Marathoning and Parasocial Relationships

Post from Student Kelly Oliver:

Everyone has their own favorite actors or actresses. Whether its because you believe Julia Roberts can transition into any character flawlessly, or because you have a secret crush on Channing Tatum’s six pack we all have our own favorite that we love to watch. These relationships we form with our favorite actors/actresses become a parasocial relationship. We get to known their personality, their emotions, their background and everything in between from all the media coverage that surrounds these celebrities.

I see a strong possibility that people begin to media marathon beginning on wanting to see more of their favorite actor/actress. It could be said that one desperately wants to watch as much as possible of the program because they can’t get enough out of the actors. I am embarrassed to say that this started my obsession with marathoning One Tree Hill. My celebrity crush with James Lafferty intrigued me to begin watching the first season of One Tree Hill, and once I realized how much I fell in-love with James and his character, I couldn’t stop watching.

We don’t only form these parasocial relationships with the actors/actresses, but with the characters they are portraying in these media programs. We feel as though we have a strong connection to them, like we can personally relate to them, and it keeps us wanting more and more out of watching the program.

A strong example of this is the famous fan base of McSteamy and McDreamy from ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. This is a blog where hard core “McSteamy” fans bost pictures, their feelings, or whatever weekly about their parasocial relationship McSteamy. Many of these fans have marathoned the show, which could have potential to lead to bigger parasocial relationships. You are learning more and more about the characters in a closer time span.

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9 thoughts on “Marathoning and Parasocial Relationships

  1. I feel a stronger parasocial connection with fictional characters than I do with the actors themselves. The strength of my connection with those characters actually turns me off from watching the actors that play them in anything different. For example, I feel a strong parasocial connection with Katniss in “The Hunger Games”. However, I had no desire to see Jennifer Lawrence star in “House at the End of the Street”, even though I appreciate her acting. I perceive the relationship I have with Katniss as diminishing in genuineness, authenticity, and believability when I see Jennifer Lawrence embody a different character altogether so convincingly. When I was marathoning “The Hunger Games” I did engage in many parasocial texts, including several interviews with Jennifer Lawrence, but they strictly pertained to her involvement with “The Hunger Games”, and nothing else. When I feel distress from a parasocial breakup, I tend to replace that show and character altogether instead of looking for that specific actor in a different series or film.

  2. I completely agree with your analysis of parasocial relationships and their connection to media marathoning. Sometimes we don’t exactly want more of a show; we want more of a person. For example, I never would have started watching “New Girl” if I had not seen “(500) Days of Summer”. If Zooey Deschanel hadn’t been a central character in one of my favorite movies, I probably would not have given her other character a chance on “New Girl”. It wasn’t the show that intrigued me as much as the actress. I definitely had and have a parasocial relationship with her. Also, I believe viewers can form parasocial relationships with the people behind the camera. For example, I really relate to the writer/director/actress Lena Dunham. Her film “Tiny Furniture” echoed a lot of the uncertainty I feel about life after Nazareth College. I ended up becoming a fan of her show “Girls” because I found so much resonance in her movie. However, it isn’t her acting that really interests me; it is her creative vision. The same goes for directors like Joss Whedon or David Simon. Viewers might be fans of their previous work, and will give their new movies and series a chance just because of their previous parasocial relationship. Their connections could carry over from one text to another.

  3. I find myself having parasocial relationships with parts of a cast of a show, not only one person. Most of time I will have a parasocial relationship with a couple in a show like, Julie Taylor and Matt Seracen from “Friday Night Lights”.
    Other than feeling connected to many people within a show, I have parasocial relationships with people outside of the television world.
    I have an intense parasocial relationship with blogger/author of “The Man Repeller”. I religiously read her website and follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Her honest and creative way of writing about fashion speaks to me and I strive to someday be as amazing as she is. I’m always looking for interviews, photos, or features of her writing in magazines or on the internet.
    When I first began following Medine’s blog, I marathoned all of her previous posts to get a sense of her voice.
    I’m not sure if this is the same as media marathoning, but I think that it relates in some way.

