Why I Revisit My Childhood Favorites All the Time

Illustration for article titled Why I Revisit My Childhood Favorites All the Time

I watch a lot of television and read a lot of books. I don't think that's going to shock a lot of people. It's literally part of my job. I'm at the point where no one really questions how much I watch or read. But the secret is: I spend way more time revisiting old favorites rather than new things.


Image: I <3 2 read by Kate Ter Haar/flickr/CC BY 2.0

My mother and I have this fight a lot. She does not understand why I constantly re-read things, why I own more than one copy of my favorites, why I bother to buy DVDs of things I've already seen. And the answer is that I get something more out of it every time.

There's a dog-eared and annotated copy of Good Omens that I keep because it's the one my friends and I passed around to each other. It has all the notes in it that we shared, and re-reading that copy is enriched because of that. I also have a clean copy that I go to if I want to experience it fresh.

Books like Good Omens — stories involving prophecies, heists, or mysteries — are particularly great re-reads because all of the clues are there. I may have missed them the first time around, but revisiting the book means I can tease out the foreshadowing. The best example of this is actually Harry Potter. For the longest time, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was my least favorite of the books because I couldn't see how it related to the larger story of defeating Voldemort in the present. Once the whole series was out, it became clear that there was a lot of groundwork laid in that book. It's still not my favorite, but I was wrong to casually dismiss it.

Discworld is another series I re-read all the time. As a completionist, I always want to have read or seen every book or episode or movie in a series. There's a need to get through the book and get to the next one, to finish it and find out what happens. How it ends. Re-reading is an opportunity to slow down, to really notice what's been created. Going back to re-read Discworld, I tend to stick to a few favorites. Or pick one set — like the Night Watch — and track the arc of those. I can pick a single character to focus on, instead of the implication for the whole universe.

And then there are stories enriched by my experiences. Books with places I had never seen or referencing history I didn't know when I first read them can become something wholly new once I started traveling and learning. And stories about people in college or high school used to be aspirational, but now they're nostalgic.


Then there are the things I loved as a kid that I don't enjoy nearly as much now. Which can be almost as important as revisiting things I still love. I spent a lot of my elementary school years loving I Dream of Jeannie, a show with gender politics that I now question a lot more than I did at six. Something with less import to my personal growth is my reaction to Corran Horn of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I re-read I, Jedi and found that I just didn't care for him anymore. He just ... didn't interest me now, for whatever reason.

I advocate re-reading and re-watching because no piece of fiction is static. And we're not static. Favorite characters can change. Favorite scenes can become upsetting and ones you glossed over the first time suddenly mean a lot more. And sometimes, all you want is the comfort of an old favorite to get you through the day.




I spent a lot of my elementary school years loving I Dream of Jeannie, a show with gender politics that I now question a lot more than I did at six.

Just yesterday I was thinking of how I'd approach a remake of I Dream of Jeannie. And I couldn't figure it out. The innocence of the original series is deliberate, because if you cross that glaring line we're all thinking about even once, the whole series will fail. It just turns into a porn fantasy.

But in today's comedy sensibilities, you can't tiptoe around it, it has to be addressed, and it would be, front on, immediately, in the first episode. And the show couldn't work then, it becomes something completely different and therefore isn't I Dream of Jeannie anymore.

Even if you swapped genders to mix it up, or made the Genie asexual to not at least address that issue, most of the "if the Genie's that powerful then why not just use them to rule the world?" kind of questions causes the whole premise to topple.

Anyway, those were my thoughts yesterday as I was having lunch.