Comfort Videos

shrekThose of you with pre-school kids probably know this phenomenon quite well:
“Okay Mikey, what do ya wanna watch?”
Shrek II!”
“But we just watched Shrek II.”
Shrek II
“Come on Mikey, we have dozens of other videos that we can watch…”
Shrek II
“But…”
Shrek II

And so you and your four-year old spend the afternoon watching Shrek II for the fourth time that afternoon. What’s up with that? Why are young kids that way?

Clearly it isn’t a “logical” thing, and I certainly do not assume to have some deeper understanding as to why little ones want to continually watch the same videos (of equal interest is the phenomenon discovered by an enterprising video producer that one can “entertain” pre-schoolers for hours with videos that follow the big machinery around in construction sites… no dialogue, no plot, just a camera following the bulldozers or cranes, but that’s another story). Anyway, recently I noticed that I was also demonstrating this propensity to viewing the same video over and over again (though not usually repeatedly during a single afternoon, but that was probably more a “time” thing than anything else).

This is not exactly a new phenomenon with me. Way back when (10-years ago), while living with a girlfriend, I used to throw in the same video tape when I did laundry (she did the kitchen and bathroom, I got laundry duty… I think I got the better deal). I had recorded the PBS series The Astronomers and for whatever reason I continually played the tapes when I needed something interesting on the tube while I folded laundry. I didn’t play this tape every week, but I did it often enough that it stuck in my memory.

lost in translation DVD coverMore recently the video of choice has been Bill Murray’s “Lost in Translation.” When I saw the film in the theater it struck a cord with me (fish-out-of-water, middle-aged-dude re-evaluating everything, finding someone interesting but unavailable, non-Hollywood ending). So when the DVD was released I grabbed a copy and found myself putting it in the player on those late nights after studying or working or just to hang-out with Bob and Charlotte as they stay up all-night exploring Tokyo and Japan.

Actually, I think that last observation is the key (and also why pre-schoolers do this too). I’m not really watching a movie. I’m hanging out with old friends. I feel a certain affinity to the characters’ struggles, and I’m attracted to the other-ness of the culture that’s the background to their story. I want to go to the party at the designer/surfer’s house. I want to join in on the “lounge lizard” singing at the Karaoke booth in the Tokyo high-rise. It’s a reality that seems to be completely foreign to my own existence but I like visiting Bob and Charlotte whenever I find myself working past midnight.

So, what is your comfort video? What do you watch (or more appropriately, whom do your visit) when you want to get away? JBB

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