Tag Archives: entertainment

Travel Through Television

By Connor Brown

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Over the past year, I’ve spent almost all of my time at home (as most people have), doing my part to flatten the curve and stop the spread of Covid-19 by doing absolutely nothing. Well, not exactly nothing, as I’ve filled the time with a number of TV shows and films I’d been meaning to watch but had previously not had time for. The pandemic certainly freed some time up for me to catch up on these shows. Watching a show or movie can be more than just mindless entertainment; it can be an informative or even educational experience, especially if you watch the right things. By watching American classics and international standouts, I believe my quarantine binge-watching habits have been more productive than one might expect.

With travel being impossible, I’ve scratched the itch to go abroad by watching shows and movies that take place in Mexico and Italy. I speak Spanish, but I know that in order to maintain fluency in a language, practice is essential. As such, I began watching Netflix’s Club de Cuervos, a show about a soccer team in a small town outside of Mexico City. It was not only highly entertaining (I enjoyed it so much I watched the spinoff series it produced), but it also helped me maintain my ear for the language. The show even improved my understanding of the Central Mexican dialect and a variety of accents which are quite prevalent in Los Angeles.

Photo by Ruben Leija on Unsplash

I’ve also been learning Italian at USC for the past couple of years, and by watching a number of classic Italian films on Kanopy, a streaming service for classic and indie films (which all USC students have access to), I’ve bettered my understanding of the language while watching some of the most artistic films ever made. Here’s a tip: if you’re watching a show in a foreign language you’re trying to learn, turn on the subtitles in the foreign language. For me, Spanish and Italian are much easier to understand when I have subtitles on and can read along. If you’re working on your English, try using English subtitles and the dialogue should be easier to understand.

Photo by Tech Daily on Unsplash

Travel needn’t take place abroad as traveling through time may arguably be even more exciting. I was quite young when AMC’s Mad Men and HBO’s The Wire first began airing, and having heard nothing but good things about the shows, I’ve always wanted to watch them. Quarantine provided the time for that. Mad Men is set in 1960s Manhattan. The title is derived from the show’s main focus, which is the advertising industry along Madison Avenue. It’s an excellent period piece, and I enjoyed all seven seasons. It helped pass the time in the early days of lockdown. It also provides fascinating insight into 1960s America and the professional and business world. The show includes important examinations of misogyny and sexism through the story arc of Peggy Olson, one of the main characters and a fan favorite, as well as the social and racial justice movements of the 1960s. It also provides revealing vignettes of American culture. It’s not only an excellent show, with great shots and suave styles, but an interesting look into American history.

Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash

The Wire, a Baltimore-based crime drama, is also quite insightful. I just wrapped up the first season and it very deftly handles controversial subjects such as the criminal justice system, drug trade, racial tensions, and corruption. It shows the perspectives of all parties involved, giving the audience the space to receive the information and interpret it on their own. It also has some of the best scene transitions I’ve ever seen, and I eagerly look forward to watching the remaining four seasons. While the show was made in the early and mid-2000s, the topics it covers are still wholly relevant today.

These shows are worth watching, especially if you are an international student that wants to gain a better understanding of American culture, language, and history, just as I learned by watching shows from Mexico and Italy. These shows also help pass the time, because even though schoolwork is a large load on all of our plates, there still isn’t much to do besides staying home, staying safe, and watching shows.

Featured Image by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash

Connor is a junior majoring in History and Italian at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Born and raised in California, in Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area, he has long been interested in experiencing diverse cultures and learning new languages. He is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Italian, drawn to both by his love of history and cuisine. He enjoys adventuring in both the urban and natural landscapes of California, as well as playing and listening to music, and is always happy to recommend the best taco spot to eat at, beach to walk along, or album to listen to. He is a huge sports fan and loves to chat about everything from the Lakers to soccer.

