Growing up, my family had a fixed weekday routine — come home from work or school, eat dinner and watch our shows. “M*A*S*H”, “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “NCIS” were some favorites. We also have a shortlist of movies that, when on, are assumed to be what everyone wants to watch. I could, scene by scene, describe to you “Happy Gilmore,” “Ghostbusters” or “Dumb and Dumber,” though I’m not sure this is worth bragging about.
I’ve always been ambivalent about watching the same things over and over again. I’ve worked hard to distance myself from my family’s habit. But it is both interesting and ironic how deeply our families influence us.
Over the course of this semester, I have watched “The Office” three times over, and I am going back through it again. My family’s old routine now parallels my own: school, homework, come home and watch my show. This baffles my roommate and even my girlfriend. They don’t understand how watching Dwight Schrute throw a watermelon from the roof onto Stanley’s car for the tenth time can delight me as much as it did the first. And quite frankly, I’m not sure I understand it either.
Yet I am not alone in this. Americans love their reruns. We struggle to let go of childhood loves — look at the pantheon of remade Disney movies or the expanded “Star Wars” universe. Look at the popularity of the new “Harry Potter” books. I’m not the only one who prefers the road well-traveled.
Perhaps it’s a defect, an inability to move on from old, tired affections. From the outside I imagine it looks strange, me on the couch, absorbed in the same storyline I was absorbed in a month ago. Did I forget that Jim and Pam end up together? Am I afraid to love another TV show?
Perhaps it is a sort of fear. In life, we often love the safe comforts of what we know more than the dark prospects of the unknown. We often waste too much of our lives clinging to old passions and loves, demanding from them the impossible burden of becoming new again; if we let them go, we might be able to experience newer and better ones.
It is important to recognize that it is love that keeps us interested in our favorite shows, books and movies. Devotion to rewatching and rereading is a mark of love; you experience love when you want to be with that someone or something as often as possible. At some point, we feel like the characters and the world are ours. We feel as if they belong to us, and we to them.
This is a strange thing to feel for a TV show, yet I think it’s one of the best explanations for why I will watch “The Office” happily for the rest of my life. I’ve watched it so many times I feel like a part of the gang or at least have come to love the gang so much that their lives become mine.
I can’t tell you how often I randomly chuckle at something Michael Scott or Kevin said or did as if they were friends of mine whom I had hung out with just the other day. It’s a strange feeling to confess, giving real love to fictional characters. I’m not embarrassed though. On the contrary, the routine my family instilled in me will most likely continue in a permanent rerun, and I’m OK with that.
Scott Stinson is a UF English senior. His column appears on Wednesdays.