50 First Dates – Nothing Beats a First Kiss

In 50 First Dates, Henry sets his heart on romancing Lucy. The problem? She has short-term memory loss and can’t ever remember anything that happened the day before. Every morning, Henry has to woo her again.

As this pattern is established, this scene shows Henry and Lucy kissing at the end of many different days, only to be followed by Lucy saying (every time), “Nothing beats a first kiss.” Henry, of course, knows that this is not the first kiss anymore. In terms of diminishing marginal utility, the first kiss (at least to Lucy) provides the highest level of marginal utility. Each kiss after that may provide positive marginal utility, but it won’t be as high as the first one.

Sadly, Henry is aware that this is not his first kiss with Lucy, and so he will experience diminishing marginal returns for each additional kiss that he receives.

Thanks to Amanda Mandzik for the clip suggestion and summary!

John Mulaney– Salt and Pepper Diner

John Mulaney describes a memorable experience of trying to play Tom Jone’s What’s New Pussycat 21 times in a local diner. It doesn’t take long for diminishing returns to set in at the diner as everyone but the waitstaff loses their mind. This is a great opportunity to queu up a song on Spotify and play the same song on repeat before class. Some of your students won’t notice, but many of them will raise and eyebrow on the 3rd repeat.

Thanks to Katie Klinko for the clip reference!

The Simpsons — No Diminishment for Homer

Homer and Marge head to the Frying Dutchman for the all-you-can-eat buffet. Heading late into the night, Homer doesn’t seem to be experiencing any diminishing returns even after eating all of the shrimp and two plastic lobsters. Even though he isn’t experiencing diminishing returns, Homer appears to be optimizing his utility since the marginal cost of each plate (and each plastic lobster) is $0.

Pat Dixon — The 5th Beer is the Best Beer

Pat Dixon describes how he loves the fifth beer because it makes him look good, which are good qualities for a day drinker. This clip can be used to teach about diminishing marginal utility and increasing marginal cost. For Dixon, the 5th beer is the optimal beer.

Cool Hand Luke — 50 Egg Challenge

In Cool Hand Luke, Petty criminal Luke Jackson (Paul Newman) is challenged to eat 50 eggs, but we can see the results of diminishing returns on the human body. Earlier in the film, they outline the rules of the game, but even with the help of some exercise and assistance chewing, Jackson barely makes it through the ordeal.

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