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    18 Movies And TV Shows We Watch When We Need Some Comfort

    Sometimes self-care is a matter of settling into your couch and putting on an old favorite.

    by , , , , , , , , , , ,

    1. The Muppets Take Manhattan

    TriStar Pictures

    "Together again. Gee, it’s good to be together again."

    Those are the first words said — or rather, sung — in The Muppets Take Manhattan, and they capture the heartwarming spirit of inclusion that permeates the best Muppet film ever made. As Kermit, Miss Piggy, and their deeply diverse cavalcade of friends attempt to put on a Broadway musical, the film examines the hardships endured by those down on their luck, the power of positive thinking, and the ties that bind us together.

    By the time the movie reaches its emotional conclusion and Kermit declares their Broadway musical needs "more frogs and dogs and bears and chickens," you'll have spent 90 minutes watching a joyous celebration of love, unity, and the fact that we're always stronger together. —Jarett Wieselman

    2. Keeping Up With the Kardashians

    E! Entertainment Television

    I've been rewatching all of Keeping Up With the Kardashians for the past few months, in order from the beginning. That means the spinoffs too, all of which are on Hulu except for the two seasons of Khloe & Lamar, which I had to buy on Amazon. (Maybe Hulu was like, No, this one is too depressing in retrospect, we will spare you all.)

    It's not a walk in a sunny park, these shows with this family, especially watching all at once now. There are divorces and deaths and substance abuse spirals and mental unravelings: What happens to Rob Kardashian is slow and confusing, and still not over in 2016; Lamar Odom's downfall, handled tastefully throughout, is terribly sad and also obscured by dimmed privacy concerns. Only Scott Disick, Kourtney Kardashian's erstwhile partner and the father of her children, is transparent in his messiness. And there is the strange experience of watching Caitlyn Jenner evolve into whom she was always meant to be, with a journey that included anti-gay panic when Kris hired a gay man in Season 2 to give Caitlyn a clothes makeover, as well as all of the struggles over growing her hair out, which she has since said was a painful symbol of her hidden desires.

    But there is a compelling reason to watch this show, especially at the dawn of the age of Trump. I would never compare Donald Trump to the Kardashians — because I like them. Yet there is a lesson to learn about reality television fame and its currency in our culture now that we have a president who has never held office or served the public good, and is known only through the machinations of the publicity cycle. The way CNN showed Trump's unfiltered, un-fact-checked speeches before they finally realized he wasn't a joke is a luxury the Kardashians are never afforded. Being a womanly brand led by a matriarch, they have been questioned and bullied at every turn; even after Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint, which has yet to play out on the show, the media's primary stance was to mock her and doubt the story. (Morning Joe on MSNBC, which gave Trump free publicity for months, was openly laughing/sneering after the robbery — ugliness that characterizes the reaction to the Kardashians.)

    We develop affiliations with reality stars. The first episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians was in fall 2007, when George W. Bush was still president. It's shocking that today that seems like an innocent, more gentle time. But I'm glad to have spent these many hours with a supportive family that chooses to take on politics as a central part of its identity. Raising awareness about the Armenian genocide, racism and Black Lives Matter, and the rise of trans civil rights has played out on the show and in the sisters' ancillary outlets on social media. If the lesson learned from this election is that celebrity is toxic and that more people hate women and people of color than we ever could have imagined, the Kardashians offer an antidote to the notion that reality television is pestilential. It can also be instructional, and a fascinating view of these changing, troubling times. —Kate Aurthur

    3. Spirited Away


    I love everything about Spirited Away. I love the spongy, incomparable dream logic of the story, which begins with 10-year-old Chihiro’s parents transforming into pigs after eating too much nonhuman food, then introduces us to an otherworld of magical bathhouses and giant babies and vacationing river spirits scheduling a spa day to rinse away pollution. I love the beauty of it, the bright colors and haunting character designs that swirl cuteness with eeriness. I love the totally weird and yet irresistibly romantic connection between Chihiro and the helpful dragon Haku.

