Pull up your socks, plaster on a smile, and try and make it to your 9:00 am classes. Not only does September mark the beginning of the school year, but it’s also a good time for a spiritual and emotional cleansing.
Gone are the mistakes, issues, and shortcomings of life before Labour Day. They don’t matter anymore, now that you’re entering the next chapter of your life.
Since you’re beginning this new chapter, it would be nice to gain some motivation and build momentum toward your goals. If you’re like me, you get much of your motivation from watching fictional characters work hard to overcome the obstacles they face. There’s a specific way in which film and television romanticizes hard work and determination that you wish you could just apply to your everyday life.
In that vein, here is a list of films and TV shows that I have curated specifically for the student looking to feel motivated this fall.
For romanticizing campus life: Mistress America
Mistress America gets you into the campus mood because much of the film takes place on campus. It stars Lola Kirke as Tracey, a young woman trying to find her niche when she starts university in the city. Mistress America feels like a quintessential U of T film; it even includes fun campus quirks such as fro-yo socials, uncomfortable dorm parties, and a secret literary society.
For career goals: The Bold Type
While The Bold Type is a show about the workplace, it still motivates the student. In essence, it focuses on three career-oriented women trying to advance in their respective career paths. The Bold Type emphasizes the millennial value of finding a meaningful career because this show challenges its characters, and by extension, its audience, to broaden their horizons and work harder towards success. Plus, Melora Hardin is just as iconic as Jacqueline Carlyle.
For ultimate motivation: Legally Blonde
This is the ultimate university motivation film. The scene alone when Warren tells Elle that she isn’t smart enough, resulting in Elle exclaiming, “I’ll show you how valuable Elle Woods can be,” is enough to sell you. Elle initially attends law school out of spite, but she quickly develops an affinity for practicing law. Legally Blonde showcases a motivational character working hard and proving her intelligence, despite the constant opposition and ridicule she experiences.
For tenacity: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel follows a format similar to Legally Blonde format of a woman motivated to succeed following a breakup. It stars Rachel Brosnahan as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a woman working hard to make it in the stand-up comedy field despite the limitations set up against her as a woman in the 1950s.
For the creative type: Mozart in the Jungle
I have a deep appreciation for anyone going into a creative or artistic field. It feels like the odds of achieving success are stacked against them, yet they power through anyway. Mozart in the Jungle is a show that understands this commitment to art. It understands the sacrifices, hardships, and excitement you experience when things finally work out.
For fun: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Out of all the shows or movies on this list, Buffy is the most fun. At its core, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a show about growing up and what it means to become an adult. Though it’s not necessarily about studying, it’s one of those shows that inspires you to find your calling. The show does a surprisingly great job of portraying the transition to university life and how demanding university can be. Plus, the perfect antidote for school-time fatigue is watching Sarah Michelle Gellar punch demons in the face. Trust me.
For dealing with transition: Lady Bird
Lady Bird is about Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a young woman who wants to broaden her horizons and move beyond her suburban hometown of Sacramento. While the film supports Lady Bird’s ambitions, she grows an appreciation for where she comes from that can only be acquired once you leave. This is a tender coming-of-age story about the difficult transition to university life.
For new experiences: Grace and Frankie
Grace and Frankie follows a pair of motivated women focused on rebuilding their lives after their husbands come out of the closet. The reason this ‘dramedy’ series about women in their 70s resonates with students is simple: they’re both highly motivated women who prove that the excitement for change experienced in Lady Bird doesn’t just stop when you reach a certain age. There are always new experiences to be had; the key is to keep trying.
For romanticizing studying: Gilmore Girls
There’s no show that romanticizes education like Gilmore Girls. This show actually understands the hard work and determination put in by students every day. It also reminds us how great it is to be in a place where our responsibility is to learn. It’s not surprising that Rory Gilmore has inspired an entire generation of motivated students. If you’re looking to stay motivated, don’t watch A Year in the Life, the sequel to Gilmore Girls.
For when things don’t work out: Frances Ha
Frances Ha is the companion film to Mistress America. This is a film that normalizes being in a place where you don’t have everything together quite yet, but that’s okay. Some things just take time, and university is one of those things. If you’re feeling down or things aren’t going your way, just take a deep breath and remember it takes time to find the right groove.