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This is when a character reveals that she or he was educated in (or is being educated in) a field or subject that is unexpected for the character. Typically, this gag takes the form a college minor, as per the title suggests.
For example, a tough macho man could minor in Women's Studies or a ditzy society girl is minoring in Particle Physics.
A great, if narratively cheap, way to showcase Hidden Depths. Bonus Points if this comes up at a plot relevant moment and not just as small talk. In such a situation this can act as a justification for a Deus Ex Machina or Ass Pull (possibly softening the blow). Sub-Trope of Suddenly Always Knew That. Compare Subject 101. See also Minored in Asskicking.
Anime & Manga
- Gambling Emperor Legend Zero has the comic relief idiot Yakuza answer a ridiculously difficult quiz question and reveal that, because his father was a diplomat, he knows a lot about world geography and international relations.
- Dragon Ball Abridged: Team Four Star's Nappa graduated from Sayian University with a major of Child Psychology and a minor in PAIN.
- Doctor Jeremiah from Code Ment has a PhD in Ass kicking, a Bachelor's in Pain and a minor in Women's Studies.
Films — Live Action
- In Mr. Holland's Opus, it becomes a minor plot point that that the school's physical education teacher "minored in modern dance."
- James Bond himself, in the film version of You Only Live Twice, claims to have earned a first in Oriental languages from Cambridge. However, he only says this to Moneypenny and never demonstrates any great language skills, so it's possibly an exaggeration or joke.
- The James Bond books actually do emphasize Bond's language skills quite a lot.
Films — Animated
- In Monsters vs. Aliens, the Mad Scientist Dr. Cockroach (who turned himself into a half-cockroach monster while working on a teleportation system, in a Shout-Out to The Fly) turns out to have a very plot-relevant degree.
My Ph.D. is in DANCE!
- Vicki Nelson in Tanya Huff's Blood Books surprises vampire Henry Fitzroy by having heard of him. She explains that she was a history major in college. In the TV series, it's changed to a minor.
Live Action TV
- Adam frequently makes jokes to this extent about Jamie in Myth Busters. While it's true Jamie has done some peculiar things — like being a licensed SCUBA instructor — most of them are made up by Adam on the spot for the lulz. Most of them gags on Jamie's age, such as offhanded mentions of his supposed actions during the Great Depression, though it is a fact that Jamie has a major in Russian Literature of all things.
- A Running Gag on Greek is that Cappie has supposedly majored in pretty much anything plot-relevant.
- A stripper in Bones mentioned majoring in Criminology while giving Booth a lapdance. In another episode, Sully mentions having minored in kinesics - he knew what a scapula was.
- The Have I Got News for You perennial gag of Paul Merton's CSE in metalwork.
- Annie Cartwright, quiet and put-upon mild-mannered WPC of Life On Mars, turns out to be a psychology graduate.
- Used as a joke in an episode of Full House. Normally straight-laced uptight Danny reveals that he's an ace at billiards since he played it all through college. Another character challenges him to darts and, when Danny scores two bullseyes in a row, Danny says, "I minored in Darts."
- Mad Men: Betty majored in Anthropology.
- Fighter from Eight Bit Theater minored in an ancient, almost unreadable language, making him a Genius Ditz. Even though he never went to college.
- Roy from Order of the Stick took goat herding instead of horse riding as his compulsory animal husbandry class in fighter college, because it sounded like a easy A.
- The Real Man who plays Qui-Gon, and now Amidala, in Darths and Droids is doing a Ph.D. in geophysics. It turns out he is a serious academic in Real Life, but it counts for this because the focus of the story is on the events of the game, and he likes to shut his brain off in those.
- Captain Bob Smith of Legostar Galactica took a "Complex Linguistics" course at the "Academy"... which explains why he can talk to the engineer's cat (he also claims he can speak Wookiee and "a few other weird languages").
- In Questionable Content, Faye studied Art at college, and Raven has started studying Physics.
- Kari of Crimson Dark took "Applied Riftspace Dynamics" in flight school. Not very useful for a fighter pilot.
Kari: I had a crush on the tute leader. [beat]. Hey, don't give me that look. I was seventeen, give me a break.
- Trigger Star has Sauerkraut, who has a masters degree in Liberal Arts and Finance, and paid for her education by using her football player physique to crush various monsters and people for money. Easier than getting a student loan, anyways.
- In one episode of Futurama, Bender mentions that he went to Bending College, majoring in Bending and minoring in Robo-American Studies.
- In another episode, we even got a flashback to him getting this "major": as you would expect, it consisted of a data upload to his head. And then getting a diploma via robotic arm.
- In the first "Anthology of Interest" episode, Zoidberg says that he took correspondence courses in Murderology and Murderonomy.
- Jim "I'd Rather Not Talk About It" Moralès of Code Lyoko seems to have an Expansion Pack Past composed entirely of these, in Noodle Incident format.
- Kim Possible: Dark Action Girl and Super Villain's Sidekick Shego majored in Child Development, which is plot-relevant when it's introduced but still unexpected.
- The Veggie Tales spoof of Star Trek had this conversation:
Junior: But why ask me for help?
- In Sifl and Olly, Sifl reveals that he only has, "8 doctorates, one is just a masters in theoretical biomechanical interplanetary advancement".
- An early pre-Flanderization episode of The Simpsons has Flanders joke that he had a PhD in "Mixology" and make Homer a cocktail that gets him immediately hammered.
- In the crossover game Poker Night At the Inventory, the massive, ultra-violent mercenary Heavy Weapons Guy from Team Fortress 2 reveals that he has a PhD in Russian Literature.
Tycho: "Does that come in useful in your line of work?"
- Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, claims to have a degree in violence.
- Indiana University apparently offers a B.A. in Magic. Actually a subversion: IU offers a "Build Your Own Major" major. It's the same way New York Times Crossword Puzzle Editor Will Shortz got his degree in Enigmatology.
- Uwe Boll holds a doctorate in Literature.
- Thanks to Polish psychologist Andrzej Łobaczewski, students may now recieve an actual degree in evil--ponerology, in his terms. It's the study of societal causes of sociopathy and social injustice, although nonetheless his students can legitimately claim to have least taken a few courses in evil.
- Indie actress and screenwriter Brit Marling majored in Economics at Georgetown University and was offered a job with Goldman Sachs, then turned it down to pursue acting.