    Most of all, though, I love that Chihiro, whose name gets taken away from her and replaced with "Sen" when she settles into a new life as a spirit realm employee, isn't some chosen one and doesn't become the instant center of the mythical world into which she's stumbled. The spirit world in Spirited Away wasn't created or waiting for her. She's a visitor there, one who is, at first, bewildered and alarmed by the strangeness of everything she's seeing, but remains open to learning about it. She doesn't have special powers, just tenacity and bravery, and it is with those qualities that she saves her mom, her dad, and the day.

    Rather than fight the monsters she encounters, Sen bargains with, chastises, befriends, or changes them. Even the worker-gobbling being named No-Face, at first the film's most frightening creation, ends up turning into a lovable, apologetic companion. After months of political rhetoric stoking fears of otherness, it's beyond soothing to settle into a movie that's all about the value of trying to understand people — or spirits — who may not be exactly like you. —Alison Willmore

    4. MasterChef Junior

    Greg Gayne / Fox

    First, there is nothing more comforting to me than food during times of distress. And second, there is nothing more inspiring than watching children as young as 8 display the kind of genuine good sportsmanship and sincere kindness I wish more adults would exhibit. They help each other when a competitor's dough fails to rise as the clock winds down, they cheer for each other in team relay challenges, and they comfort each other when they're eliminated and forced to hang up their aprons. Someday, kids like the ones on MasterChef Junior, from a wide range of states and backgrounds, will feed and rule the world…and that gives me hope. —Jaimie Etkin

    5. Steven Universe

    Cartoon Network

    There are many episodes of Steven Universe that give me hope, but "Jailbreak" sticks out to me most. It’s the first instance in Rebecca Sugar’s animated series where viewers get the sense that real danger has befallen Steven Universe, his magical Crystal Gem guardians (Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl), and the rest of Earth. After an invading alien gem, Jasper, defeats and imprisons the gang on his spaceship, the show takes an eerie turn, but our young hero — battered and separated from his protectors — never loses his smile.

    "They hurt my friends, they hurt my face, they've got you here in prison … that’s why we have to fight them," he tells a locked-up gem before freeing his captive friends. Midway through the episode — SPOILER FOR ANYONE NEW TO THE SERIES — Garnet reveals to Steven that she’s actually a fusion of two gems, Sapphire and Ruby, and that her source of power comes from the knowledge that she’s made of love. She then breaks into “Stronger Than You,” a battle song for the ages, singing: “You’re not gonna stop what we made together. We are gonna stay like this forever. If you break us apart, we’ll just come back newer. And we’ll always be twice the gem that you are.”

    Growing up in this often indifferent and isolating world, it’s easy to become jaded and cynical, but Steven remains unabashedly curious and believes in humanity even after witnessing some truly dark things. This show and its protagonist remind me to stay hopeful in even the most depressing of times. —Susan Cheng

    6. Gilmore Girls

    Mitchell Haddad / WB

    There are a lot of elements of Gilmore Girls that I find deeply comforting. That it always feels like autumn in the show even when there’s snow piled all over the set. That the show knows how to crack a joke even when it’s diving into serious moments. That it’s centered above all on relationships, grounding it in an emotional but not overwrought place that hits this perfect sweet spot. I find that whenever I’ve had a really rough day, one of the most soothing things in the world can be putting on an episode of Gilmore Girls – practically any episode, really – and just letting myself feel whatever they’re feeling. The best TV shows, in my opinion, let you step into whatever world they inhabit and walk through life with those characters. And I think that the world Gilmore Girls built is just a particularly good one to step into when you’re frazzled: a small town that, though it’s not calm, is just dealing with everyday human life in a funny, touching way. —Alanna Bennett

    7. Star Trek: The Next Generation


    This show is set in the 24th century, and yet there is something so old-fashioned about it now. Almost every episode is self-contained — you can dip into any of its seven seasons (all of them are on Netflix) and never feel lost or behind. My favorite episodes are the morality plays exploring a facet of the human condition through a charmingly nerdy sci-fi conceit. (My husband likes to joke that every episode I make him watch involves some kind of temporal displacement.)

