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Rampant rewinders risk monotony, but revel in familiar content

Despite the fact that streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu and HBO Go are constantly releasing fresh content for us to watch, we often gravitate toward watching oldies but goodies. The pressure to catch up on new content is overwhelming, so instead we find solace in old content that we’ve watched before. 

Trying new things is fun, but then again, there is always joy in the familiar. Why watch that new show your friends have been raving about when you can binge reruns of “Friends” or “Seinfeld?" 

Nostalgia plays an important role in how and why we come back to our favorite shows, movies, music and books. The idea of reminiscing on childhood and adolescence when we are well into adulthood is therapeutic and somewhat existential. We love and enjoy the things we grew up on, and revisiting these things evokes warm and fuzzy feelings. 

If a movie or TV series is perceived as objectively good and memorable by someone, it’s likely that they would want to relive their experience with it. We get the opportunity to notice more plot-holes and savor the nuances in storylines we love. 

Reliving pop cultural experiences can manifest in the form of traditions, like watching “Home Alone” during the holidays, or even addictions, like watching all seven seasons of “Gossip Girl” on loop for the rest of eternity. 

Adishi Ranjan, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, believes that we rewatch content because we attribute sentimental value to them. 

“The main reason I rewatch stuff is to feel nostalgia. In a lot of the shows I watch, I know of different episodes that can satisfy certain moods. I’ll watch a certain type of episode to recreate an emotion I want to feel,” she said.

Additionally, boredom and convenience are significant aspects of habitually consuming the same media content. We can get a lot of passive work — spring cleaning or cooking — done when we have an enjoyable and familiar TV show playing as white noise in the background. 

“I know almost all the words to the Harry Potter films because I’ve watched them so many times since I was a kid. I don’t really have to put a lot of thought into watching them, so I can concentrate on doing passive work. For active work, I sometimes like listening to the Harry Potter series’ soundtrack so I can still get some sense of nostalgia,” Ranjan said.

Another reason why we return to the same content over and over again is to gain new perspectives on the stories and characters we grew up with. For instance, I was recently told that the name for Wilmer Valderrama’s enigmatic and goofy character Fez in “That ‘70s Show” stood for "Foreign Exchange Student." While this conceptually made sense, it still surprised me greatly.

Interestingly, the on-screen characters and relationships that we idealized growing up change when we become more self-aware adults. For example, at the time that two quintessential shows about American friendships — “Friends” and “How I Met Your Mother” — were released, the relationships of Ross and Rachel and Ted and Robin were highly romanticized by writers on the show. Looking back on these shows in 2019, many fans of both shows can come to a consensus that these relationships were at times very toxic.

In retrospect, a multitude of classic TV shows and movies we enjoy — particularly those that come under the beloved and popular genre of romantic comedies — are morally and logically flawed, lack diverse casts and perpetuate terrible stereotypes that still persist in media and society today. 

Fortunately, the backward tropes of the past are changing. Romantic comedies in the past few years have evolved for the better, as seen in films like Netflix’s diverse “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and the millennial-empowering chick flick “Someone Great.”

While serial repetition is a fun pastime, there may come a point where we eventually reach our saturation point. It’s important not to neglect the greatest of the latest content out there. 

“I don’t think I’m missing out on new content because I still watch newer shows like ‘Jane the Virgin’ and ‘On My Block.’ However, I don’t really find myself attached to these shows the way I feel attached to ‘How I Met Your Mother.’ I like watching older shows because it’s kind of like learning about what happened in a certain era through interesting historical references in the show,” Ranjan said.

It seems like a healthy mix of old and new makes for a well-rounded reading, watching or listening experience. 

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