (or something that would sound like a college course). "Spanish 101" and "Debate 109" have both been episode titles.
  • Criminal Minds has an episode called "Profiling 101", where the BAU speaks in front of a college class.
  • Forever Knight. Nick Knight is questioning a stripper about the murder of the week. She claims not to know much about the victim.
    Stripper: I guess you're going to have to keep digging...pulling back the layers.
    Nick: Investigational Theory 1-0-1.
    Stripper: Stripping, 4-0-4.
  • In Heroes, Hiro describes Daphne's attempting to get him and Ando to fight each other as Villainy 101.
  • How I Met Your Mother did this in the 5th season opener, having Ted teaching Architecture 101. He then taught a private class on how to date Robin, "Robin 101", to Barney (and one Japanese student who happened to show up).
  • On Law & Order once Serena Southerlyn asked Arthur Branch if some maneuvering he had done was part of "Trial Tricks 102." The implication was clearly that, while he may have been slightly clever, she still didn't have a lot of respect for his methods.
  • The short-lived 1988 CBS show TV 101 was about a television production class taught in a high school. The cast had, among others, Matt Le Blanc, Stacy Dash and Teri Polo.
  • Zoey 101 is titled after this fashion. Additionally, one episode has Quinn alluding to this trope, when she reasons that Chase insistently going out with a crude Zoey-lookalike is him trying to replace her, then concluding "That's Psychology 101!".
    • A side-effect of the title, but the dormitory of Zoey, alongside two varying best friends, throughout the series is Room 101 (closer to this trope than that one).
  • Tim Daggett, gymnastics commentator for NBC, has an oft-repeated catchphrase, "Gymnastics 101: Fly high and stick the landing!" (He's repeated it so often his fellow commentators have teased him about it.)

  • Roy Zimmerman wrote a song called "Creation Science 101". The song describes said course as nothing but indoctrination.
  • Bowling For Soup — "Punk Rock 101".
  • Doctor Who-based band Chameleon Circuit have a song titled "Galifreyan History 101".
  • Depeche Mode's 1988 Live Album was titled 101.

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    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic had the reference book "Slumber 101: Everything you wanted to know about slumber parties, but were afraid to ask" in the episode "Look Before You Sleep."
  • Spongebob Squarepants episode "Artist Unknown" features Squidward teaching Art Class 101.
  • The Simpsons had Nuclear Physics 101. In one episode, Homer reveals that he never passed "Remedial Science 1A".
  • In Tiny Toon Adventures, the Looniversity where the characters attend will often attend classes such as "Class Clowning 101" or "Super Heroics 101."
  • Phineas and Ferb has the episode "Doof 101".
  • Mixels has the course "Mixing 101", where the art of Mixing is taught.

    Real Life 
  • Nuclear Warfare 101.
  • Norwich University, a University in Vermont, has an open house named "NU101".
  • UCSD, and presumably the rest of the University of California system, averts this trope. Lower division classes are all in double digits, and at the time, there are no lower classes that are Subject 101.
    • True. At UC Berkeley, Subject 1-99 classes are lower division, Subject 100–199 are upper division, and Subject 200-299 are for graduate students. There are other numbers as well, for various other specialized courses. Sometimes things can get weird: Math 16A covers the same basic material as Math 1A, but is meant for non-math/science majors and is thus easier. Likewise, Psychology 2 is easier than Psychology 1, since 2 is meant for non-psych majors. The real kicker? Statistics has three lower division courses labelled "Introduction to Statistics" — 20 (for math/science majors), 21 (for business majors), and 2 (for everyone else), none of which are actually required for the Statistics major.
    • Interestingly enough, the labeling appears to be semi-random. One major requires people to take Math 1A/1B, then Math 53/54. Other majors require Math 16A/16B (which is easier) instead of 1A/1B. And crosslisted classes often don't share the same number with themselves, leading to courses such as "MCBC100A/ChemC130A".
    • Similarly, at Penn State, if you want an easy course, Subject 101 is not what you're looking for. A number of departments have Subject 001, which is as introductory as a class will ever get.
    • At Indiana University, 100-level classes in many subjects are intended for non-majors. Majors start their classes in the 200-level.
  • The Mexican version of this trope is simply using one single number, usually Roman in official designation. The first calculus class, for example, would be Calculus I, then Calculus II, then Calculus III and so on.
    • Universities in Brazil do the same.
    • As do Chilean ones. Might be a Latin American thing.
    • In the US, these often combine with 101; hence MATH101 is Calculus I.
      • To clarify, in these sorts of cases American History I might be HIS 101, followed by American History II aka HIS 102, while World History I might be HIS 106, followed by World History II aka HIS 107. (There may or may not be HIS 103, 104, and/or 105.) They are all introductory classes, thus 100 level, but it is likely that the 10– numbering really doesn't indicate much else. The main point is arranging things so that when classes are listed by course number, sequential classes are listed together, starting with the first in the sequence.
      • That's exactly how it goes in Chilean ones; for example, General Physics go FIS100 (introduction), 110 (General I), 120 (General II), etc., all of them, of course, according to the college in question.
  • At University of New Hampshire, first year classes are 401 and 402, second year 501 and 502, etc. Nobody seems to know why.
  • Some schools attempt to subvert this trope and appear more edumacated by adding a '0' to the end of the three digit designation, thus giving the regular course a higher number — and, by supposed extension, make it seem more advanced. English 101 becomes English 1010, for example. This fools no one, though it occasionally confuses the person in charge of transferring credits at a school who numbers things normally.
    • One Cal State school uses 1008 and 1009 in place of 100 and 101, possibly to accommodate more class numbers.
  • In an attempt to confuse new students familiar with this trope, or possibly to give more room for sub-divisions and differentiate materials done for old courses, some British universities use a four digit code, often with a department tag. Introductory Mathematics might be MT 1001, whilst Organic and Biological Chemistry 1 might be CH 1601.
    • A similar concept is in use at some colleges in America. For example, Texas Woman's University, all classes are assigned a four digit code after the subject clarifier. The first number is the level, the last number is how many credit hours it offers, and the middle two define the class. As such, a lot of classes start at 1013, with labs being marked as 1011.
    • Georgia Tech uses four digit course numbers for everything, but there's no pattern in the last three digits. An introductory class might be 1050, or 1100, or 1113, or even 1371.
    • At Canada's Trent University, it varies by department (generally three digits in humanities like English and Women's Studies, and four digits in the actual and alleged sciences).
  • At Texas A&M University, first year courses are 1xx, second year 2xx, third year 3xx, fourth year 4xx, and grad school 6xx. Presumably, the Aggies didn't like 5xx.
  • Subverted at several Canadian universities (including the University of Calgary and Athabasca University), where first-year courses start in the 200-range, second-year courses are in the 300-range, and so on up to the 600-range (for Master's students). 100-level courses are usually remedial courses on the level of high school.

OK, everyone, we're done for today. Make sure to have read chapter one in Van der Trope by Wednesday, as we will be discussing it. Remember, your participation in class discussion is 30 per cent of your grade!