    TNG presents a world of soft corners and pleasing beiges and pastels, populated by characters governed by reason, an innate sense of inclusion, and the betterment of the greater good. And Capt. Picard and his crew all like each other so much — when they do have differences, they talk them out, because they are adults. Watching the show is like a balm for my nerves, and an always welcome reminder that humanity can reach so far beyond our earthbound grievances. —Adam B. Vary

    8. The Lion King

    Walt Disney Pictures

    Obviously picking a movie with such an anti-oppression message is not lost on me today of all days, but The Lion King has been my one constant for comfort since I can remember. With something like representation, you’ve got to take what you can get, so even if they were animals, having a Disney film set in Africa made this little black kid very proud. I grew up with a lot of Scars in my life with whom I allowed an almost familial bond only for them to push me off a cliff any chance they got. But it meant a lot to have it sink in early for me that those actions that win the battle end up being the reason those people lose the war.

    Simba’s success proved that even if it takes a long time, good always wins. Simba’s friendship with Timon and Pumbaa showed that even if one feels like they are in the middle of nowhere, they can still find friends. Simba’s connection with his father, Mufasa, proved that legacies last longer than grief does. It’s idealistic and borrows from many older works like Hamlet, but it also mirrors a narrative we have seen in real life over and over again. —Marcus Jones

    9. The Holiday

    Sony Pictures Releasing

    It doesn't have to be Christmastime in order to enjoy The Holiday, a Nancy Meyers classic; I watch it all year round with my sister, whether there's snow on the ground or sand in our shoes, because the film isn't exclusively about the holiday season. Sure, Amanda and Iris might be enduring their own existential crises of sorts during the month of December, but within these stressful and sad moments in their lives their characters also manage to find humor, growth, and love that are relatable regardless of the time of year.

    There's love between families, lovers, friends, and even strangers who ultimately become friends. Not to mention, the comforting sounds of Jack Black on the piano, the cozy look of Iris's English cottage, and hopeful messages about joy and happiness all make for the absolute perfect escape from reality, even if just for 136 minutes. —Krystie Lee Yandoli

    10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    20th Century Fox Home Entertainment / Via

    I've needed Buffy Summers since I was 9 years old. She's my first and most beloved superhero, and the world needs her now more than ever. Buffy’s a constant reminder that even in the face of the most extreme darkness, you can overcome anything by having faith in yourself and your own power. Hellmouth threatening to swallow your town? Accidentally turn your boyfriend into a soulless demon? Frenemy trying to murder everyone you love? Grab your stake, your witty one-liner, and your friends. You got this. —Keely Flaherty

    11. The Real Housewives franchise


    Real Housewives is not apolitical, and thus a dubious choice for distraction television. While the shows themselves rarely discuss politics, the Housewives have, whether directly or not, made their leanings known. (OC and Jersey are conservative, while New York and Atlanta are liberal. The more you know!) But the real politics of the Housewives are their ever-changing friendship dynamics: It’s easy to get lost in the shifting alliances and high-intensity confrontation. It turns out that when you can shut off your brain completely, chaos proves strangely soothing. As the Housewives throw wine (and occasionally a leg), I’ve discovered that I’m able to shut out everything else, until the only thing I’m focused on is a petty disagreement over sprinkle cookies. It may be trash, but it’s some of the finest trash that television has to offer. Sometimes you have to close your eyes and dive in. —Louis Peitzman

    12. Spy

    Larry Horricks / Twentieth Century Fox

    Spy is the greatest goddamn movie ever made. I have watched it probably a dozen times, and that is not an exaggeration. Melissa McCarthy stars as an underutilized agent languishing in an FBI basement office; in the end (spoiler alert if you expect female characters not to live up to their potential), she becomes a badass field agent. You will laugh, you will feel happy, you will watch a woman beat the odds in the face of people who constantly underestimate her. Notably, Susan Cooper remakes herself with the support of her female colleagues. Also a fat woman has sex at the end. —Ariane Lange

    13. A League of Their Own

    Columbia Pictures

    I may hate sports, but I love a sports movie and — for my money — A League of Their Own is the greatest sports movie ever made. It boasts standout performances from Tom Hanks, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Lori Petty, and Jon Lovitz, a script that is hilarious and heartfelt in equal measure, and an ending that will truly have you on the edge of your seat.

    More importantly, A League of Their Own is about literal and figurative sisterhood, and how women lean on other women for strength in tough, trying times. And that is a story we need right now. — J.W.

