Rewatch and relax; Psychology behind comfort films

Madison Fetherston, Reporter

      Rather seeking a new show or film to indulge in, you may be one of many who find themselves rewatching old favorites; and there is a likely scientific explanation. Psychologists have suggested that those who are especially prone to illness such as anxiety and/or depression find comfort in rewatching a film, rather than processing new information while watching something new.

     Whether it’s a childhood classic, a cheesy rom-com, or an action packed adventure, the comfort and control found in watching a “comfort film” is therapeutic to the busy mind. Psychologist Neel Burton explains that the nostalgia that stems from rewatching a favorite film or show is a form of consolation and it provides an “escape”. He claims that, “For a low effort act, this provides a high reward, as the human mind loves predictability.”

      Researches along with Neel have suggested that the sense of nostalgia that stems from this source of entertainment may help one idealise a time when they were in a positive state of mind. Along with this, research has shown that nostalgia can create a sense of optimism to take into the future and aid with unfavorable emotions. This act of self care allows the viewer to distract their mind in a healthy way, similar to other methods such as reading, hiking, or exercising. 

     After relaxing with an old favorite, a variety of benefits have been gained. After watching a comedy, a sense of well-being may be enhanced as stress hormones levels decrease. Romance films offer a similar benefit as they aid the viewer in coping with external issues. Meanwhile, the adrenaline produced during a horror film viewing leaves the viewer with a similar feeling that they would get after riding a rollercoaster. 

     Even fast-paced classics such as a select film from Harry Potter, Star Wars, or a Marvel movie can be calming when the viewer has seen it multiple times in the past. The comfort in knowing what’s going to happen next relaxes an anxious mind. This was seen during the beginning months of quarantine, as streaming service subscriptions skyrocketed as entertainment and a source of distraction during isolation was desirable. Some indulged in old favorites, some found new favorites, and many of us somehow ended up watching Tiger King. 

     Melissa Winter, social studies educator at North Harford agrees with these studies, “We love them and can watch them every time they come on TV. From a psychological perspective, they bring back a sense of nostalgia. For whatever reason, those movies resonate with us in some way, so whenever we rewatch them they can revert us back to a time of safety, reassurance, or just happy memories, in other words, similar times.”

     When responding to a poll, student’s favorite comfort genres ranged from comedy to horror. Despite the diverse events that take place in each genre, people simply find comfort in knowing how the film ends. The guy gets the girl, the hero beats the bad guy, and Ferris Bueller successfully plays hooky.