Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Reconsumption

What is it about watching the same movie or TV show over and over? Why do some books survive repeat readings? Well, it’s partly because with reconsumption you pick up on different aspects of the story – details that you missed the first time, or the tenth time. And partly it’s your brain wanting that reliable reward - every time, guaranteed - whether that reward is delight, thrills, or consolation. It’s also a way to gain insight into your own life and gauge how you’ve changed over time.

Anyone with kids will know that they love to have the same stories read to them, over and over and OVER. It’s comforting and familiar, and repetition has some actual sciencey benefits too: children learn vocab much faster through repeat readings and they gain a deeper comprehension of, say, exactly where is Spot.

We’re going way back here, but for me as a tween (although tweens hadn’t been invented then) my most-thrashed movie was the Parent Trap (1961) starring Hayley Mills AND Hayley Mills (see what they did there??). This was when you had to rent movies on VHS from your local video store – there were no easy downloads straight to your phone – but I still managed to borrow it so often that I learned all the dialogue by heart AND drove my family completely crazy.

When I re-watched it as an adult I was absolutely shocked at how TERRIBLE the story is! But it's good-terrible. Hayley Mills stars as identical twins, Sharon and Susan, who were separated from each other as babies when their parents divorced. Each parent took a kid, Dad took Susan to California and Mom took Sharon to Boston, and they never told them about their sister. Can you imagine? These details are just glossed over in the movie. It’s Disney. There is no bitterness, no family therapy, not even a “how could you lie to me for my whole life?!”

The twins meet at summer camp and decide to switch places. (Sample quote: “You must bring Mother to California. Boston is no place to rekindle a romance.”) I think this was the big draw card for me: an opportunity to have a complete change of scene for a while: new city, new family – what fun! The twins have a good old time meeting their long lost parent and plot to get them to meet and fall in love again. (At confession time: “Let’s get this straight. I’m not Sharon I’m Susan. Sharon – your Sharon – is out in California with Daddy, swimming, riding and having a keen time while I’m stuck here with these lousy music lessons and I hate them!”) The spanner in the works is Dad’s new girlfriend, icy blond Vicky who’s out to get his money (Vicky: “You're a big girl now, Susan. You're old enough to understand that wonderful, delicate mystery that happens sometimes between a man and a woman.” Sharon: I know what wonderful, delicate mystery Daddy sees in you. And I can't say I blame him there, either. You're very nicely put together.”)

You get the idea: pranks, shenanigans, misunderstandings, camping. And a happy ending. Even I can still see the appeal in all that, even if the premise is seriously suspect.

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