  4. I agree that we develop these para-social relationships with our favorite actors or actresses on a TV show. I have heard many stories and read many articles about people developing these bonds with these characters that keeps us wanting more. Hence we will follow them on Twitter, read their blog, or do a general search of them on the internet. I feel like I have a para-social relationship with Katherine Heigl. I ALWAYS watch films that see stars in because I feel like I can relate to the characters she plays. I’m always sort of sad when the movie is over because I want to know what’s next, even though there is nothing because the movie is over. Similarly, I watch MTV’s Awkward religiously because I feel like I can relate to a lot of the awkward situations that occur in the show. I think people are definitely more susceptible to developing para-social relationships with characters, whether real or fictional, when they can relate to them.

  5. I definitely agree that we form these types of relationships. You sometimes hear jokes about actors/actresses and the different roles they play like, for example, “Liam Neeson is Zeus (Clash of the Titans) why would you take his kid (Taken)?” and I think these types of jokes exemplify that we sometimes follow an actor, as well as the characters they play. Also I think it is interesting when something happens that makes us question the types of para-social relationships we have with certain individuals. One example I can think of is when there was all that controversy about Christian Bale going on a tirade to one of the crew members on his set. For some this may have fit in line with his “personality” in movies, which is usually dark or intense. I think for some, though, they drew the line between characters and the real person and found the outburst controversial. I think that example shows that sometimes the lines can blur when we have a para-social relationship with an individual because there is that line between the character and the real person.

  6. Parasocial relationships are really interesting to me because we are creating these fantasy relationships with people or characters that aren’t really ‘ours’. I think this is what is so appealing about these types of relationships, maybe the reason we develop such strong feelings for the characters or celebrities on the shows because we know full and well that this relationship takes us away from our every-day, sometimes boring lives. This brings me to my summer reading marathoning of the book 50 Shades of Grey. Though I didn’t really love the book, you invest so much time into the storyline that you like it or not, develop feelings towards the characters. For example, there are recent rumors and talk about the making of the movie 50 Shades of Grey. I saw a poll recently on E!News “who would make the best ‘Anastasia Steele’ and ‘Christian Grey’? When I saw the four potential contestants to be casted for the film, I found myself flustered and upset. These actors weren’t how I pictured these characters as visually as well as all other aspects of fully encompassing their character. These feelings came from parasocial interaction or relationships. Though we know there is a clear line between real and fictional relationships, sometimes without knowing, the lines may become blurred.

  7. I get the idea of parasocial relationships, but for me personally it seems a little obsessive. When I marathon, it is not because of one particular actor or actress, it is because I read the preview and it sounded interesting. There have been shows that I have grown to love, that I did not like initially, but I don’t think I would take it further than that. What I do often and I’m not sure you could call it marathoning or even developing a parasocial relationship, it look up people I see in non-fiction shows. I like to know what happened to the person or information that may not be given about a trial or something like that. They aren’t a series because the stories are not related, but I love them all the same.

  8. This is such an interesting idea, I really enjoyed reading about it. This reminds me of the specific example of “feminist Ryan Gosling (feministryangosling.tumblr.com) where a fan started to talk pictures of Ryan himself and put captions on them as if he were saying something wise in defense of women. This fan loved him so much that they turned their character into exactly who they wanted Ryan to be. I feel as if this connects directly to your idea about One Tree Hill and parasocail relationships in general, as people tend to love actors and actressess based off of how much they love the “idea” of who these people are.

  9. I agree with the notion that we form para-social relationships with not only the characters we see, but the actors as well. It can be a positive thing (someone mentioned Zooey Deschanel from 500 Days of Summer) or it can turn people off to viewing certain movies (Jennifer Lawrence was mentioned). Everything an actor has ever done in their career stays with them forever, and it must be taken into account when casting. This is because of our complex “relationships” with those actors; we start to question why Daniel Radcliffe couldn’t just bust out a patronus to deal with the woman in black. An actor’s history and their following is just as important as their ability.

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