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Why We Obsess Over Fictional TV Shows

By Marisa Nobs

After successfully finishing season four of House of Cards in just one weekend, I found myself wondering why I and so many others obsess over fictional TV shows. It seems like an obvious answer: we dedicate hours and hours of our lives to watching these characters because they provide an unparalleled form of entertainment. We get to observe an array of emotions and conflict-resolutions without ever having to leave the comfort and security of our couches or dorm rooms. There are some shows, however, that we really cling to. I’m talking about the ones that portray the life you wish you had, maybe not in its entirety, but that relationship goal or dream job at the top of your bucket list.

Let’s take Gilmore Girls as an example. Oh, Stars Hollow. Who didn’t crave moving to that intimate suburb just to participate in ALL of Taylor’s ridiculously over-planned festivities while sipping on coffee from Luke’s? I sure did, and I’m from Connecticut. Then there’s Rory and Lorelei’s unimaginably ideal mother-daughter relationship and their various whirlwind romances. It all somehow makes you nostalgic for a life that was never yours. And I think that’s the root of our obsessions.

These shows have a way of pointing out what’s missing in our own lives. Many of you are probably familiar with George R. R. Martin’s quote, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…The man who never reads lives only one.” The digital age has put a new spin on that. Streaming sites like our beloved Netflix provide us with the opportunity to live out thousands upon thousands of lives. I’ve honestly run out of shows to watch, which has made me increasingly concerned about how I spend my time.

Is it healthy? I’ve spoken to some people about whether movies and shows are valuable time consumers. It is easy to argue that certain ones, like documentaries, are in fact very beneficial. But what about the approximately 181.5 hours I have spent watching Gossip Girl? If you were wondering where I got that number, Gossip Girl episodes on Netflix are about 45 minutes each, and there are 121 episodes in total. I have watched the entire series twice. 181.5 hours. That is a little over a week of my life. Now, throw in all the time I’ve spent watching interviews about how Blake Lively isn’t anything like her character and reading articles that picked out the best Chuck and Blaire quotes. It’s a lot of time dedicated to a fictional reality of a world that I will very clearly never be a part of (as defined by GG: it’s a birthright). But somehow, I don’t regret it.

Fictional television is an outlet. It helps stir your imagination and takes you on riveting adventures that you might have otherwise never been able to fathom. It is, however, fiction. Many people have said it before me, but I’ll say it again: don’t let fiction get in the way of your reality. My life may never be as glamorous as Blaire Waldorf’s or as simplistically charming as Rory Gilmore’s, but there are plenty of opportunities just waiting to be taken advantage of. I carry these characters with me like old, distant friends. When it’s time for a break from reality, there’s the comfort of knowing I can return to them with just a few clicks.

Marisa Nobs can be reached at


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