Is it an attempt to reconnect with our former selves?
My main source of comfort whenever I was consumed by anxiety and dread would be to crack open the first Harry Potter book. I’d start by reading the first few chapters of The Philosopher’s Stone until I calmed down, lost in a story that I had read many times before. If I was in a particular Hogwarts mood, I’d find myself rereading the entire 3,407-page tome, and I think that’s a perfectly normal way to cope with the woes of adulthood, thank you very much.
As much as I enjoy discovering new things to love, there’s just something about revisitation that sparks something else in me, fanning the flames of fandom, so to speak. When I rewatch or reread something, part of me pretends it’s “research,” and that I’m excavating new epiphanies, new nuances that I didn’t pick up the first time through. Sometimes I do find gems and new connections that weren’t apparent to me before. Sometimes it’s just nice to visit an old friend.
When School of Rock came out, I watched it once a day for a week. I didn’t particularly love it, not really, but I suppose there’s something comforting in knowing what to expect. Each Christmas, after The Fellowship of the Ring came out on DVD, I begged my siblings to watch it with me. They begrudgingly indulged me — perhaps it was holiday cheer? — and the viewing grew to an epic nearly-12-hour marathon that even I couldn’t keep up with.
A third rewatch of Veronica Mars finally revealed to me the appeal of LoVe, or Logan/Veronica, arguably the series’ most popular pairing. I had to get over my staunch anti-Logan stance to see that, yes, it didkind of work; and that, no, it didn’t come out of nowhere, like I had previously insisted. And it wasn’t until round three of My So-Called Life that I realized I connected most to Rickie — not Angela, like I’d thought — and that while Jordan Catalano was an enormous jerk, so was Brian Krakow.
I wonder, too, if consuming something at a particular time in our lives affects they way we view things. If I had seen Rushmore any earlier or later in my life, would it still hold the same importance to me, as a person? Would I find Max Fischer’s relentless pursuit for romance and redemption impossibly endearing? Or pathetic? When asked for an introduction in my first Philosophy class, sophomore me obnoxiously said, “Everything I learned in life, I learned from Max Fischer” — to the sound of crickets and confusion! Years later, that same Philo prof, who had been working his way through Wes Anderson’s oeuvre, messaged me to say that he wished Max Fischer was real so that he could punch him in the face. There, too, was a time when I worshipped High Fidelity, and now all I want to do is make Rob Gordon/Fleming a mix with no track listing and a One Direction song for every odd-numbered entry. I wish I had read Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit when I was much younger; I wish I hadn’t read many of the books I read instead, at all.
I used to chalk it up to gross nostalgia and sentimentality, but the urge to revisit certain literary and cinematic works probably runs much deeper than that. Is it an attempt to reconnect with who we were when we first encountered these things? Is it a particular need to feel those feelings again? Do we just miss certain characters, plot points, a simpler time? Do we find new thoughts, feelings and ideas in new media that we connect to the old things that we hold dear?
Lately, I’ve been trying to avoid rereading and rewatching, for the sole purpose of experiencing new books, films, TV shows, ideas. The other night, though, I was in a mood — a pretty bad one. And although I had many unwatched films and TV shows sitting pretty in my queue, I did an about-face and picked one I had already seen, one that had been on my mind for a while. This time around, there was nothing new to discover about Pacific Rim. What happened the first time I saw the film still happened, as is usually the case, and my allegiance to or distaste for any character hadn’t shifted. But, lost in a sea of worry and anxiety about what is to come for me and the rest of us, I was able to forget about all of that, even for a little bit. If I didn’t know what was in store for me, at least I could root for the Jaeger pilots and the Newts in the future’s distant, (im)probable outcome.
And okay, maybe a small and distant part of me even rooted for the Kaiju.