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Syllabi for 10 Real College Pop-Culture Classes We’d Love to Take

We’ve all heard of Physics for Poets and Rocks for Jocks, but a few college classes skip the pretense of hard science altogether and get straight to the fun stuff. While these courses may not get you into medical school, they’ll leave you well-prepared for any cocktail party conversation, as long as you go to the kind of cocktail party where guests talk shop about Harry Potter and Joss Whedon. Best of all, many pop culture classes post their syllabi online, making it easy for those of us too old for frat parties to join in on the fun. We compiled the best classes on TV, music, and even video games that colleges have to offer, including a selection of readings so you can hit the books without doing the whole midterm-and-paper thing. Read on for the highlights; it’s just like college, but all electives and absolutely no math!

the oc

“California, Here We Come”: The O.C. and the Self-Aware Culture of 21st Century America

School: Duke University

Course Description:  “‘Everybody is hyper self-aware. We live in a post-everything universe.’ – Josh Schwartz, executive producer of The O.C. and Gossip Girl

“If Josh Schwartz is correct in saying that we live in a post-everything universe, a post-postmodern world, how do you innovate? You do it with a nerdy, comic-book-reading, plastic-horse-loving, half-Jewish sailor with a keen taste in music named Seth Ezekiel Cohen. Seth inhabits the land of Southern California, where cardio barre, yogalates, and rehab are not so much the vernacular as they are facets of quotidian Orange County life.

“‘Welcome to the OC, bitches. This is how it’s done in Orange County.’ Welcome to a world where popular culture is turned on itself, where alcoholism is as normal as high school, where Death Cab for Cutie went ‘mainstream’ and liked it, where guns, sex, social awkwardness, cage fighting, and rage blackouts can’t tear apart the fantastic foursome of characters that rules like the royal family. (Everyone on the show is related in some way or another by the end of 2007). We’ll explore the ‘hyper self-awareness’ unique to The O.C. and analyze Californian exceptionalism and singularity in history and popular culture, girl culture, 21st century suburban revivalism, the indie music scene, the meta-series, and more. We’ll go on the excessive journey of the foursome that captured the hearts of millions and changed teen television dramedies forever.  Get out your surfboards (or skateboards, if you’re more a land shark).  California, here we come.

“Don’t get settled in Newport Beach though. We’ll also travel south to Laguna Beach, behind the gates of Orange County’s private neighborhoods of the Real Housewives, up to The Hills of LA, to get like, really real, and finally to New York City for a serene(a) ride to get out of the bla(i)ring sun.

“You know you’ll love it, xoxo Your Instructors”

Sample Readings: 

Bullen, Elizabeth. “Who is Ryan Atwood? Social Mobility and the Class Chameleon in The O.C.”

Berridge, Susan. “Serialised Sexual Violence in Teen Television Drama Series.”

Douglas, William. “Television Families: Is Something Wrong with Suburbia?”