Reference:Using Short Movie and Television Clips in the Economics Principles Class. (Sexton, Robert L. (2006) The Journal of Economic Education Volume 37, Number 4 / Fall 2006 pp 406-417
Movies in Economics-The authors describe a teaching method that uses powerful contemporary media, movie and television clips, to demonstrate the enormous breadth and depth of economic concepts. Many different movie and television clips can be used to show the power of economic analysis. The authors describes the scenes and the economic concepts within those scenes for a number of movies.
• Concept: Ceteris Paribus; Film: For the Love of the Game (1999)
In this movie, an aging baseball pitcher is pitching in his last game. The scene begins with him being heckled: To concentrate, his coach repeats the phrase "clear the mechanism." it allows the pitcher to clear out all the outside noise—it is now just him and the catcher. We need to do this in economics—that there is sometimes noise that gets in the way of seeing the relationship between key economic variables. This is why we use the ceteris parihus condition to hold these other variables constant to focus on the relationship between variables such as price and quantity demanded.
Concept: Incentives Matter; Film: Captain Ron (1992)
• Martin Harvey his wife. Katherine Harvey and their children decide to take an extended vacation to sail an inherited boat to Miami, wherethey plan to sell it. However, they need to hire someone to sail their boat—so they hire Captain Ron. The scene begins when they are checking out the engine, and they notice that it was losing considerable amounts of oil on a daily basis. Martin harvey’s's son, Ben, says he would like to check the oil every day, but Captain Ron tells him the job is too important and that his Dad should do it. Ben objects. Captain Ron says, Now, the way it works is, you do your job. You do it good, you get a better job. Maybe you get Promoted. Because almost all of economics can be reduced to incentive stories, this is a fun clip to begin.
Concept: Tradeoffs; Film: Rudy (1992) Rudy has his heart set on one goal; he wants to play football.Rudy is small and has little raw talent, but he is driven by his heart and conviction. His father and brother, who work In the steel mills, think he is crazy for pursuing his dream. This clip is filled with choices and tradeoffs that Rudy faces—whether to go to college or work in the steel mills, whether to go to the junior college to get the grades to get into the team or just give up on the dream, whether to quit the team, whether to go back to the team. Students leam very quickly that choices, costs, and tradeoffs are everywhere. Many films can demonstrate choice and costs, but this one seems to be a student favorite
Concept: Opportunity Cost; Film: Space Jam (1996)
• There is a scene in this movie that shows Michael Jordan after he left basketball to pursue playing professional baseball. This is a great introduction into my discussion of opportunity cost. Ask the students; How much did it cost Michael Jordan to quit professional basketball and play professional baseball for the year? Be careful not to say it was the wrong decision—-just a costly one.
Concept: Exchange; Film: Shawshank Redemption (1994)
• The scene is when Andy (Tim Robbins) meets Red (Morgan Freeman) in the prison yard and asks him if he could get him a rock hammer. The scene continues and shows how the rock hammer is smuggled in through the laundry and then through the prison book distribution program. And all along the way, cigarettes are used for payment to those involved in the transaction. It is a nice example of exchange and can also be used to demonstrate barter—trading cigarettes for services.
Concept: Resource Allocation; Film: Castaway (2000)
• When Chuck Noland's (Tom Hanks) plane crashes and he finds himself on a deserted island, he has to find a way to survive. On the island, he must find answers to the what, how. and for whom questions. The how question is where this scene becomes interesting. Chuck has salvaged several boxes from the plane crash.
He uses the blades of the ice skates as a knife: to open coconuts, to cut and convert a dress into a fishing net. and to sharpen a stick to use as a spear for catching fish. He uses the laces from the skates and the bubble wrap in the package to dress an injury he incurred on the island. He uses the raft as a lean-to for his shelter. He builds a fire and even "makes" a friend with a volleyball—Wilson. This film provides a nice introduction to the classic island economy, where Chuck must use his entrepreneurial talents to make the best use of the scarce resources on the island.
Concept: Tastes and Demand Shifts; Film: Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
• The scene starts with the owner of a toy store trying unsuccessfully to sell a new product—a hula hoop. In the store window, he puts up the price of the hula hoops with a sticker. The scene shows him waiting and waiting with no customers and then he starts to lower his price from $1.79 to $1.59 and eventually all the way down to "free with any purchase." He becomes so disgusted that he throws a number of hula hoops out the door and they roll into an alley. One rolls out onto the street, where a young boy (Arthur Bridgets) picks it up. He is a natural, in the meantime, the school down the street lets out and about 30 kids gather around in astonishment, watching the young boy swing the hula hoop—around his hips,ankles, and neck. You then see the students attack the store in droves to buy hula hoops, and the sticker price zooms up to $3.99. This is a good example to show the importance of taste as a demand shifter.
Concept: Shortage; Film: Jingle All the Way (1996)
• In this film, mattress salesman Howard Langston (Amold Schwarzenegger)asks his son Jamie if there is anything he wants for Christmas. His son, Jamie says, "I want the Turbo Man. Howard soon realizes it is the hottest toy in years, and there is no Turbo Man available anywhere. Howard is trying to find the Turbo Man on Christmas Eve.This scene provides a fun introduction to shortages.
You can also talk about differences between anticipated and actual demand and the eventual adjustment process.
Concept: Consumer and Producer Surplus; Film: Pretty Woman (1990)
(Richard Gere) Edward meets an energetic, carefree woman—Vivian(Julia Roberts).Gere walks in and says, "Vivian, I have a business proposition for you. I would like you to spend the week with me.Vivian says, —$4,000." Edward then counters with $2,000, and Vivian says $3,000, and Edward says, "Done." Then Vivian says. "I would have stayed for $2,000" and Edward says "I would have paid you $4.0(X)." I ask the class:How much consumer surplus is Edward receiving if he was willing to pay $4,000 but only pays $3,000. and how much producer surplus is Vivian receiving if she is willing to stay for $2,000 but receives $3,000?
Concept: Inflation; Film: Austin Powers (1992
• In this scene, Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) is meeting with NumberTwo and the rest of the board of Virtucom. Dr. Evil, who has been frozen for 30 years, has no idea how much inflation has occurred over that time span. He says, "I have a plan. Its called blackmail.. .we get the warheads, and we hold the whole world hostage for ONE million dollars!" Number Two says, "Don't you think you should ask for more than a million dollars? A million dollars isn't exactly a lot of money any more."
• Conclusion:Many introductory economics textbook authors state that a benefit from the course is to better understand human hehavior. It is a very valuable lesson that instructors can get across more strongly if they can show students how economics is relevant to virtually every aspect of their everyday lives—even a trip to the movies. Movie clips ean vividly illustrate economic issues and supplement the real-life examples that instructors present in the classroom. They can be used to spark discussion, to help students remember certain concepts, or to just make the class more fun. so students will look forward to attending the next class. Of course, .some movies will not be totally accurate but that too can provide a springboard for discussion.
• Reference:Using Short Movie and Television Clips in the Economics Principles Class. (Sexton, Robert L. (2006) The Journal of Economic Education Volume 37, Number 4 / Fall 2006 pp 406-417