The feelings gained from a piece of art you love – in any form, from fine art to television and song– are some of the most personal emotions one can have. Your bond to that work, whether in admiration of its craft, themes, “so me” value, or the pure escapism it brings, is unique to you. It shapes your perception of it, and if unchecked, it starts to shape you back. We’ve all experienced a piece of art for the first time and stood in awe of the emotion it brought us. Connection to art helps form our personalities, find others who share our interests, and provide an outlet through which our inner emotions can be let loose for a few brief moments before we’re needed to return to the reserved normalcy of social life.
This is not obsessive. These feelings are shared by everyone at some point or another, relationships forming between art and person infinitely through time. Rarer though are the works that truly bury themselves deep within our thoughts; art that completely and utterly resonates in ways difficult to explain, manifesting into life compulsively. Rewatching episodes you love is normal – watching the same episode every day for a week is when things start to go off the rails.
In my sophomore year of high school, I watched The Social Network four times in one week for many of the reasons one obsesses over works: it was tragic, brilliantly put together, and endlessly quotable. This alone may not have endeared it to me as strongly if it weren’t for how I had been feeling that week of my life – isolated, confused, and in need of emotional release. On my first watch, by the finale of the film (where the semi-fictionalized Mark Zuckerberg is left alone, refreshing the Facebook page of someone who hates him) I was so enthralled by everything I had just watched, pummeled by the quiet devastation the movie built up and unloaded onto me, that I was deeply attached to it. I needed to see it again.
The subsequent watches helped me understand why I was so obsessed; from the perfection of the casting, almost resembling a Shakespearian drama as performed by preppy Harvard students, to its interrogation of future isolation brought through the dawn of social media. It was an eye-opening piece of filmmaking on its own, but as something that spoke to my fears and worries at that moment of my life, it was catastrophic. Its most painful moments looped in my head for days, and it was clear I was rewatching simply to stew in those feelings.
Did this help me work through some of those emotions? Maybe, but the rewatch is a double-edged sword, and every attempt to recapture the original feeling dulls its power for future observations. It was more akin to coping than searching for any new revelations about movies or myself. Yet it remains a part of who I am, a reminder that no matter where I end up in life, I will have once watched The Social Network four times in a week. It’s no way to live, but the rush of allowing yourself to become completely obsessed with a piece of art is unforgettable and links that work to you forever.
Art by Ashley Yu