A Show for All Seasons

Much more than sources of entertainment, stories can provide us with comfort when we need it most.

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graphic by Kristen Kinzler

After fifteen seasons, “Supernatural” is finally coming to an end tomorrow night, and it’s going to be an emotional goodbye — as it always is with the shows that mean the most to us.

By Kristen Kinzler, North Allegheny Senior High School

Last Thursday, my mom walked into the house after picking up my little brother from volleyball practice, and she immediately looked alarmed. She asked me what was wrong. There I was, sitting on the couch, a big blanket over me, sobbing my eyes out.

The second-to-last episode of Supernatural had just ended moments before, and I was a mess.

Supernatural is a sci-fi horror show that follows the Winchester brothers, Sam and Dean, as they travel the country, hunt monsters, and save the world. I discovered the show four years ago, and, since then, have rewatched all of its 326 episodes multiple times. The characters have always had a way of making me feel better, which is why I was so distraught last week. The show is currently airing its fifteenth and final season, and the series finale premiers tomorrow night.

I know, I know — it’s just a TV show. Fifteen years’ worth of episodes should certainly be enough. Besides, I can always rewatch it. Logically, I recognize that.

From a far less rational standpoint, however, Supernatural is, by all means, my comfort show. I turn to it to laugh, to cry, and to relax. It may seem odd that I find so much peace in a story about two demon-killing brothers, and the reasoning may be equally silly, but Sam and Dean have helped me through some rough times.

It only makes sense that after spending hours upon hours with the same characters, we become attached. It’s human nature to empathize with and relate to them.”

They made me believe in the power of not going down without a fight and creating my own path. They helped me deal with bouts of sadness and anxiety, and they were some of the only characters I felt like I could relate to regarding my complicated relationship with my dad. The show is sacred to me at this point.

But comfort shows aren’t something unique to me. In fact, some psychologists believe that revisiting our favorite stories, and, in this case TV shows, actually helps with anxiety and depression. Oftentimes, these shows evoke nostalgia, and they take us back to a time in our lives when things were calmer.

That’s why everyone’s ideas of a comfort show differ — we all have different memories associated with shows we love. For some people, watching an episode of Friends or Schitt’s Creek is the perfect way to relax. For others, shows you may not expect to be comforting, like Criminal Minds or Law & Order: SVU do the trick.

Our selection also depends on what kind of lifestyle we crave at that moment. There are many psychologists who say that, during hard times, we should turn to shows that are light-hearted and will put us in a good mood.

However, another study found that, when we’re upset, we can actually find relief in watching characters face challenges similar to, our worse than, our own.

Some researchers think that the enjoyment we get from our go-to stories is less about the subject matter and more about their sheer familiarity. 

Elizabeth Cohen, an associate professor of media psychology at West Virginia University, said, “There’s a lot of comfort in knowing when something’s going to happen. You don’t have to exert a lot of cognitive energy.”

Additionally, our common humanity might contribute to our devotion to a few specific TV shows. A study conducted on college students found that viewers experience similar social connections to fictional characters and people in their real lives. 

In a way, it only makes sense that after spending hours upon hours with the same characters, we become attached. It’s human nature to empathize with and relate to them.

No matter why we find a sanctuary of sorts in any show, one thing is clear: Stories matter, especially right now. They help with our mental health, give us a sense of belonging, and make a long day a little easier.

Whenever you think someone may care too much about a book, TV show, or movie, try to consider the impact it could have had on them. For so many of us, our favorite things aren’t just sources of entertainment– they’re an outlet for joy and a way to find meaning in a confusing world.

So, yeah, when Supernatural ends tomorrow night, I will likely cry some more. I’m not embarrassed to admit that because I’m not ashamed of how much I love the show. Of course, I have over three hundred hours worth of episodes to rewatch, so I know that even though I’ll miss seeing new episodes of the Winchester brothers every week, I’ll be okay.

Regardless, endings are always hard, especially when, for some crazy reason, it feels like you’re saying goodbye to some old friends.

This story was originally published on The Uproar on November 18, 2020.