Why College No Longer Blows: Television and Brrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnssss

Creative Commons satellite surveillance photo of the quarantined Baltimore area by David Kent, Flickr user Simple Pleasures.


There’s a story by Debra Levi Holtz in today’s SF Chronicle about a new course at UC Berkeley that analyzes AMC’s Mad Men. As Holtz puts it:

The class is part of UC Berkeley’s DeCal program, a student-run education undertaking that allows students to create and facilitate their own classes on a variety of often unconventional subjects. Considered a unique and “democratic” aspect of Berkeley’s undergraduate program, the program offers 150 courses each semester for up to two units of academic credit on topics that range from Harry Potter and “Sex and the City” to numismatics and swing dance.

For what it’s worth, I was a guest lecturer at DeCal classes at UC Berkeley several times over the years. I think this stuff rocks. But the article makes kind of a lot out of the “unusual” idea:

During the weekly class, the TV show is given the treatment normally reserved for works of literature. Words like “archetype” and “tragic” pop up frequently as students analyze Mad Men’s glamorous yet troubled characters. The class explores the politics and culture of the early ’60s and discusses themes such as the role of women in the workplace, class and society, marriage and family.

…which tells me that Levi has never talked about Scarface with coke-addled screenwriters or hung out talking Firefly with pseudo-intellectual science fiction geeks, or guys writing zombie apocalypse novels based on Lysistrata.



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