Repeated Viewings: the familiar and the comfort food stuff

May 3, 2016 — Leave a comment

Why does someone return to a film… many, many times?

I reflected and googled and reflected some more.

Overall, it comes down to the idea of simply liking the movie and how many times you are going to get the opportunity of being exposed to that movie.

Now, let’s expand some thoughts.

The more you like something, the more you’re bound to select it. It’s easier on the brain to process because there isn’t anything new to do because you know how it would end. But, based on the idea of mere-exposure effect — “a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them” — we will most likely come back to that movie if we have seen it enough times.

It’s not a 100% thing but it raises the chances much higher.

I’m thinking about times when we’re all channel surfing and discovering something we haven’t seen in a while and just staying on for the rest of the ride. It’s easy on the brain and we chill out and enjoy the ride.

Mmmmmm — comfort food :P

Familiarity can make us connect to a story better. This also goes to things we may have seen or experienced in our lives. It can draw up correlating memories. A good WWII film can bring up certain memories for any war vet. A tragedy romance can also do the same to anyone who had something similar.

But what if we never experienced anything like that before? Sometimes, it’s like drawing the next best thing and subbing that feeling in to experience or relate to what is happening. Similar to what some method acting classes instruct their students to do. Drawn upon what you know and subbing in that memories for that emotion you need.


Also, think of the way we watch sports and how we simply get so into it when we watch our favorite team wins or collapses at the last moment and breaks your heart by losing. This effect also explains why we react when we watch others get hurt in epic fail reels of sporting accidents. There is an emotional connection to how we passively watch others participate in action.

But when it comes to some repeated viewings, we need to look at it in two perspectives: nostalgia and therapeutic.

Movies like Dazed and Confused (1993) can easily bring us back to the cool times of high school. A great war film can bring a mixed bag of emotions for any war veteran. Sometimes a movie can help satisfy a longing of some time period, like helping us remember our childhood memories.

Take, Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass (2015) — a Vietnamese movie that took place shortly after the war but in a remote area where it was more simple and less technology ridden than modern Vietnam. The movie did well to attract many ticket buyers due to the simple fact that it was going to expose you to things you haven’t seen in a long time and stirring our forgotten memories back to life.

The movie itself wasn’t that great at all but it served its purpose in trying to manipulate the audience in the right way to succeed.

This goes hand and hand with the therapeutic reason.

Once we see a movie, we know how it ends and the overall effect of the movie. So, when we want to feel a certain way, we pick certain movies to rewatch because we just know those movies will give us the mood we desire. Think about the comedies or feel good movies on days when you feel like crap. Think about the guilty pleasures that make us feel so nice when we just want something simple that doesn’t require much to process.

It’s a big mixed bag of less thinking and expectations of feelings.

There are also many subcategories and reasons why we return to a movie but a lot of these are based on social commentary and technical aspects:

  • the masses say it’s really good or bad / reassessing the movie
  • it’s a director’s cut / special edition / restored version, etc.
  • shock value: it’s a strange oddity or a “trolling” movie
  • ambiance / background noise
  • learning more about the craft

Overall, no matter what perspective you’re coming from, it’s all about some sort of emotional connection. Understanding how and why we return to movies, we can say that familiarity and expectations plays a huge part in the picking and choosing of future/new movies and television shows choices.

I think this is an important thing to keep in mind when pursuing and prepping the next story to write. Or even during the revision stages. It is important to play to expectations and anticipations and then trying to flip it on its head — a whole different topic to discuss but also important. We’re not always going to want a typical ending. Sometimes we expect a surprise or unique or different.

But, remember, in the search of giving us something familiar…

“What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.” ― Alfred Hitchcock


… don’t be boring.

Works Cited.

Allen, George D. “Repeat Viewings.” MovieFanFare! N.p., 17 Sept. 2010. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.

Thompson, Derek. “On Repeat: Why People Watch Movies and Shows Over and Over.” The Atlantic. N.p., 10 Sept. 2014. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.























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