To challenge you in finding ways in which entertainment can introduce you to history, thereby educating you about various aspects of history, try this exercise.
—–> Pick a favorite movie or TV show. Make it something you enjoy so you have a personal investment in watching it through to the end. No need to pick a documentary with obvious historical references. In fact, in terms of this exercise, it’s better if you select a non-documentary movie or TV show.
—–> As you watch, make notes of any historical references that are made and how they are presented.
Let’s take the Netflix series “Stranger Things” as an example. The show is set in the 1980s, so it includes all sorts of cultural references that those of us who grew up in the ’80s remember, from music that was popular at the time to clothing styles to arcades with specific video games to phones with cords hung on walls. Even the sense that there is a secret the government is trying to hide is a very ’80s reference, playing on fears related to Roswell, New Mexico, and the Cold War.
These historical references might be obvious, like seeing a character reading a newspaper with a specific headline, or, more likely, they’ll be built into the setting and plot.
—–> When the movie or TV show is finished, take a look at your notes to see how many historical references you were able to find. If you were so swept away by the plot that you only managed to find one reference, that’s fine for the purposes of the next part of this challenge.
—–> Pick a historical reference from your notes and do some research on it. If the reference was made to an important person in history, look up that person’s history.
For example, in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” the main character, Miriam (aka Midge), runs into the comedian Lenny Bruce after she is arrested for indecent exposure and profanity during her first comedic act. While the show is fiction, Lenny Bruce is not. He was a stand-up comedian who pushed society’s norms with his act and was convicted of obscenity in 1964.
If the reference was to an event in history, look that up. Go further in your research and see if you can find what led up to that event.
What you are doing with this challenge is exercising your natural curiosity and interest to become educated about history, and that’s enormously entertaining. If you keep challenging yourself in this way with the culture you consume, soon you’ll be educated in all sorts of history that will be much easier to remember because you will have cultural associations to go along with that history.