“Are you still watching?”
This is the prompt that appears when Netflix is concerned that you’re spending too much time in front of the screen. Most of us have been there—a rabbit hole of content that winds up an hours-long spiral of binge watching. Personally, this happens more often than I’d care to admit.
For me, it’s usually series like The Office, Parks and Recreation, Jane the Virgin, or Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve watched these shows multiple times and can vividly recall the plot of each episode. So, why do I keep watching?
When streaming sites like Netflix became popular, television addicts like me no longer needed to wait a week for a dose of their favorite shows. Even better, I could watch all of the episodes I loved over and over again.
I know I’m not alone in my obsession with reruns. Many people find that knowing the ending to a show or episode helps them avoid the anxiety that comes with viewing new content. Personally, I re-watch shows when I know that a specific episode or genre will be entertaining based on how I’m feeling at the time.
When I want to be grinning and giggling, I watch Michael appreciate Pam’s art in Season 3, episode 17 of The Office. When I need a good cry, I’ll brace myself for the plane crash that killed the beloved Lexie Grey in Season 8, episode 24 of Grey’s Anatomy.
When you know which shows are familiar sources of guaranteed entertainment, you don’t have to risk wasting an hour of your life on a movie or episode that doesn’t live up to your expectations. When the credits are rolling, you’ll know it was worth it.
Re-watching is more than just having an affinity for a certain episode, genre, or film. It’s about achieving the catharsis that cinema aims to provoke. Harry Potter inspires wonder, just as The Haunting of Hill House thrills and Drumline creates nostalgia. In a time when the reality of the world is disappointing, I can find solace in the complete viewing satisfaction of a movie or show I know is entertaining.
The pandemic may even be the best time to turn to the classics for comfort. Media psychologist Pamela Rutledge put it aptly: “We’re basically exhausted all the time because we’re under the stress of uncertainty. So what do I want to watch that will give me some comfort and some rewards that’s easy, that doesn’t drain my energy but gives me some back?”
Finding comfort in the known is important during an era of social-distancing and self-isolation. Under a constant barrage of stressful public health headlines, escaping into our comfort shows and movies is an excellent way to distract ourselves.
If, at the end of a long day, you don’t want to be watching the last episode of an incredibly long and drawn-out series to find its ending is subpar at best—yes, I am referencing Game of Thrones—perhaps opt for a rerun. There’s no shame in admitting that Twilight is your go-to—right?
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