Reality TV vs. Re-Watching TV

We re-watch movies and binge-watching television shows that we have memorized. If we know the endings and we know all the jokes, why are we truly watching these things? One would say it is for the experience, but is not the experience lessened each time we re-watch something? In real life, if we go somewhere and have a great experience, we say we want to go back, but it no longer becomes as big as a priority as it was to go there the first time. Therefore, it seems as if we are more wanting of reliving movies and television shows than we are wanting of physically reliving our own lives.


People as a society are afraid of change. They know when something works and are afraid when it is tested or threatened. When we make a positive memory, there is a belief that going back to the place where that memory was made will not live up to the expectations we hold it to. So, out of fear, we live in memory unless we know for certain that our revisiting will provide another positive outcome. When you go to a restaurant multiple times, you know the food will be good because it is the same chef making your same food. Therefore that fear does not play a part in that scenario, but if you add something specific, like maybe you went there with someone really special and made a beautiful memory together, there is something sad about going back without them. My parents saw Les Miserables years ago and sat in the orchestra section. They said they could see the sweat dripping down the actors faces. It was so powerful and moving that they claim they can never see it again because it will never be the same. So they live in the memory of it; never to be altered.


When we engulf ourselves in different shows or movies, we become part of those worlds and part of those peoples’ lives. We grow a strong connection to them especially with television shows because we learn with the characters over a long period of time. Though it is fiction, the experience is real to us because the feelings that it evokes are real. When we re-watch them, we do so without fear because we know that nothing has changed. The different events or jokes that evoke such strong feelings from the viewers will still be there no matter how many times we revisit them. Therefore, there is no change to be afraid of. When new episodes or sequels are released, that is when scrutiny occurs. People often say sequels are never as good as originals, or that later seasons are never as good as the earlier ones. There are a good amount of people who refuse to watch The Office without Steve Carrell in it or who do not wish to continue watching a television show when they know terrible things are about to occur (Game Of Thrones anyone?). That is why living in the past, by re-watching episodes or the first movie of a series, allows us to enjoy without change. Let’s be honest, there are not many other factors that go into watching something on a screen, unlike watching something live. So the number of variables that would alter the experience are lessened. So we re-watch, sitting on a couch just like we did the first time, maybe with some popcorn in our lap, and we let the rest of the world fall away as our minds are guided through the unchangeable past that television and movies allow to remain our present.


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