Recently, I’ve been watching Criminal Minds for the first time. I’m a huge true crime kick – I’ve always been fascinated by it and read a lot of true crime novels growing up since it was something my mom read and young adult novels weren’t totally a thing for me growing up. I’ve been pretty much exclusively listening to True Crime Obsessed, Once Upon a Crime and Crime Junkie. I knew Criminal Minds was this insanely popular show, spanning years and years of new episodes and stories, and I fell in love with it.
I’m currently on season 12 and I had to take a break from it. Partly because, I mean, well, I’m in season 12 but also because it was getting overwhelming for me to watch and I almost dreaded watching it. The last few episodes that Derek Morgan, played by Shemar Moore, was in before he left was so emotional for me and I had to stop. Then Aaron Hotchner disappeared off the show due to some issues with the actor and I just couldn’t handle it. So I decided to take a break!
And I went to an old staple that I’ve watched about a million times – The Vampire Diaries.
And it really got me thinking about re-watching and why we do it so much.
When we attended WonderCon back in April, there was actually a panel that focused on re-watching and why we do it and it’s been on my mind since then because I am basically the queen of revisiting tv shows and movies and books. I spend a lot of time re-watching and rereading. I love when new things come out that I’ve been excited for – new books from authors I love, sequels to books that ended in torturous cliffhangers, tv shows that have been announced for so long. But I also love to go back to things I’ve already read and watched before. Why is that?
The fact is, the past year or so has been really hard on me. I know that I’m not the only one, of course. The past couple of years has really been hard on us all. Dealing with the pandemic was unexpected and guys, I don’t do unexpected. I don’t do surprises. My own anxiety leads me to being very, very anal about being in control and the pandemic was literally quite the opposite of being in control. In the middle of all of that, I got engaged and started planning a wedding, which if you’ve never done that before, it might be the most stressful thing in the entire world. On top of all of that, I lost my job of three years, completely out of nowhere, with no warning whatsoever and it left me scared and ill prepared to pay for bills and any of that.
I definitely felt like the world had turned upside down. Everything that I thought was going to happen no longer felt like it was going to happen. I had to constantly adjust. I had to adjust my lifestyle and the way I spend my money. I had to adjust the way that I live and work – going from a 32 hour work week (but paid for 40!) that felt so easy, sitting at a desk all day, wearing whatever I was comfortable in to working an inconsistent schedule of mornings and afternoons and evenings and late nights and never knowing what my paycheck was going to be like and how I was going to be paying my bills. I had to keep adjusting wedding plans because I didn’t know what the future held and what was going to happen next. I always felt like I had a handle on that but being laid off showed me that you can’t really predict the future and that is absolutely terrifying and debilitating to me.
Let’s be clear – things are great nowadays. There’s definitely struggles – grocery shopping totally SUCKS with inflation the way it is and gas at over $6 a gallon – but things are so much better than they were a year ago. I’m full time at Disneyland, working at Luigi’s Rollickin Roadsters, making a consistent paycheck and working on trying to move on up, to become a trainer or a lead or perhaps both. I’m married now and after all the ups and downs when it came to wedding planning, it turned out really great and went perfectly and I am SO beyond happy to be married to my best friend, the best guy that I know, so much so that we got matching tattoos. I don’t want you guys to think I’m in a pit of despair, because I’m not.
But when it comes down to it, I still feel like I return to the familiar. I started feeling kind of crazy about Criminal Minds and right now, as I’m writing this, I’m watching the newest season of Love, Victor and its giving me so much anxiety. I keep thinking – I should switch back to Vampire Diaries. I should watch an episode of Doctor Who. I should re-watch 90210 – the reboot, not the original, I’m a millennial haha – but I am telling myself to watch the show. I’m enjoying Love Victor but its definitely creating some uncomfortable feelings.
I think the reason I keep coming back to the things I’ve already watched or read before is because its so comfortable and familiar. When there are things in your life that feel out of control and unpredictable, you actively seek out the kind of things are the total opposite. I feel like I do this in two different ways.
