Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final article in the Review’s series responding to the “What are you watching, Obies?” survey created by Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies Leah Vonderheide.
As the COVID-19 pandemic keeps us tucked away in our homes, it’s clear that a majority of us are finding solace in movies, music, books, and video games. The real world remains behind locked doors, but in the meantime, new worlds await us through pages and screens. To find out what shows, movies, and Youtube channels Obies are enjoying during this time, Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies Leah Vonderheide conducted a survey titled, “What are you watching, Obies?”
Looking at her survey results, the first thing I noticed was Steven Universe and Frozen 2 — both animated films that were primarily intended for younger audiences — tied for first in the “teary-eyed” category. While this initially caught me off guard, I realized there is an obvious explanation for their wins in that category. A movie like Frozen 2 takes us on a journey through magic, mystery, love, and tragedy, inevitably culminating in a happy ending. As audience members, we can safely invest our hearts and souls in the characters and their journeys, feel their pain and joy, but at the end of the day, the stakes remain infinitely lower than in real life, because we all know the story will end on a positive note. And why shouldn’t it? Amidst all the uncertainty that surrounds us, consuming media with a heart-warming resolution fits the needs of the hour.
This desire to consume feel-good content is apparent in other categories of the survey results, too. Of all of the shows mentioned in the top three responses for each category, half are comedies or animated media. Further, the raging success of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness — not only as a true-crime documentary but also as a treasure trove of meme-worthy content and the winner of the “laugh-out-loud” category — just goes to show the obvious: We are all looking for a good laugh to get through these times.
But humor isn’t the only evident trend, as Vonderheide discusses in her article “What are you watching, Obies?” Survey Results: Initial Reflections” (The Oberlin Review, April 13, 2020). The Office won in both the “comforting” and “rewatch” categories, and Vonderheide offered some possible explanations for these wins.
“Let’s assume that this is not your first time watching The Office — particularly since many of you suspect you will end up rewatching it before this is all over,” wrote Vonderheide. “If this is true, it may not be that The Office is comforting in itself, rather, spending time with familiar characters and predictable story arcs may act as a salve during these strange times.”
In my personal experience, I couldn’t agree more with Vonderheide. Just like the survey responders, I’ve rewatched a lot of my own favorites lately. In the past month; I have rewatched all of Community and The Good Place, along with my favorite episodes from Rick and Morty, Sherlock, and Supernatural. All of these shows, particularly Community, have a special place in my heart, not just for their rich storytelling and brilliant characters, but also because of the memories I associate with watching them. Be it with friends back in high school or binging during a long and boring weekend, these memories make me look back on the show fondly.
By rewatching my tried and tested favorites, part of me hopes to relive some of those memories, both on and off-screen. I plan to have a marathon of Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Wars series over the coming weekends — seeking an emotional refuge in the past. As a kid, I watched each of these series more times than I can count, and the spirit of that child will always find kindling and joy in going back to those films.
The survey results prove that many of us are seeking refuge in rewatching feel-good media during this distressing time. We may be stuck in our homes, but hopefully, we are also surrounded by friends or family to watch these nostalgic shows with, reveling in our shared memories of watching these favorites. For my part, I’ll look for as many laughs as I can, as many moments of joy that can be shared among the people I care about, no matter how far apart we may be.