My Pop Culture Teachers Part 1 (Back to Basics)

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| May 14, 2022

I spend the majority of my time watching movies/shows and playing video games. And since I have no money or willpower for actual education, I continue to learn various subjects from pop culture. If I could go back in time, tear through the bounds of reality, and choose my teachers! My criteria for characters from movies, tv shows, and video games are those who have a few or a whole set of skills that perfectly fit as an example to society (in my opinion).


Being well-read is not a bad thing, especially when we never stop learning from what others have written. I trust these bookworms to communicate the importance of literature.

Belle from Beauty & the Beast is an obvious choice. She is considered the oddest girl in her small town simply because she is interested in books. Her intelligence alerts her to Gaston’s advances and the Beast’s aggression. She only falls for the Beast after reading to him and teaching him patience. She even got a free royal library from the deal!

Hermione Granger is the brightest and most capable young witch in the Harry Potter franchise. To prove she is more than her heritage, she studies magic endlessly. Her attentiveness to knowledge saves her friends and the world multiple times. She may be “by the books” and stricter than other witches and wizards, but she is proof that knowledge is power. 

Although poetry is a separate subject, I still want John Keating as my captain. In Dead Poets Society, he teaches to question authority and go against conformity. His students suffer real consequences simply through expression, but they are no longer ignorant. While some see his challenge of power as bad, his words and truth held more power.


Understanding humans is essential to living amongst them. And while these might seem like odd picks, I think they’re perfectly imperfect.

It took a while for others, but I’ve always seen Vision as a philosophical genius. The Marvel Cinematic Universe brought forward this android in charge of the Mind Stone, so of course, he’s intelligent. He always was on the outside looking in, admiring humanity through our falsehoods. His elegant voice is just a bonus to his nuance. “What is grief if not love persevering?” I get you, Scarlet Witch.

Gomez and Morticia Addams redefine healthy relationships. They’re the perfect couple, and I will fight you on that! Many dream of having a normal home life but don’t know how to achieve it. Look no further than The Addams Family. Their kooky-ness may act like a wall, but when you break down their actions and words, they know exactly what everyone needs: acceptance.

I can only hope to be as wise as Forrest Gump. He and society may think he’s dumb, but they were wrong. He defied expectations and has lived more than most. And never let anyone or anything happen TO him. Sometimes innocence and simplicity is the best way to view human nature. His mother is an honorable mention since she taught him everything he knows.

He’d have to be in a straight jacket, but The Joker would teach well. Most of his portrayals in DC movies, shows, and games spotlight his interesting foil to society. I fully believe the theory that he is so insane that he’s a genius. Life can be a joke, and sometimes it’s hard to get it. Though I do discourage his murderous methods.


What we’ve done and where we’ve been can help us understand what we can do and where we can go. History is fascinating, but I am only interested when the teacher is. These ones sure are!

Who better to teach history than someone who has lived through it all? The Doctor is an immortal time lord from the undying show Doctor Who. Every incarnation exudes quirkiness and shows everyone the importance of preserving life through the galaxy. There is life in every age, and The Doctor could perfectly retell it.

Lara Croft and Nathan Drake are a pair of adventurous history enthusiasts. Of course, they’re a better fit for field trips instead of classrooms. The tomb raider is skilled in every area needed to reclaim artifacts. Nathan Drake can recite precisely where he is and the location’s history, even on uncharted paths. Both would be the favorite teachers at school. For different reasons, obviously…

Because I know more about Transformers history than my own, Optimus Prime would perfectly head lectures. He gives the past a weight I can’t lift off my shoulders. Anytime Peter Cullen voices this robot in disguise, I am paying attention and taking notes. 


What goes into creation is just as interesting as the creation itself. And it is constantly challenged. These gentlemen can recite and rewrite what we know.

Doctor Emmet Brown blew up the mechanics of time. He turned a Delorean into a time machine! With it, he could travel back to the past or Back to the Future. It got him into trouble, but his quirky and absurd ideas were still accomplished. He was questionable in his methods but undoubtedly a well-meaning genius.

Spock is the prime example of exploring the unknown. He is an original Star Trek science officer and heavily logical, thanks to his Vulcan heritage. Emotions hardly interfere with his words and actions, which some consider an obstacle to discovery. His ingenuity has saved his galactic crew many times. He broke time too by aiding an alternate timeline’s version of himself. 

I don’t get the benefits of reanimating dead tissue (yet). Nevertheless, Doctor Frederick Frankenstein made it work. A descendant of the mad Victor Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein tried the experiment himself. He revived a dead man AND transferred part of his “brain juice” to create an intelligent man, not a monster. Science submitted to his will. Dangerous but incredible!

Mass Effect’s Doctor Mordin Solus would be everyone’s favorite teacher. He is a geneticist and an expert in espionage— skills that helped save the galaxy multiple times. It can be hard to keep up with his running thought-to-word speech, but each word that exits his mouth will educate you and put a smile on your face. He’s even made up patter songs for scientific processes. And for me, music is much more helpful than lectures.


Now I, like many, don’t find math essential or exciting. But given the skills of these characters, I might give it a second chance.

Hidden Figures is based on real African-American women who helped NASA win the space race. Katherine Johnson’s calculations of orbital mechanics tipped space flight towards success. She really was a hidden figure of her time, race, and gender because I’d never heard of her until I saw this movie. Her passion and persistence made me appreciate what numbers can do.

Besides the set of spider-like abilities, Peter Parker is a normal kid. Well, he’s an engineering prodigy, but he’s relatable. In all his comics, movies, shows, and games, Spider-Man is a lovable genius who uses his brain and sticky webs for good. And if he can oppose magic with mathematics in Spider-Man: No Way Home, I should try it out.

Artificial Intelligence can obviously teach more than math. But the self-aware Cortana doesn’t fool around with the unimportant stuff. In the Halo game series, she informs Master Chief quickly and charmingly through every fight. She would teach many forms of strategy well, simply because she is intelligent enough not to waste my time. (Which math often felt like for me.)
This concludes part one of this fun list! If I forgot one of your favorite teachers, let me know. Happy learning!

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3 comments on “My Pop Culture Teachers Part 1 (Back to Basics)”

  1. Well done McKinley. I too learned a lot from Dead Poets Society. It was a film that changed the course of my life.

  2. Inspired me to thing about my picks so here we go!

    Literature – Don Draper (John Hamm) Mad Men
    Humanities/Philosophy – Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) from Good Will Hunting
    History – Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) Raiders of the Lost Ark
    Science/Physics – Walter Bishop (John Noble) Fringe TV Series
    Mathematics – Batman (All of them) Batman movies/TV

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