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Why Do We Keep Rewatching Movies and TVShows?

Comfort food, but for your eyes.

You may tell others that you have plans for the weekend, but deep down you know it's just you, a cheese pizza, a tub of ice cream, and a rerun of Bridget Jones' Diary all while lounging on your couch. Or, on a day when you feel lonely and believe that everyone else has a better life than you, you watch the Thanksgiving episode of Friends for the hundredth time and feel as if you are a member of their group. 

Why Do We Keep Rewatching Movies and TVShows? Despite having countless options, we end up going back to that one show again and again. Have you ever thought why? Let's find out!

Having The Office on repeat as noise in the background and replaying the entire ten seasons of Friends over the summer (oops) are surprisingly unusual feats; in fact, I am writing this with Brooklyn Nine-Nine playing in the background. Some people find great comfort in watching the same movies and TV shows over and over, and researchers believe it can even become a beneficial nostalgic experience.

Watching your favorite childhood film is an easy way to travel back in time. While you may not be the same age as when you first watched the film and may be far away from home, the sense of comfort and nostalgia it brings is unparalleled. Isnt it? 

OTT platforms have evolved into a never-ending content production machine, providing us with an endless supply of entertainment at the click of a button. I'd like to think I'm not the only one who feels a little intimidated when I open Netflix to find a new movie or TV show to watch because I feel obligated to watch everything at once. The seemingly never-ending stream of new titles added every day, combined with the new(ish) feature that allows trailers to play automatically when you hover over them, has made browsing Netflix an ordeal in itself.

If you're a particularly dedicated person (which could never be me!) and don't use the 'My List' feature as a black hole for films you might want to watch one day, you'll probably waste at least twenty minutes picking what to spend the next two hours of your life doing. The issue is that there are far too many choices to consider.

Simply put, decisions can be difficult to make. Some people will settle for a rerun after browsing unsuccessfully for a while. Why? Because an old favorite never fails to please.

Tanya Percy Vasunia, a Mumbai-based psychologist and published researcher, echoes the sentiment, describing it as self-soothing during uncertain times, similar to catching up with old friends. She says, "When you know what's going to happen, it's extremely relaxing. Using your favorite TV shows as a means of escaping is an unwinding exercise because these characters are close to you." She also believes that the iconic catchphrases popularized by these shows can be used for self-expression. "People who struggle to express themselves frequently adopt qualities from the characters they admire—for example, when someone says, 'Joey doesn't share food' when discussing their habits or, 'May I interest you in a sarcastic comment?' like Chandler Bing. These small processes can assist you in expressing emotions that were previously difficult to express," she says. 

Although you're likely to notice a few details you missed along the way, this lack of unexpectedness is exactly what some people find comforting. Knowing the ending beforehand ensures that you'll get the emotional payoff you're looking for. When Ross, Chandler, and Rachel are carrying the massive sofa up the back stairs, we are waiting for Ross's outburst of impatience. When he finally yells the iconic "Pivot!" phrase, it feels enormously satisfying.

The comfort that the audience feels while watching and rewatching those same shows or movies is a major reason why films like Legally Blonde, Gossip Girls, and even some Disney shows are getting reunions and reboots. It's because these films and shows evoke nostalgia, a sense of knowing what will happen and thus patting yourself on the back for being dead on about how everything will end. 

So, why do we devote so much time to them, even though the sense of surprise has been removed?

Because we know precisely what will happen, we experience a strange conjuring sensation in which the characters appear to be taking our commands. On the other hand, one could argue that the reason we enjoy watching the same movie or television show over and over is that repetition breeds attachment. If we've been exposed to something before, we're more likely to enjoy it. This is known as the 'mere exposure effect', and it explains why routine events are easier to absorb. 

Therefore, re-watching something is a simple way to regulate your emotions when they become out of control. It can be extremely therapeutic, especially if you are feeling anxious. Psychologist Pamela Rutledge confirms this, explaining that watching the same entertainment piece repeatedly reaffirms that there is order in the world and that it 'can create a sense of comfort and security on a primal level.'

Uncertainty fuels anxiety, and at the end of some of the most stressful days, we fantasize about cuddling up in our blankets and watching that one particular all-time favorite of ours simply because we know the good guy will always win, the monster will be defeated, and the cute couple will share a kiss after the big fight; we know for a fact how these films and shows end. Rewatching comfort shows is deeply rooted in the human need for feelings of belonging, stability, and pleasure, and it provides many people with a timeless source of comfort and joy. It's all about the rewatch, rewind, and repeat. Movies and tvshows movies and tvshows movies and tvshows movies and tvshows movies and tvshows


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