The biggest way that I do it is by re-watching my favorite shows and movies or rereading some of my favorite books. It doesn’t matter that they might have bad guys or heartbreak or death or any of that. The fact is – I know what’s going to happen next, I feel in control while watching or reading whatever it is I’m revisiting. I already know what’s going to happen so I don’t feel uncomfortable and anxious. I also know that even though I might be sitting through a bad moment where it looks like the bad guys are going to win, I know they aren’t because I’ve seen this before, I read it before. I know that everything is going to be okay. I like knowing that everything is going to be okay. It’s comforting and familiar and honestly, it feels like a relief. While the rest of the world might feel uncontrollable and scary or just out of control, I can watch or read something that makes me feel opposite and that’s huge for me. I deal with a lot of anxiety, all of the time, and a lot of that comes from wanting to be in control and not feeling like I can be. Revisiting stories that I already know makes me feel in control, which is something I need. I’m glad that in the world of streaming, it’s something that is easy to do.
I also approach this in another way in that when I do try to experience something new, I try to read or watch things where I basically can predict how things are going to go. This usually manifests in me watching a lot of romantic comedies and reading a lot of romance, usually romantic comedies. Because I know how that’s going to end. Sure, there will be a little drama, a will they-won’t they, but at the end of that, we all know what’s going to happen. It’s going to be happily ever after. And those that aren’t are just absolutely rude and get bad reviews on goodreads. I’m kidding…sort of. But I do like a good romantic comedy read or movie because I know what is going to happen. Happily ever afters make me happy and they make me feel in control and I’m alllll about that right now. So if I do decide to experience something new, I like experiencing romance and happily ever after’s.
I know that I’m definitely not alone in this phenomenon and that there are so many of us that are caught in this endless loop of re-watching. We’ve all been through a lot and I really do mean a lot and it doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. Life hits again and again and again. We’re all stuck in this never ending rise in inflation and the absurdly high gas prices and wars happening overseas. There is no security when it comes to jobs and incomes because we are all seen as so replaceable and none of us feel very secure anymore.
I often feel guilty when I’m re-watching or re-reading things because I feel like I’m constantly “behind” on what’s current. There are all these shows and movies and books coming out all the time and when I first started What A Nerd Girl Says, I really wanted to keep up with everything so I could blog about it and stay up to date and current. But it can be so exhausting. Instead of wanting to read all the new books and watch the new shoes and movies, I sometimes just want to watch or read something I’ve already experienced before. I do feel guilty about that though! I have this time to watch or read and instead of choosing something new, something that I’ve purchased or downloaded, something that’s been recommended to me, I choose something I’ve already watched or read! It feels like re-watching and re-reading is a waste of time and its another negative feeling on top of everything I’m already feeling!
Life is so unexpected and so uncertain. We all often find our escape and our comfort in fictional worlds. Books and movies and tv shows, video games, comic books and all of that are created as escapes from the real world. Going back to the ones that we loved the most can create the most comfort and familiarity, can create the greatest escapes because they are the escapes we already love. I love falling in love with new worlds and new characters and discovering new authors and all of that. It’s one of my favorite things about reading and watching. But I also love so much when I love something so so much that I just want to return to it again and again because of how great it makes me feel, how happy it makes me feel and I think I need that a lot and I think a lot of people understand and agree with that.
So yeah, I’m stuck in a loop of endless re-watching and re-reading but I’m okay with that right now. I’m experiencing new things in small doses – a new episode of Ms. Marvel and Obi Wan Kenobi each week and yeah I’m struggling a little bit with the new season of Love, Victor because I have no idea what is going to happen and its giving me a COMPLEX. But once its done, I’ll likely go back to Vampire Diaries or 90210 and be comforted and happy in returning to characters that I love and stories that I know and enjoying the happy feelings that they give me and being content with that. I’m going to feel less guilty about not keeping up with all the things that I think I should be “keeping up with”.
What do you guys think about re-watching and re-reading? Are you a fan of it? Or do you read or watch something once and leave it be after that? I’m super interested in seeing what other people think about the subject and would love if you guys would share below!