In college, “What’s your major” is the conversational equivalent of asking someone, “What do you do?” It’s a simple discussion starter that can often lead to revelations about the interests, intelligence, and overall character of the person with whom you’re conversing. It’s also a good opening line when, “Nice shoes, wanna fuck?” doesn’t seem to strike the appropriate chord. Of course, sharing your major is a double-edged sword of sorts, since it does say so much about you. Tell people you’re a business economics or computer engineering major and you’ll elicit a very different reaction than if you tell them that you’re majoring in sociology. In fact, there’s an entire hierarchy of majors that comes into play when engaging in this sort of flirtation ritual.
Looking for passion, intelligence, and a more-than-healthy dose of opinionated argumentativeness? Look no further than the political science department, or your nearest law and society classroom. If you’re the type that likes to be treated like a princess, and requires someone who can foot the bill for all that royal treatment, you want a business economics major or a computer engineer who’s working at Raytheon on the side. Environmental and global studies provide the best partners for someone looking to debate the issues of the day – or someone simply interested in gettin’ some hot hippie loving. For someone whose life will revolve around you – because it certainly doesn’t revolve around school – try some of the (ahem) softer sciences. Linguistics, sociology, and communications all have reputations – well-deserved or not – for being ideal for the less-than-serious student. This is just a small sampling of the wealth of knowledge you can glean just by getting someone’s major, but you get the idea.
Myself, I’m a film major. Well, film and law and society, but my heart is really invested in the former far more than the latter. What kind of reaction do you elicit when you tell people you’re a film major? It’s usually one of two responses; either they think that you must be artistic, cultured, and way cooler-than-thou, or they think you spend all day watching movies. In all honesty, film and media studies is a combination of both with a whole lot of unexpectedly complex artistic, literary, linguistic, social, cultural, and theoretical dimensions that make the average film major much more broadly educated than most people expect.
Being a film major also has the unfortunate side effect of rendering me wholly incapable of ever being fully absorbed in a movie again. No matter how hard I try to tune out the disembodied voices of various professors and theorists, they always manage to sneak through at the most inopportune times. Nothing ruins a good movie moment like having the impassioned voice of Edward Branigan – a venerated film theorist who also happens to be straight out of central casting when it comes to crazy professors – intrude on your thoughts about whatever gunfight, car chase, or sex scene is going down to remind you in no uncertain terms that Andre Bazin would have loved the depth of field in that last long shot. Most people don’t realize the amount of theory, aesthetic training, and analysis that goes into receiving a degree in Film Studies until I start trying to explain why I think “Battle Royale” is ingenious, the “Evil Dead” trilogy is vastly under appreciated, and “The Pursuit of Happyness” was really overrated. After that conversation, most people don’t want to talk movies with me anymore. But that’s okay. Most people aren’t film majors.
My point is not that film majors are any better than anyone else – or even any better at judging a good movie from a bad one, since that’s really a very personal and subjective choice to make. My point is just that most people don’t understand what really goes on in other people’s majors. My roommate is a linguistics major, taking classes during which she analyzes the differences between men’s speech and women’s. As far as I’m concerned, that sounds like a total waste of time, but it makes her happy. Add to that the fact that her parents have only threatened to cut off her tuition in the name of forcing her to find a more substantial course of study a few times since she switched to linguistics from business. She swears linguistics is a good fit for her. As mentioned above, she’s not a big fan of schoolwork. And she does like to talk, so I guess that works. Either way, a major can tell you a lot about a person, but only so much. There’s a lot that goes into learning a specific trade, craft, or subject. So much so in fact that the people proverbially looking in from the outside can never really understand it. Sure, I spend a lot of my class time watching movies. But that doesn’t mean that’s all we do as film majors. We spend a lot of time judging movies too. And, as the 16th Annual Reel Loud Film Festival – a showcase for short silent films made by UCSB’s own students that are accompanied by local musicians, happening in Campbell Hall at 8 p.m. on May 25 – proves, some of us even make our own movies too.
Shameless promotional plugs aside, there’s a lot to be said for the fact that finding out someone’s major may tell you something about them, but it can never really convey a person’s true character. Maybe it’s time for us college students to figure out a new pickup line, something more in tune with the fact that most people have many facets to their fields of study, as well as to their personalities and passions. Me, I’m going to start asking people which “Evil Dead” is their favorite. Bonus points to anyone who can work boomsticks and pillow talk into the conversation from there.