Do you ever specifically go to the movies for a reason other than the draw of the film itself? Ever listen to an album from a band that somehow keeps cranking out music years after their spotlight has faded? Ever forced yourself to finish a book from your favorite author or grind your way through another annual videogame sequel just because? In most cases, the idea of being comfortable goes a long way when it comes to how we consume entertainment. It’s why franchises are a thing, sequels and prequels and pre-sequels (those are real, I promise) come out consistently, why a popular artist always gets at least a few chances to produce something new and unique every couple of years and why we even have the term “superstar” to begin with: people want to be comfortable with how they spend their time and the easiest way to do so is to go back to what you like, what you’re comfortable with, and bask in that comfort for better or worse depending on the final product’s quality. It’s a way for us to judge what we consume before even experiencing what it has to offer, a way for us to take a chance without really having to take a chance, and most of all it’s a way for us to know what we’re getting ourselves into before jumping in headfirst and braving those cold entertainment industry waters alone.
Granted, in today’s world there’s often too much happening to consume everything all at once. There’s always a new movie out, always a new season to binge, always a new single to listen to or a new book to dive into. But why do we bother with any of this new stuff in the first place? Why, instead, are we obsessed with our favorite things, and in some cases defend them to the death even if they aren’t the best? It seems pretty simple when you think about it, and the main reason I keep coming back to is that we all just want to be comfortable with what we choose to enjoy and to keep that comfort for as long as we can, even when there might be bigger and better options out there.
For example, I’m a fan of the novelist Stephen King. I’ve read my fair share of his books and watched even more of his adaptations, but I can’t with complete honesty say that I enjoyed every second of it. There are books and films of his that I couldn’t stand, stories that I will never read again and even a few outlandish ideas that I even scratch my head over, but at the end of the day if I want to disappear into a fictional world for a few hours and don’t have any other books in mind, I’ll find myself circling back to King and his gloriously macabre tales of terror and weirdness that only he can deliver. He’s a comfort food of sorts, an artist that I know I’ll enjoy even if the particular book in question isn’t blowing my socks off and it’s here that my point is made. There’s always going to be something new and different on the horizon, something original to experience and obsess over, but sometimes it’s just better to return to what we know, to be able to wrap yourself in that blanket of reassurance for no other reason than the fact that you trust these artists to entertain you in one way or another, for better or worse. And most of the time they succeed, which is why the feeling exists to begin with, and why these artists become popular enough to continue to comfort people for years to come.
Sure, quality may vary and enjoyment even more so, but it all really comes down to the idea that we want to know our time is worth it, that we aren’t wasting it on something that’s not up to par. But when you inevitably end up watching a terrible film, listening to an underwhelming album or gazing on a less than stellar photo or piece of art, the smallest comforts are what keep you and hold you throughout. The actor you love watching on screen even through their most questionable choices in roles, the singer who belts out even the most imperfect lyric beautifully, the writer who just couldn’t close a great story out on the right note: we stick with these artists because they make us believe that even if we don’t like or enjoy what we’re consuming, there’s some comfort in knowing that it came from them, that even if it isn’t up to their standards there’s still something to like at the end of it all. It’s all fine and good branching out and finding something new to love – I encourage it actually – but when you don’t want to weigh yourself down with all that new, flashy content being shoved out there every few seconds, there’s nothing wrong with going back to the things that make you comfortable and keep you entertained. So keep up with the old and embrace the new because who knows, maybe your best comfort artist has yet to be found.