Everyone has had to watch films for class. I don’t care how great your TA was that quarter — they definitely showed you a clip of a movie in an attempt to illustrate the content at least once. Watching a movie in class is a rare but welcomed occurrence that we have often prayed for on days with substitute teachers or after reading the book in English classes. I can claim that I like to watch films in class to complete my understanding of a topic and to soak in information from all types of outlets. That may all be true, but I also just want a nap.
In elementary school, the big cart with the television on it was like a second teacher. A few times a week I would see the cart in the classroom and be introduced to new and exciting material by Bill Nye, Ms. Frizzle or the bill from “Schoolhouse Rock.” I was thankful that my teachers would be so generous as to give us an afternoon with my best friend (the TV), and thought that they were really looking into my interests when they showed us these videos.
Of course, my faith was shattered when I was forced to watch Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010) in my 10th grade English class. With no reason for why we were watching it, the entire class was ecstatic to not have to learn for a day and a half, until our teacher decided to play it again and again and again. For a full two weeks, all we did was watch Leonardo DiCaprio struggle with night terrors as we pondered exactly how our teacher had forged his teaching credential.
Since high school is the place where dreams die, whenever we watched movies in other classes during those two weeks, not only did we dread it, but we had to do classwork as well. “In this Ken Burns documentary, in what year did the Donner Party have their first taste of human flesh? Write a diary entry from the point of view of those being consumed.” We were either watching a movie for no reason, or doing a lot of work. Whether this was an attempt to educate us or to further expose real world disappointments, I will never know.
However, in college, you can actually major in watching movies, which is everyone’s dream if you’re being honest with yourself. To actually take a film studies course, and have film viewings once a week, you might start living your life as if it were a film adaptation of a John Steinbeck classic starring the late James Dean. Most people enjoy this opportunity, and for the movie buff it is a must-take course before you graduate. But, during the two hours a week you spend in the lecture hall (that is somehow much more uncomfortable than your average movie theater), people fall asleep, look up actors on IMDB, or even watch different TV shows on their phones. Few look like they are keeping up with every subtitle of that week’s foreign film, so if you actually enjoy the movie, your professor will see. That is, if they haven’t fallen asleep themselves.
Unfortunately, the movie experience while in a classroom setting can detract from whatever the audience originally thought of the film. In a film studies class, any written assignments given bad grades can dishearten Orson Welles’ biggest fans, if their analysis of Citizen Kane (1941) was too shallow for the professor’s standards. In a middle school science class, answering questions about every detail of a video might not allow the viewer to soak in information, and it will force them to only think of it as an extension of a lecture, rather than a new way of demonstrating how planes fly. Movies should be enjoyed by all, and sometimes academics can take that away from us against our will. That’s why it’s important to remember that, in an in-class film situation, the circumstances that we are in should not dictate how we see a type of media. Only the viewer’s own opinions should influence how a movie is perceived.
Even if you have to take notes, a movie in the middle of class can be a welcomed experience; if anything, you’ll enjoy the distraction. Whether it’s a break in your teacher’s lesson plan, a complete submission to the devilishly handsome work of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character in Inception, or the non-literary subject of analysis for a humanities class, the movie experience in a classroom setting can be refreshing. If you have been disenchanted by a teacher’s reasons for showing a film, try and get that feeling back, the one you used to get when the teacher would turn off the lights and turn on that “Magic School Bus” episode about the digestive system.
Hey, can I borrow your notes? Bill Nye talks way too fast. Send them to me via Twitter (@emdefaz10) or by email at email@example.com.
Graphic by CA Aggie Graphic Design Team
Photo by CA Aggie Photo Team