Can’t Spell Anxious Without ‘Us’
I’m gonna talk a little bit about my personal experience with anxiety, so if that’s not what you wanna hear about right now, just skip right on down to the movies and shows themselves.
Even now, anxiety is a pretty vague term to me. Or at least it seems to mean a lot of different things depending on the context.
When I was a kid, I started to worry a lot, just in general, usually about getting sick or winding up in a hospital. And I was told by a few different authority figures that this constant state of worry would be a phase.
And in a lot of cases, I think that’s true. When you’re a kid, a lot of things are scary, especially because you just don’t know much about anything.
I still don’t know much about anything, and I still worry all the time. There’s no real limit. I worry about the things I’ve done in the past and I worry about how I could potentially roger things up in the future.
If something’s good right now, that means it might go bad in the future.
Some of the worries are rational and some are not. I haven’t really found a good way to turn them off, either.
In other words, I’m stuck here, worrying about stuff that will probably never even come up in the realm of reality.
If I mix together “Thanks” and “Take it easy” when talking to a checkout clerk, that’s the rest of my week.
But one of the ways I try to cope with my anxiety is to flip on some media. And as I’ve discovered over countless shaky nights of looking for something to watch to get me to calm down, certain movies and shows are better for this purpose than others.
At least for me.
All of the picks below are what to watch when anxious, for me personally. Even if you happen to hate these shows and movies, the core theme here is to pick media that stays light and/or that features characters who just have a way of talkin’ sense.
Take a few deep breaths, put together a hot beverage, and chill the funk down.
Over the Garden Wall – 2014
This show found a way to stay small, on multiple levels.
For one thing, it ran for ten episodes and that was it. Like, this would be a very valuable property for Cartoon Network to develop into a recurring series like every other show on the channel.
But it set itself apart by telling a single narrative across about an hour and forty minutes of runtime.
Wirt and his half-brother Greg wander around some place called The Unknown, which happens to be heavily inspired by those Little Golden storybooks and early 20th-century animation (think Betty Boop and other pre-Disney stuff).
Each episode is serious but not too serious, scary but not too scary.
The music alone (all composed by The Blasting Company) does an unbelievable job of creating this calm, quiet sense of inner peace, giving you a twinge of borrowed nostalgia for a time you know nothing about.
Most importantly, this show was created with love and care, and it shows. A lot of talented people did some wonderful work here, and we should be very happy about that.
The Office – 2005
It’s one of the most rewatchable television shows that’s ever been made. It does get old, but somehow that’s still ok.
Over about a thousand rewatches, I’ve even come to hate some characters, and I end up skipping roughly 65% of the total series but those precious few episodes that work, really work.
And they will continue to work, maybe all the way until I bite the dust.
This show is a reminder that much of daily life is just plain stupid. And that makes me feel better about my problems.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World – 2010
This was the first Edgar Wright movie I ever saw, and I was not at all prepared for his eclectic, inventive, and incredibly fast-paced style of filmmaking.
This was a gateway movie for me, meaning it teased the fact that there are some people out there who really know what they’re doing and who make really cool, stylish movies that you can seek out and enjoy.
I knew nothing about the source material, and I still don’t. But the movie, by itself, is a capsule of pure joy and energy.
You could hook this movie up to your car when the battery dies. This movie wants to be your best friend.
Rugrats in Paris: The Movie – 2000
This movie was the cinematic event of my childhood. I remember the commercials better than the movie itself.
There was so much buildup here. “A new character?! Is Chuckie gonna get a new mom?!?!?!”
And the movie itself did not disappoint. I always thought it was cool that the Rugrats movies, compared to the show, had some pretty great animation and super dramatic lighting that was probably a little too heavy and realistic for a kids’ movie.
It’s also one of the instances where a Nickelodeon show had its characters take a trip to Europe. It’s just a random element of unexpected sophistication, and now, in my old age, I can appreciate that just a bit more.
Best in Show – 2000
Christopher Guest happens to be one of the funniest directors around. He got his start in Spinal Tap, a mokumentary that almost reached the college-age fame and notoriety of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
And for some reasons, his later movies haven’t found the same kind of freakish afterlife.
Best in Show is Guest’s mokumentary about a dog show: the dogs, the owners, the trainers, and even the judges.
There’s no reason this movie should be as good as it is. It’s actually really difficult for me to think of another comedy that stays so consistently funny.
It’s hard to talk through this one just because you’re afraid you’ll miss a joke. It’s that snappy.
Without a doubt, it’s one to watch while anxious. You’ll probably forget your troubles within the first few minutes.
Seymour: An Introduction – 2015
Ethan Hawke made this documentary about Seymour Bernstein, a classical pianist and piano instructor in New York.
In terms of anxiety treatment, this guy is like human Xanax. He’s nearly always smiling, nearly always has some simple words of wisdom on how to get over life’s little hurdles.
This is also one of the best movies to introduce you and your pals to the beauty and finesse of classical music.
I don’t mind admitting that it took me a long time to really get into classical music in a genuine way. But this movie did a lot to show me what’s special about the genre as a whole and how much care goes into playing it.
Fantastic Mr. Fox – 2009
You could almost put any Wes Anderson movie here, but since Fantastic Mr. Fox doesn’t deal at all with drug use, infidelity, or death, it gets the rec.
For anyone out there like me who’s also working with some OCD, Anderson’s movies are a treat for their cinematography alone.
So much is symmetrical. So much is measured and organized. It’s like a movie based on that one time you cleaned your desk and labeled everything accordingly.
I also enjoy that the characters here are not completely sure of themselves. Ash especially, played by Jason Schwartzman is just a wonderfully relatable character who is, for better or worse, just [squiggly hand gesture] different.
Because, in one way or another, we all are.