There was a post on Twitter the other day where the user said something along the lines of “people who suffer from anxiety tend to rewatch the same TV shows because we already know what’s going to happen next, therefore it creates a sense of safety/comfort.” Is the tweet scientifically accurate? I’m not sure. But the tweet went viral, most of my friends had retweeted it, and it was soon cross-posted to Facebook, where even more of my friends shared it. It obviously resonated with a wide variety of people.
Despite all of the new content being thrown at audiences from all of the different streaming services, in the last couple months, many people seem to be drawn to their creature comforts of TV shows and films. Even though audiences like something new and exciting, sometimes we simply crave the familiarity of our favorite shows and films.
Unlike a comfort TV show, which seem to follow the same format of being episodic (as in the episode has a storyline that wraps itself up in the episode and doesn’t require watching previous episodes to understand) and easy to watch, comfort films tend to be a wide range of films.
A person’s comfort film might be a nostalgic one, a film that was the first that they saw in theaters or watched with a loved family member or associate with specific memories. It might be a film that someone puts on when they need to have a good cry at a scene or a film when they need a pick-me-up. It might even be a film that a person has watched so much, they can have it as a white noise or background noise as they work on something else. From what I’ve seen, most people’s comfort films are a mix of nostalgic and pick-me-up films that help to put them in a better mood. It seems that a person’s ideal comfort film allows them space to confront and acknowledge their feelings and gives them the ability to escape, just for a couple hours.
I’ll use one of my comfort films as an example – Mamma Mia! (dir. Phyllida Lloyd, 2008). In one of my classes, we had to study this film and I was unashamed to tell everyone that at one point, when it was first added to Netflix, I watched it at least once a week for a few months. It is a fun film, it might not be the greatest in terms of acting and plot, but it is fun to imagine being on a sunny Greek island and laugh at Pierce Brosnan trying to sing songs by Abba. It has a heartwarming portrayal of a mother/daughter relationship as well, which lots of people tend to love because it reminds them of their relationship with their mom. It is a film that is unbearably light, that doesn’t take itself too seriously, that seems to wrap you up in a warm blanket to make you smile, that helps you to escape. It is not my favorite film, but it’s my favorite film to watch when I’ve had a rough day of class and work.
When I asked my friends what their comfort films are, their answers were all similar. Classic Disney animated films, light-hearted comedies, upbeat musicals. When I asked if they had watched their comfort films more frequently during the pandemic, they all replied that they had. Being able to return to a film that you know and love inside and out is comforting in uncertain, anxiety-fueled times.
Rewatching a comfort film gives viewers the sense of confidence that they know things will work out in the end, even if the real world is a bit more muddled.