My mom has watched “Friends” start to finish so many times that everyone in my family has lost count. She’s on an agonizingly slow journey to recovery from a stroke a few years ago that has left her without energy to do very much other than watch TV most days. This year I’m pretty sure I saw her blast through all 10 seasons in a matter of weeks, only to dive into another back-to-back rewatch.
We all have that friend that has seen “The Office” 15 times. You know the one — the friend that has hundreds of “Want to read” books on Goodreads, but never fails to spend each summer re-reading “Harry Potter” front to back. Sometimes they’ll even have the audacity to ask for your music recommendations, only for you to catch them listening to Blonde on Spotify for the eighth time that week.
I think everyone has that one special show or book that you can’t help but return to over and over. The 21st century is insane because anyone with a cell phone in their pocket has immediate access to millions of books, movies, shows, albums and games at their fingertips. We’re also firehosed with new content to consume on a daily basis — more than is humanly possible for any sane person to keep up with. All that limitless potential for novel artistic consumption and I still dump hundreds of hours into replays year after year.
Why do we keep coming back?
For some students, rewatching their favorite shows and movies is a way to cope with a busy college lifestyle.
“A lot of the appeal of rewatching the things you know you like is you already know what’s gonna happen,” Engineering junior Jacob Renard explained. “It’s good background noise, and there’s just enough going on that you don’t have to pay full attention to it.”
In college, time is a luxury few can afford. Watching something new is a commitment. It demands full attention — but not if you’ve already seen it. Rewatching something you know you already like is actually extremely efficient. It’s a guaranteed source of comfort to pad the stress of constant homework without actually costing any precious time. A comfort rewatch, even in the background, helps you maintain your sanity despite a stressful schedule.
It’s pretty straightforward to choose a rewatch for Renard. “I’ve had a long day, I’m just gonna throw something on that I know I like,” he said.
“New Girl” is his rejuvenating rewatch of choice. “It’s always funny to me,” he said. “There are jokes that I’ve laughed at every single time.” For any overworked student, it just makes sense.
For other students, a rewatch is a little more personal.
LSA senior Shihua Lu has rewatched the same 80-episode TV series, dozens upon dozens of times. “I watch it almost every day because I watch it when I’m chatting with my friends, I watch it when I do homework, writing … I was even planning to see a therapist (about it),” she laughed.
Lu’s addiction is “My Own Swordsman,” a TV series she described as “a Chinese version of ‘Friends.’” I’d never heard of it before, so I tried to watch an episode I found on YouTube to see for myself. I couldn’t understand a single word, but I quickly felt a sense of inherent coziness from the vibrant cast of tight-knit characters. There’s definitely an alternate universe where my mom grew up in China and fell in love with “My Own Swordsman” instead of “Friends.” I could immediately see why Lu might feel so attached to the show. But her connection to it goes a little deeper than just a comforting rewatch.
“When I was in primary school I was actually bullied by a lot of classmates,” Lu said. “I always wanted to have a very close friendship or relationship with other people. So I guess that’s why I rewatch it over and over again, because I think that’s the kind of relationship (I wanted).”
Lu’s words brought me back to my own childhood — I too was bullied in elementary school. I remember wishing I had a close friendship, a yearning that persisted with every passing friendless year. I had my own comfort show for the same reason as Lu: “Toradora,” a romcom anime following a close-knit class of high school friends. I first saw it in middle school, where the absence of friends had me mentally spiraling. Watching the joyous companionship in “Toradora” tapped into one of my greatest vulnerabilities. I so badly wanted to experience those heartfelt friendships with my own classmates. To this day, it’s the only TV show I’ve ever rewatched more than once.
After growing attached to “My Own Swordsman,” Lu sought out the kinds of friendships like those depicted in the show. I remember doing the same thing with “Toradora,” flipping through my yearbook and wondering who could be the Kitamura to my Ryuuji.
Where quality time is hard to find, rewatching the antics of a tight-knit friend circle can grow to feel like a comforting, familiar presence. “I’m the only child of my family, and my parents are busy, and I don’t have my grandparents with me,” Lu explained. “So I kinda watch that TV series as company. I treat them as my family members.” It reminded me of the way my mom always compared our family to “Friends.” Whenever my brother does anything remotely funny, she calls him Joey.
When most people think of a “comfort” watch or a “comfort” read, I imagine they might think of shows like “Parks and Recreation” or books like “Harry Potter.” The stereotypical easy-watch comedy or easy-read nostalgia trip with cozy characters to grow attached to. Where a rewatch or reread is kind of like a warm hug.
