The “Parasite” effect: What do we get out of rewatching movies?
With popcorn between my teeth after a third viewing of “Parasite,” I couldn’t help but wonder why the movie was just as good each time,
aside from the fact that it’s just that fantastic. Perhaps I only enjoyed visiting the new luxury movie theater in Chapel Hill. Because my cinephile mother believes movies are only meant to be seen once, I wondered what had compelled me to spend another 2 hours and 12 minutes watching a story, whose ending I already knew, play out in front of me.
But to what other form of art does this prejudice apply? I’ve always been taught poems were meant to be read and reread and paintings can be stared at for hours. Why should it matter how many times I watch the same movie?
For someone who balked when I heard the children my friend babysits for had been limited by a once a week Frozen-viewing policy, I’ve rewatched certain movies upward of ten times. The top contenders are probably Love Actually and Stuck in Love, not because they’re my favorite movies, but because I just really like watching them.
To better understand what about movies makes them so rewatch-able, I dug up some research from Cristel Antonia Russell and Sidney J. Levy about repeated pleasurable experiences. The study interviewed participants on their reconsumption of movies, TV series, books, and places.
They operationalized “the term reconsumption to refer to consumption experiences that consumers actively and consciously seek to experience again.” This is to differentiate them from habits, addictions, or rituals. To “reconsume” something means to have actively and willingly sought it out.
The results of the study revealed reconsumption provided people the same, or heightened, emotional intensity over time. It explains why I found “Parasite” equally as jarring the third time.
The study found “reconsuming can be an extraordinary experience, filled with the emotional luxury of delight, novel sensations, and intellectual insight.” They saw people were able to glean additional pleasure, nuance, and understanding from follow-up engagements with films.
As advertisers, how do we then create content people not only want to see, but want to see multiple times? What is it about a particular ad that gives it that same je ne sais quoi of rewatch-ability?
Maybe see if Bong Joon-Ho is available to direct a commercial.