    14. The Parent Trap

    Walt Disney Pictures / Via

    To be clear, the 1998, Lindsay Lohan–fronted Parent Trap. Before Lohan was making up her own language and being treated for drug and alcohol abuse, she was a charming-as-fuck 11-year-old who was able to convincingly play a prim and proper young Brit and a rough-and-tumble California girl. The Parent Trap has everything: life swapping, summer camp hijinks, Oreos and peanut butter, and a wretched potential stepmother who tries to ruin it all. But in the end, she doesn't succeed, which is a wonderful notion to hold on to today. —J.E.

    15. Clue

    Paramount Pictures

    Jonathan Lynn’s adaptation of the classic board game into a near-perfect screwball comedy is the rare example of Hollywood alchemy that has only grown in popularity as it gets older. The movie had such a formative influence on my sense of humor that I wrote a whole story about how it was made. I’ve seen it so many times that I could basically recite it by heart, but instead, here are just a few of the best examples of the dialogue that always, always, always brings a smile to my face:

    Mrs. Peacock: Uh, is there a little girl's room in the hall?

    Yvette: Oui oui, Madame. (points)

    Mrs. Peacock: No, I just wanna powder my nose.

    Colonel Mustard: Well, there is still some confusion as to whether or not there is anybody else in this house!

    Wadsworth: I told you, there isn't.

    Colonel Mustard: There isn't any confusion, or there isn't anybody else?

    Wadsworth: Either! Or both!

    Colonel Mustard: Just give me a clear answer!

    Wadsworth: Certainly! (clears throat) What was the question?

    Colonel Mustard: Is there anybody else in this house?!

    All: No!!

    Mrs. White: I hated her SO much, it, it, it, the fl-, flames — flames, on the sides of my face, breathing, breathless, heaving breaths, heaving…

    Wadsworth: You see? Like the Mounties, we always get our man.

    Mr. Green: Mrs. Peacock was a man?! —A.B.V.

    16. Friends


    I love Friends. In a completely unconditional, illogical, and unabashed way, I love, love, love Friends. I've been watching the ’90s television sitcom since I was in elementary school, and while most of the jokes about sex and other topics deemed inappropriate for my knowledge at the time went right over my head, Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Ross, and Joey all provide me with a sense of comfort that nothing else ever can.

    I know these characters inside and out — I know that a Joey Special consists of two pizzas; I know that Monica and Ross used to compete in a tag football game on Thanksgiving for something called the Geller Cup; I know that Rachel's favorite movie is Weekend at Bernie's; I know that Phoebe is a twin and that Chandler has a third nipple. I can even finish their sentences for them. While there are 10 seasons full of quotes, plotlines, and characters to love, my familiarity with the show gives me a true feeling of comfort and happiness. Friends feels like home ’cause I know it'll always be there for me. —K.L.Y.

    17. Troop Beverly Hills

    Columbia Pictures

    The teens of the Wilderness Girls troop of the title had everything: fancy clothes, in-home balance beams, bungalows at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and soap opera gigs. But no one believed they could rough it, including the revolving door of leaders who gave up on them and the fellow troops who laughed them off the stage at a Wilderness Girls event. With the help of the recently divorced Phyllis Nefler, they triumphed and proved everyone wrong. Though a movie that's essentially about glamping may not be an obvious choice for a time like this, it's a fun, campy, girl-powered distraction at worst and testament that "a real no-nonsense woman, a woman who can cope with anything ... can still get the job done” at best. —J.E.

    18. The Golden Girls

    Buena Vista Home Entertainment

    There has never been a time in my life when the idea of sharing cheesecake with four horny senior citizens in pastels hasn’t brought me immense comfort. The Golden Girls is one of the few constants in my life, and while I have seen every episode dozens of times, it never fails to make me laugh. These women, despite our generational divide and the fact that three of the actors are no longer with us, feel like some of my closest friends. I turn to them for wisdom, support, and, most of all, the bawdy humor and ’80s fashion that have kept me entertained for a not insignificant percentage of my time on earth. Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia aren’t just characters on a TV show: At this point, they’re family. —L.P.

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