OPINION | How film and TV is getting us through the coronavirus lockdown

2020-04-10 12:33
Shira Haas in 'Unorthodox.'

Leandra Engelbrecht is Channel24's Movie and TV Editor, yes she watches television and movies for a living. Here she writes about the increase in screen time during a global pandemic. "TV, which has always been branded as an anti-social tool, making people unsociable is now keeping us sociable".

I have always had a love for television. One of my mom's fondest memories of me and my fascination with the small screen is when I was two years old. Every Monday evening, I would run around the house and round up everyone cause 'it was time for Murder She Wlote' (I couldn't pronounce the letter r, but I was watching Jessica Fletcher solve crimes).

Being able to escape into the world of telenovela, drama, suspense, reality TV, documentary and home renovation shows have always given me comfort. I get very deeply engrossed and involved in what I watch, just have a look at my Twitter account. I am also the type of person who talks at the TV thinking I am on an episode of Gogglebox (I would do really well on it #justsaying).

Since lockdown my screen time has significantly increased, and I know I'm not the only one. Just looking at our statistics this month, there has been a huge increase in traffic on our review sections. In the time of the coronavirus lockdown television and movies is a welcome distraction for everyone around the globe.

In its first ten days on the streaming service Netflix's docu-series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness was watched by 34.3 million viewers in the US. While the statistics aren't out for South African subscribers just yet, it's safe to say that it was watched here too. All our follow-up articles have been consistently on our most-read story list.

Active users on Showmax have also increased with 50%, and play events have more than doubled. Even linear TV has seen a resurgence in viewership numbers.

Television critic Thinus Ferreira writes: "MultiChoice has seen daytime audiences grow by up to 100%."

He adds: "Ratings are up for the commercial free-to-air channel e.tv, and even the TV channels of the South African public broadcaster like SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 with all three seeing bump ups of literally millions of viewers for shows like TV news bulletins."


Many studies warn against the dangers of watching too much TV, but there are also some that say watching television can actually be good for.

In a study done at the University of Buffalo, psychologist Jaye Derrick found that exposure to a familiar fictional world helps people from giving into impulses.

"Media use can have unexpected psychological benefits. Television, movies and books can be more than leisure activities; in some cases, they fulfill needs, like restoring self-control, that people are reluctant or unable to fulfill through other means," says Derrick.

Research done in 2016 found that TV also helps to reduce stress. And, right now we are all pretty stressed out as we're seeing a major historical event unfold right before our eyes.

According to Huffington Post, the study found that the more a woman watched television, the lower her cortisol levels were, which indicated that she had lower levels of stress. 

But wait, there's more! Do you know what happens to your brain when you binge-watch?

Clinical psychologist, Dr Renee Carr says that binge-watching a series makes us happy because when we do an enjoyable activity, our brain produces dopamine.

She explains: "This chemical, gives the body a natural, internal reward of pleasure that reinforces continued engagement in that activity. It is the brain's signal that communicates to the body, 'This feels good. You should keep doing this!'"

And if you are wondering why you keep re-watching your favourite sitcoms like Friends, The Office, Parks and Recreation, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – or in my case, the movie To All The Boys I've Loved Before – it's because it's comforting.

See we know what's going to happen, there are no surprises it's like visiting old friends and re-connecting again. And in a world that is very uncertain at the moment, we are all yearning for a comfort object.


TV, which has always been branded as an anti-social tool, making people unsociable is now keeping us sociable. It's keeping us connected with our families, friends and even strangers on social media.

My colleagues and I have a Bachelor SA WhatsApp group, where we have in-depth discussions about the latest episode. It's hugely exciting listening to everyone's opinions and thoughts, and on average we send about 66 messages (voice notes too) in the group on a Thursday night when it airs on M-Net.

If we were at the office, we would have discussed it the Friday morning. It's small, but it gives me a sense of normalcy and to hear their voices makes me so happy.

Every evening, I watch Suidooster with my mother and brother. Look, I love them, but just being around the same people for four weeks now can become a lot. For 30 minutes, we connect with each other through a show.

On Saturday, I watched Unorthodox, and for most of the day, I was chatting to a friend of mine who is also in lockdown in Poland. It was nice to talk about something other than coronavirus cases, our fears of going out to buy groceries, and just the general angst we are feeling.

My WhatsApp list is filled with conversations with friends about many other shows. While we can't see each other, we still have threads linking us together.

So get comfortable, grab your favourite snack and turn on the telly or whichever device you're using to watch stuff because the lockdown has just been extended for two more weeks.

For more lockdown activities, advice, and tips visit News24's lockdown living guide here.

Read more on:    lockdown lifestyle

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