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Comfort Media: Security and Serenity in Familiarity

Over the course of the pandemic, pop culture and media became safe havens for people trying to escape the strange new reality. TV shows were binged, movies were examined, and new hobbies were picked up. Soon, people began finding comfort and safety in media they knew: rewatching, rereading, and reveling in that knowledge of what came next. Why? Why would so many people become invested in the repetition as opposed to jumping into anything else in popular culture?

Comfort media is defined as some form of media — meaning TV, movies, or books — that someone watches to derive some sort of safety from. This familiarity is valuable for many, meaning they do not have to breach the scary zone of the unknown, choosing instead to use that familiar media as a safe haven. 

Personally, comfort media has always been something mildly embarrassing, while also very reliable for me. A great example of this would be the infamous Cars spin-off Planes, but not the first one, the sequel, Planes: Fire and Rescue. Maybe there’s something in a feel-good story of a poor little plane getting injured and taking up a new noble profession, but the familiar Pixar-style animation and uplifting plot make the movie one of my absolute favorites. There’s honestly nothing I love more than curling up on the couch with a blanket and a mug of hot cocoa, just to turn on a childhood favorite. 

On the literary side of things, comfort books can offer different experiences with the same core idea of knowing exactly what comes next. A comfort book I hold close to my heart is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling, the sixth book in the series. Obviously, with her recent scandals and other not-great things she’s said, it’s been hard to support this book in my constant rereads, so I’ve had to turn to other options. A new favorite, harking back to my late-elementary school early-middle school days, has been the last three books in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, the series that came after the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Mark of Athena, House of Hades, and Blood of Olympus are great reliable stories with very few plot errors, and I’m at the point in my rereads of them that I can read them all in the span of a day. Perfect for one of those no-bones days, if you know what I mean.

Comfort media might be mildly embarrassing, but that’s beside the point. The real meaning of comfort media is something you can depend on and rely on, something that makes the days less bad, and just makes it a little easier to keep going. It’s really that push you need to continue to exist as a human being in a vaguely unfriendly world to many things. That comfort is at the heart of everything, and as long as it’s not hurting anyone, then it’s a good thing to put love and hope into.

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Fiona MacLaughlin

U Mass Amherst '24

Fiona is a sophomore Nature Resources Conservation major and Forestry concentration student at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is originally from Newtown Square, PA and enjoys books, conversations about books, and long walks on the beach.
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