The Bright-er side: Pandemic binge-watching is an unlikely learning opportunity

Movies and TV shows teach us more than we think

ILLUSTRATION: Siloam Yeung / The Peak

By: Dev Petrovic, Opinions Editor

Since the start of the pandemic, I have been on a never-ending streaming service marathon. From binge-watching corny shows like Emily in Paris to National Geographic documentaries, I have surpassed my personal preferences as well as any genre boundaries I once had. Taking in all this media and art over an extended period has been the most unlikely of learning tools. 

Sure, binge-watching may be a form of survival through the current state of the world but it also teaches us things about ourselves and the world, whether we are actively aware of it or not. When we relate to characters or situations — it makes us feel less alone — especially when we are physically isolated. 

I recall getting into Broad City during early quarantine, not expecting that I would relate so much to one of the main character’s struggles. The show’s references to a condition I have experienced gave me a different perspective and outlook on how to deal with it — something I had previously been unable to see for myself. Seeing ourselves represented on a screen when watching a documentary, or even rewatching a comfort show for the millionth time, can be both healing and insightful. Whether or not we intend to learn through watching a true-crime docuseries, or want to distract ourselves with a period drama full of historical references, we may gain knowledge in unanticipated ways. Just think about all the pop culture and movie references in Community; it would be impossible not to learn anything. 

Some folks unequivocally see screens as the root of our problems. But the reality is that contemporary shows and films can be the first place we see stories represented that we didn’t see in classic literature or our classrooms. They can connect us personally and show us something bigger than ourselves. At a time when we cannot travel, connect with others in the same way, or experience the world in the way we might normally, binge-watching Netflix or Crave may be one of the few portals in which we can have those experiences and learn through an accessible medium. Besides, who has the attention span to read through a textbook anymore? 

So while I can’t say Emily in Paris taught me very much, or probably anything at all, there are still shows like Broad City and Russian Doll that have taught me valuable personal lessons. If anything, at least I am now aware that Japanese snow monkeys bathe in hot springs together during the winter. Thanks, National Geographic