Why I love Supernatural and How it Helped me Practice English

By Morgana Li

[3 minute read]

It has been 15 years since the first episode of Supernatural aired on The CW. Now the series has come to its final season and the finale aired on Nov. 19, 2020. I became a part of the Supernatural family in 2015 when I watched ten seasons in order to catch up to the current episodes. The story itself is about hunting supernatural monsters, ghosts, and demons that come from folklore and myths. While watching, however, I realized that Supernatural is also a show about family, friendship, sacrifice, and humanity. Though the plot may not always make sense, the show has created many multidimensional characters that the audience loves. 

The main characters are Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester, and Castiel. Dean and Sam are brothers, and Castiel (Cas) is an angel. They go on adventures across the country saving people from supernatural monsters. What fascinated me most is the way they treated each other and how they showed their humanity despite significant challenges. At first, Sam and Dean were the only consistent characters in the show, but others soon joined the main storyline. Castiel became one of the most significant characters as he slowly became closer to Sam and Dean, who warmly welcomed him into their family. In their dysfunctional family, they were always willing to sacrifice everything for each other. As Sam said to Dean, “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.” I think one must be incredibly lucky to have someone who loves you that much and to know that there are always people you can rely on.

Another interesting aspect of the show is watching the characters travel across the United States, living in motels, eating fast food, and passing through pretty much every state in the US. As an international student, I found it to be one of the best sources to learn about American culture and life, and I’d like to travel to many of the places I have seen them travel to on the show. Since Supernatural’s theme is about hunting monsters in America, many urban legends and different forms of folklore were introduced to me through the show, such as Bloody Mary, the Wendigo, the myth of the Hook Man, and more. The Bible also plays a role in the different legends discussed in the show. I learned many pop culture references based on these intriguing stories, which made it easier to communicate with native English speakers because I had more topics to explore and slang to use. One of the main characters, Dean, uses a lot of hilarious slang terms that are part of authentic American English, and these can be used in daily life by international students looking to blend more casual terms into their speaking. 

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
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TV To Watch Over Winter Break

By Tanya Chen

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Quarantine has been extremely difficult. The days seem to pass by slowly and they each feel like an endless, repetitive loop. During quarantine, I have picked up a few hobbies out of boredom. Some of these new ventures include making Dalgona coffee, baking banana bread, and learning Photoshop. As these hobbies have come and go, there is one hobby that has stayed consistent throughout the past six months: watching Netflix. In this article, I will recommend three shows that I think international students will enjoy watching and learning from. We can all watch TV shows to relax during this time, and with winter break fast approaching, I highly recommend all of these!

Criminal Minds (Genre: Mystery/Suspense; Seasons: 15; Episode Length: 40 minutes)

Photo by Michelle Ding on Unsplash

Criminal Minds is an extremely addictive crime show. The show follows a team of FBI agents who work in the Behavioral Analysis Unit as profilers. FBI profilers are law enforcement agents who use psychology to study and investigate who the suspects behind crimes are and what motivates them. It is interesting to watch the team travel across all over the US and study a criminal’s behavior. The 40-minute episodes are always filled with twists and turns that keep the audience on their feet. However, many of these episodes are very heavy and intense, so it is good for those who get scared easily to watch this show with a friend. Criminal Minds is a great show for international students because it introduces them to many different parts of the US and teaches them about the cultures, customs, and dialects that are popular in all the different states and cities. From tracking a killer in Miami, Florida to following robbers in rural Montana, Criminal Minds is a great introduction to varying social climates of the many states in the US.

Emily in Paris (Genre: Romantic Comedy; Seasons: 1; Episode Length: 20 minutes)

Photo by Nil Castellví on Unsplash

After watching too many scary episodes of Criminal Minds, I was lucky enough to discover a show that’s a bit more light-hearted and fun: Emily in Paris. This newly released show follows the adventures of Emily, a young marketing agent from Chicago, as she travels to Europe for a new job. The audience is able to watch her learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, and get acclimated to the people around her. The episodes are extremely funny and beautifully shot. I enjoyed being able to vicariously live through Emily as she explored the beautiful city of Paris. Since there are only 10 episodes, this show was extremely easy to binge and I was able to finish it in one sitting. I would recommend this show to any international student because the show does a great job of documenting how a young adult is adjusting to living in a new country, making friends, and learning a new language.

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