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9 Lessons From the Greatest College Movie Ever

#4. Get Involved

This isn't just the movie's lesson of taking part in life or taking responsibility for your own work, it's my experience with free happiness. Get involved in clubs and societies, because you would be amazed at how many of them will give you hundreds of dollars to fill a pub with pizzas and beer so that people can watch Real Genius if you offer to organize the event. Watching this movie was my annual contribution to the physics syllabus.

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Mainly fluid mechanics.

Make sure to invite the club treasurer. It's much easier to get a budget extension when their pint glass is empty.

#3. Every Problem Can Be Solved With Sufficient Application of Laser

The evil government is trying to resolve foreign problems with flying death laser, and the students strike back with even more flying death laser that's also on fire. In the end, it's a classic teenage tale, with Chris learning how to take responsibility. Take responsibility for his FLYING DEATH LASER. I cannot overstress how much more attention you pay to simple morality lessons when they're about coherent light setting things on fire.

TriStar Pictures
"... and then that punk-ass stepmother ate five megawatts of light amplified by the stimulated emission of radiation."

#2. Life Is as Important as Work

The whole point of university is to avoid wearing a suit as long as possible. First by avoiding getting a job for four years, then (hopefully) by becoming good enough at something that you're hired for your skills instead of your uniform compliance. The movie masterfully shows suits as Faraday cages for the soul, portraying suit wearers as sinister men who'll kill an old friend the instant he steps out of line and watch films on blinding techniques before breaking for lunch. They subtly establish this in the first scene, where sinister suit men kill an old friend the instant he steps out of line and say "Let's watch that film on blinding techniques and then break for lunch."

TriStar Pictures
"I'm Suity McOldman, welcome to Evil Lifedraining Incorporated."

Mitch undergoes the same process. He arrives at college fully besuited and has about as much fun as a fully armored knight in a pool party. As the film wears on, his clothing relaxes until he's a fully adjusted human being, and also having much more fun in a pool party.

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College movies don't bother with subtlety. Which is also good advice for college.

The most important line in the film explains the error of "All science, no philosophy." You need to do the work, but you need to have reasons for it.

#1. Work Is as Important as Life

This is the bit the other movies screw up. Most college movie "solutions" would saddle the students with more debt and criminal records than breaking into a bank to set fire to the cash.

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"Wacky hijinks" is not a sound legal defense.

In those movies, a montage is more magical effort-skipping than a genie. In Real Genius, the first montage is super-genius Mitch embracing university and immediately being buried under a workload he's never experienced before in his life. That is totally going to happen! Remember when high school made elementary look easy? Now the first year of university will make high school look easy, and that process has not even nearly finished -- that workload will escalate every year until you find a job, and then you'll find out what work really is. University is about becoming a useful person. The earlier you get ahead of that curve, the more you'll enjoy the rest of your life.

The scientific movie thus completes the key equation: if life >= work and work >= life, then work = life. Which is true. Work is a giant part of your life. You'll spend at least a third of your grown existence doing something on a daily eight-hour schedule that makes regular brainwashing look like a light suggestive rinse. If you treat work as something you have to get over with as quickly as possible without doing anything, that's an attitude that will spill over into your entire life.

This isn't saying everyone should love their job no matter what. Lots of jobs suck. That's why you're going to university in the first place. The university's function is to find your function, to help you find something better, and then help you do it better. If your degree won't start helping you the instant you leave, then you need to sit down and think very, very carefully about why you're doing it.

But take a couple hours to watch teenagers blow up a house with popcorn first!

TriStar Pictures
There's probably a good analogy here, but I'm going with "popcorn is great" and another "WOOHOO!"


Luke also looks at science fiction escaped into reality with The Incredible Z Machine, tumbles, and responds to every tweet.


Avoid your classes for longer with 7 Tips for Not Screwing Up College, The 7 Dumbest Things Students Do When Studying for Exams, and (for the lifers) 6 Important Things Nobody Tells You About Grad School.

Enjoy more fun things by finding out what would happen If Every Game Was Like Saint's Row, or read the opposite in The Worst Video Game Reviews Ever.

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