Engineering senior Liam Russell’s warm hug is the menacing Batman classic “The Dark Knight.” Not a cheery comedy or classic kid’s book, but one of the most grim superhero movies out there. Still, a cold film can make for a warm sentiment.
“I would watch it with my brother almost all the time,” Russell reminisced. “It reminds me of my childhood, sitting in front of the big TV with my brother just watching the movie.”
“The Dark Knight” is one of the most critically acclaimed films of the 2000s, but it’s far from being warm or comforting on paper. I watched it when I was a kid too, and all I remember is Harvey Dent’s disfigured face and ruthless killing spree. But our memories are powerful, and “The Dark Knight” is transportive for Russell. Where rewatching “My Own Swordsman” and “Toradora” brought Lu and me to a place we wished to be, “The Dark Knight” brought Russell back to a place he’d been before — the place he fondly remembered watching it, his childhood, sitting in front of the big TV with his brother.
Russell’s warm hug in the video game world comes in the form of “Dark Souls,” a gloomy and unforgiving action RPG. Replaying it also brings Russell back to the time he first experienced it.
“Dark Souls” is known for its oppressively depressing atmosphere. It follows a cursed undead protagonist on a pilgrimage to discover the fate of their people. Not the warmest or fuzziest story, but it hasn’t stopped Russell from replaying it five or six times now. In fact, the darkness of “Dark Souls” is part of the draw for him.
“Comfort is different for different people,” Russell said. “And for me, comfort is escaping into another world, but not another world where everything’s easy … it isn’t a walk in the park, you still have to work hard, and I sorta like that attitude.”
The game is notorious for its extreme difficulty curve. When Russell first played it, he got stuck pretty early on and came close to giving up. True to his philosophy, he worked hard and persevered until he beat it. But what if he never did? What if he gave up and never finished it, and “Dark Souls” never entered his replay rotation?
I wonder how close I’ve been to experiencing a work of art that would have become extremely important to me if I’d just given it a chance. Like Russell, some of my favorite movies and video games are so important to me because of the time of life they return me to when I play them. I also have memories of sitting in front of the big TV with my brother, and “Paper Mario” is the video game that brings me back to those times. It’s a cheery, upbeat and comical game with a sense of humor to it that has always felt close to my own, but I wonder if nostalgia is all that ties me to it. If my brother and I had been playing a different game together instead — even something considerably less up my alley — would it have become just as important to me, regardless of whether the game itself resonates with me?
LSA junior JC Garcia re-reads “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” every year precisely because they see a piece of themself in the book. “I saw myself as Charlie,” Garcia said. “I was him. We were the same person.”
Like Russell, Garcia finds comfort in rereading a less traditionally cozy story. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” follows Charlie, an introverted high school freshman, as he navigates relationships, sex, drugs and mental illness.
“I didn’t think something as thought-provoking and as intense as this was something that I would want to revisit willingly,” Garcia said. But the book’s portrayal of mental health was inspiring for them. Every year, they buy a new copy, re-read it and gift it to a friend along with a note about what it means to them and why Garcia is passing it along. By the end of our conversation I was convinced that no other book could have been the one to touch Garcia’s heart.
“I think it’s the first book I’ve ever truly loved,” Garcia said. Their favorite quote from the book is one that can mean something completely different to each person that reads it: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” As human beings, we grow and we change and our heads are never in the same space at any given moment. I think that’s why Garcia can come back to “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” every year and feel moved by those words. It’s not just a re-read — it’s like experiencing it from a different lens.
Everyone I spoke to had their own reasons to replay something. For Renard, rewatching “New Girl” is reliable. For Lu, “My Own Swordsman” feels like family. For Russell, “The Dark Knight” and “Dark Souls” are nostalgic. And for Garcia, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” resonates on a deep level.
What we find comfort in isn’t ever just about one of these — it’s about all of these working in tandem to make a replay feel so right. At the intersection of familiarity, nostalgia and personal connection, I’ve found myself moved to replay so many movies and games and albums. I’m starting to think that the revolutionary first experience is a little overrated. It’s a means to an end, a voyage into the unknown to find something precious and replayable. And when we find that show, that book, that movie that brings us comfort when we go back to it, it’s something special to be cherished.
My family and I will always poke fun at my mom’s obsession with rewatching “Friends,” but I’ve come to appreciate the show for always bringing her comfort amid her years-long recovery. Everyone I spoke to shared the same sentiment, but I think Garcia put it best: “I think you should have no shame in what you find comfort in. I think if it works for you, it works for you.”
Daily Arts Writer Dylan Yono can be reached at email@example.com.
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