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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Finding Respite: Shared Joy Through Movies and TV Shows

One writer explores Dartmouth students’ comfort movies and TV shows.

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For plenty of students, myself included, movies and TV shows are a great escape from the endless quest for maximum productivity. The 30 to 60 minutes before I go to sleep each night are spent watching some sitcom or another, breaking up my busy days in the name of relaxation and self-care. 

Starting a new show or movie can be somewhat daunting, which is why I find myself returning to the same ones over and over again — taking comfort in the repetitive events, in always knowing what happens next. Maybe it’s because each day here on campus is so unpredictable. So much of our energy is consumed daily, and watching familiar events play out is a soothing reprieve. 

According to Nicole Anaya ’25, rewatching shows is a creature comfort. 

“I’ve watched ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ a lot — I never get tired of it,” she said. “I think maybe it’s because they have so many seasons and episodes. Sometimes I forget what happens in each episode, so it doesn’t feel like I’m watching the same thing over and over again, and I still get the novelty from it.”

Comfort shows are the perfect choice for when you need to unwind by “mindlessly watching TV,” Sarah Levesque ’26 explained.

“[My friends and I] have been watching things like ‘Modern Family’ and ‘New Girl’ recently,” Levesque said. “I feel like Dartmouth is so busy that you don’t have time to watch things very in-depth or shows with a lot of heavy plot … [Some shows are] very comforting because they were things that me and my friends all watched in childhood, and so it was just super enjoyable to feel that nostalgia.” 

Consuming familiar media allows us to revel in childhood memories and take comfort in emotions we associate with a less stressful time in our lives. Nostalgia is a key motivator for rewatching “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and movie series like “The Hunger Games,” which Daniel Chen ’26 cited as favorites. 

“The live-action [Avatar show] tried to be very faithful to the original animated series, but they did have to twist a few things in order to gain a larger audience, so the original animated series will always win for me,” Chen said.

We sometimes get hooked on particular shows or movies for reasons we ourselves can’t explain. It’s as if they possess a magnetic pull, captivating our attention and igniting our imagination. The charisma of certain characters, the allure of a well-crafted storyline or simply the comfort of familiar tropes and themes all resonate with us deeply. In these instances, the appeal lies beyond logical analysis — it taps into something more visceral and instinctual. 

“If I could only watch one movie for the rest of my life, in this moment, I would choose ‘Little Women’ — just because I love ‘Little Women’ so much, and purely for that reason,” Levesque said.

Garima Dubey ’25 also spoke about the nostalgia of “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” which she too rewatches “a lot, mostly because there are so many different versions.” Her watchlist is further populated by movies that most would consider timeless early 2000s classics. 

“I’ve … watched classic American movies like ‘Clueless,’ ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘She’s The Man’ over and over again,” Dubey said.

I’m no stranger to the charms of nostalgic movies, especially when it comes to rom-coms —  titles from the early 2000s like “27 Dresses,” “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “13 Going on 30” are among my most frequent rewatches. These are by no means perfect films, with predictable plotlines and recycled character archetypes, but their simplicity makes them undeniable guilty pleasures. I recently watched the 2023 release “Anyone But You” with some friends, which didn’t quite reach that tier of those other whimsical romantic films — I found myself commenting on the absurdity of the plot quite a few times. But I can still say I liked the movie, probably because I watched it with friends. I now associate the film with my memories of that evening, of our laughter and cringing and playful arguments. 

Some of my best memories at Dartmouth are from nights like that one, staying in on weekend nights and watching different movies and TV shows with friends. It’s a bonding experience unlike any other, especially with shows that are perfect for discussion. 

“With a show like ‘The Bachelor,’ something that’s more communal, I got together with my friends and had watch parties,” Anaya said. “It was really fun. I think it's just a nice weekly time that I have that I know I’m gonna [be with] my friends and just relax.” 

There’s a special quality in introducing your friends to a piece of media you enjoy. I watched “The Bachelor” for the first time this past season — spring break gave me two weeks of endless free time — and though I still find the show’s concept a bit strange, I can’t deny its entertainment value. It’s fun to get a glimpse of the contestant’s lives, learning about their passions and motivations and analyzing why they do the things they do. I watched the finale on campus with friends who had never seen the show before, and even they found themselves entertained. 

Dubey described the frequent “Suits” watch parties she has with friends, adding that she has enjoyed being introduced to other people’s favorite shows. 

“One of my friends is really into Korean dramas, so sometimes I watch [those] with her,” she said.

When you’re watching TV with friends, the media itself doesn’t matter much. It’s the act of coming together and laughing, discussing characters and theorizing potential plotlines that gives the experience its unique value. We’ve all taken time out of our busy schedules to sit together and enjoy a movie or show, and that’s beautiful.

“I loved watching ‘Euphoria’ with my friends when it was still airing,” Chen said. “Just having something to watch and something to discuss was a lot of fun.” 

As we navigate the demanding terrain of college life, the ritual of unwinding through movies and TV shows emerges as a cherished sanctuary. Whether it’s revisiting beloved classics for the comfort of familiarity, or embarking on new viewing adventures with friends, the act of watching together fosters a sense of community that extends beyond the screen. As the final scene fades and the credits roll, the true value lies not in the show or movie we’ve just finished but in the moments we shared and the memories we created.