Happiness isn't happiness without a violin playing goat... or so I've heard it said
Do you ever find yourself watching the same television shows or movies over and over and over again? Or binge-watching entire series’ of shows that you’ve already seen? I can SO relate! If you know me, even just a little, you probably know that I’m obsessed with The Big Bang Theory and watch it whenever it’s on. You may even know that I fall asleep watching (mostly listening) to Frasier on Netflix. If I happen to find Monk or Psych on the channel guide, there’s no question about what I’m going to watch. Most of the time, when I watch these familiar shows, they serve as background noise while I’m on my computer or folding clothes or tidying-up the living room. Other times, it’s a stress reliever – a way for me to decompress – where I veg-out on the sofa, eyes half-glazed as I let the familiar words and characters distract me from the day.
Tonight, I found myself watching Notting Hill for easily the 50th time. I waited expectantly as William Thacker (Hugh Grant) noticed Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) walk into his Travel Book Shop, hopeful for the moment they would make eye contact and casually flirt while discussing his books on the country of Turkey. My heart skipped a beat when Anna Scott kissed William Thacker after she’d gone into his flat to change her clothes and ring for her car after he’d spilled orange juice all over her. I laughed repeatedly with Anna Scott when William Thacker said “whoopsidaisies” twice after fumbling two attempts to climb over the gate into the closed-in community.
Ronan Keating’s version of “When You Say Nothing at All” had me mesmerized once again while Anna and William wandered around the quiet park-like residential enclosure. Near the end of the movie, I held my breath when Anna went back to the book shop asking William if they could have another chance, with those unforgettable words, “I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” I thought all hope was lost when he responded with a resounding “no” until his friends encouraged him to try to catch her before she left for America. When “She” by Elvis Costello played during the ending montage of Anna and William’s relationship, I fell in love with the movie all over again.
Apparently, the repetition of watching familiar programming is common enough to be studied by psychologists. According to an article on Medium(dot)com, it’s said to be therapeutic for those who are anxious because it can “reaffirm that there is order in the world.” Lists have even been maintained to track things like the most re-watched films. (In case you’re wondering, Back to the Future, Dirty Dancing, and Die Hard remain in the top ten.)
I’m not a trained psychologist, but based on my own experience, I agree with the “therapeutic nostalgia” idea that they present. When I re-watch my favorite shows or movies, there’s definitely an element of the warm and fuzzy nostalgic predictability that I find comforting. Even though I know that Anna Scott and William Thacker will end up together, I still enjoy watching the connection between them develop from that first meeting in the book shop, to their common appreciation for Chagall’s La Mariée painting with it’s violin-playing goat, to their wedding shown in the ending montage with a violin-playing-goat wedding cake. After all, as Anna and William concurred, “Happiness isn’t happiness without a violin playing goat.”