Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Fairy Tales and Fantasy for Artists - p17

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 Why Do People Rewatch and Reread Stories?

by Ty Hulse

A Valuable question for any entertainer to ask is; “why do people seek to reexperience a story by rereading or rewatching it, or by watching its sequels?” People don’t simply seek entertainment for its own sake, rather they seek to experience specific emotions during specific moods. (Vorderer, Klimmt, and Ritterfield, 2004.)

The seeking of these emotions is more than just a desire to feel something, it is a way of balancing one’s psychology, which is the risk one takes when making a sequel. Since people watch a film or read a book to feel something specific, it is likely that they engage with sequels to feel the same thing they did when they participated in the original. Because of this a sequel that doesn’t instill the correct emotions will be rejected, as it will have failed to help people deal with the stress, depression, sorrow, boredom, etc., that people needed to deal with, and so will leave the viewer’s needs unsatisfied and possibly cause them to be more stressed and depressed than before they watched it. 

 

While we have discussed the three primary psychological gratifications [hedonic, transcendent, and eudaimonic] that people will seek out, Mood Management Theory indicates that people seeking emotional experiences will usually prefer an intermediate amount of emotions, rather than to feel extreme emotions. That is, as Zillmann’s (1988) research found, people will seek to avoid states of boredom and high arousal or stress. Thus, people who experience stress will often watch something calming, such as light comedies or travel shows. This is where rewatching films such as Princess Bride or even Star Wars can be useful, as the films familiarity can allow people to relax while still alleviating boredom through emotional arousal. 

What this means is that the most rewatched films, stories, and even video games tend to be the ones that aren’t overly emotionally stimulating. The same appears to be true about mental stimulation. It is likely that people want worlds that are compelling enough to get us to wonder and consider them, but not so complex that we have to struggle to understand them. This has certainly been found to be the case with the philosophies a movie espouses as well. Movies that explore broader philosophies, which leave people with room to discuss and ponder what the story and world are saying, but aren’t overly complex or ‘preachy’ are more likely to be successful. Specifically, Oliver, Hartmann, and Exploring found that the best philosophies for movies to explore are often ‘that life is a fleeting gift that we should enjoy rather than squander it’, ‘that there is virtue in our inner beauty,’ ‘that human endurance can prevail,’ ‘and we should have faith in our own convictions.’ 

None of these philosophies leave much room for disagreement, in large part because they are so open ended that while they might be emotionally meaningful, they aren’t complex or specific to any one ideology in the most common American cultures.

Take, for example, what a person being interviewed about why they rewatched Forrest Gump stated: “The overall theme is that you don’t have to be smart, rich, or famous to have an important life. If you have a good heart and live to do good for others, you can find reward in everything you do.”

The first psychological lesson—from Mood Adjustment is that you don’t need to create a high-minded drama, as these likely have no more value than a comedy or light action movie. Lucas Nielsen, in his journal article Marvel Films as Effective Cinema Therapy, states that “These episodic films and the content of superheroes provide a form of therapeutic benefit in coping with trauma and establishing trauma narrative.” In other words, the repeated positive emotions associated with strength and triumph of good over evil can help in therapy, so it would make sense that these things can help people in general. This same thing is true of video games. Those who are feeling stressed prefer easier, low demand video games, while those who are bored prefer to play higher demand video games. 

 

According to the statistical company FiveThirtyEight the most rewatched movies include;

 

1 Star Wars

2 The Wizard of Oz

3 The Sound of Music 58

4 The Lord of the Rings (series)

5 Gone With the Wind

6 The Godfather

6 The Princess Bride

8 The Shawshank Redemption

9 Harry Potter (series)

10 It’s A Wonderful Life

11 Forrest Gump

11 Grease

13 Dirty Dancing

14 Pulp Fiction

14 Titanic

16 The Lion King

16 Pretty Woman

18 Casablanca

19 The Matrix

19 The Notebook

21 Star Trek

21 Finding Nemo

23 Goodfellas

24 Pride & Prejudice

25 Caddyshack

25 The Avengers

 As one should expect these movies would provide people with a goodly mix of emotional gratifications.

 More than personal gratifications, however, Patricia, Et al. found in their research on the most rewatched films in Portugal that the most sought after gratification was the social aspect, or as they put it, “because it inspires me to talk about the movie with others.”

This is an interesting finding, although not entirely surprising, that the films people enjoy the most aren’t happy or sad, they are the films that people can easily talk about. This is a second reason that fantasy and sci-fi films have an advantage. The worlds of these films and the world they create invite people to speculate on, to ponder, and question. 

 When it comes to the three most popular fantasy books for youth of the last couple of decades; Harry Potter’, ‘The Twilight Saga’ and “The Hunger Games’, Garmon, Glover, and Vozzola found that young people reread and rewatched these stories primarily because they satisfied entertainment and sensation-based gratifications. According to this idea people are most likely to want to engage with something which makes them happy, whether that is music, film, or games. Such entertainment allows people to forget their responsibilities and worries for a time. Nearly as important, in the sensation dimension, people prefer films and stories that include intense and powerful stimuli. Such films are often fast paced, and filled with action scenes, quick pace funny moments, or any moment which provides a level of vicarious excitement to the viewer.

 

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