You wanna get nuts?! Let’s get nuts!
Seinfeld, the seminal sitcom about nothing, is apparently full of educational value. At least that’s what medical students at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey are finding out.
Since 2009, associate professor of psychiatry Anthony Tobia has instructed third and fourth-year medical students in the psychiatric rotation of the hospital to watch the evening reruns of Seinfeld on TBS. The following morning, the students begin their rounds discussing the various mental disorders exhibited in the episode. Tobia calls the teaching device “Psy-Feld.”
Tobia says that Psy-Feld isn’t a course itself, but it is required for his class. His thinking is that with a show centered around some of the worst friends a person could have, there is more than enough fodder for psychiatric discussion. “When you get these friends together the dynamic is such that it literally creates a plot,” Tobia told NJ.com, “Jerry’s obsessive compulsive traits combined with Kramer’s schizoid traits, with Elaine’s inability to forge meaningful relationships and with George being egocentric.”
Tobia is convinced enough in Psy-Feld that he has a whole database of the show’s 180 episodes and even published an academic paper on how five of Elaine’s boyfriends demonstrate different kinds of delusional disorder. It doesn’t include a statistical analysis of sponge-worthiness, unfortunately.
As for other characters, they are “very sick,” says Tobia. “We actually have talked about Newman…and related him to Erik in ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’ The Phantom, while he starts out as being the tutor to the Prima Donna, actually has his life change and he is bent on revenge and that becomes who he is… and that’s Newman.”
This isn’t just burning class time by watching TV — students in Tobia’s class reportedly appreciate the pop-culture hook, saying that it gives psychiatric principles more practical and relatable examples than a textbook could.