“Didn’t you just watch that?”
“Isn’t there anything else on?”
I have heard those lines, and others like them, for as long as I can remember. I am a repeat watcher. If I find something I like, I will watch it over and over, as if it was stuck in the wash cycle of my mind. It just keeps spinning.
This is something that I have done since I was a kid. I adored the movie The Muppets Take Manhattan and would watch it over and over as if it was on a loop in my parents’ living room. I had quite a few that I watched time and time again as a teenager as well. And as an adult, I find myself watching the same movies continually as well.
Tonight, I am watching The Holiday for the 900th time. There is nothing about this movie that I do not love. I love Kate Winslet’s character. She is my favorite. And to be honest, I adore Jack Black in a romantic role. I wouldn’t have pictured him in the role, but now I can’t imagine anyone else in it.
I should be folding laundry. I should have collected the junk from the dining room and sorted it out. I should be reading the book that I keep saying I want to finish, but when I have time, I am too tired to keep my eyes open. And it is a book that I really want to finish. But, it’s supposed to be spring and edging into summer, and when that happens, I read outdoors. I can’t bring myself to read of the couch when I “should” be outside. However, it is Michigan, and collectively, we Michiganders must have sinned against humanity in some major way because we had snow yesterday.
So, I am instead watching The Holiday for the 900th time. And I’m chuckling because I too rock out to “Mr. Brightside” like Cameron Diaz’s character in the film, and I play a mean air guitar like Kate Winslet does. Only most of the time, I scream the lyrics while running on the treadmill or throw a fist in the air while running outdoors. My neighbors probably think I am insane. As they rightly should. My other “go-to” movie is Practical Magic, and my mantra for life (paraphrased from the film) is “being normal denotes a lack of courage”.
I have a list of “go-to” books too. There are just some that I can’t imagine living life without. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was the first book I read in the semi-autobiographical genre and introduced me to critical thinking and feminist theory. The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I love Joyce. His complications of the English language astound me, and I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand Stephen, but who is every fully understood? He’s the most human character I have ever encountered. There are a hundred books on my “go-to” list depending on the situation.
I am a creature of habit, and I love these “go-to” films and books. There is something comforting about reading or watching the same story unfold time and again.
This tells me something about how storytelling works for me.
I develop a bond, emotional and psychological, with my favorite characters. There are parts of myself reflected in them and replayed in front of me. While not a perfect mirror, I am reminded of something that matters to me, to who I am fundamentally, as a person.
My mom and dad read to me every night when I was young. And when I was a preteen and when I was a teenager, I fell asleep with my glasses smashed into my face and a book thrown open. I fall asleep with television shows and movies playing.
Because at the heart of it, I must love hearing a bedtime story.
And is anyone really “too old” for that?
I tell stories, but hearing a good story never gets old.
There have been times when I have felt closer to my fictional character friends than the real live people closest to me.
Good stories are cathartic for me. I find something in them that shapes a part of me, no matter how many times it’s the same story.
There is a comfort in “sameness” and a story that I can predict. I have taken it as my own. Even if I know how the book or the film ends, my story hasn’t ended (thank goodness), and repetition for the sake of artistry isn’t lost on me.
For a reason that I might not be able to see, I need those stories, and I need my characters to shape and develop me.
I don’t know what I’m looking for in my favorite stories, but I do know that the friendship and the kinship that I have developed with them is serendipitous.
I love stories, and tonight, while I listen to rain and thunder, I’m spending time with friends. The friends I have met through art and technology. If those don’t seem to clash…
And I wonder, who else is doing the same?