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Why Viewers Grieve the End of a Favorite Show

Photo from Adrian Swancar via Unsplash

Why Viewers Grieve the End of a Favorite Show

By Movieguide® Contributor

Many TV viewers grieve the endings of their favorite shows or characters as if they lost someone in real life.

Fox News reported on the common phenomenon called a “parasocial relationship,” which is defined as when “viewers develop a one-sided connection with the characters in their favorite show.”

The study was conducted after the Australian soap opera NEIGHBOURS ended after a 37-year run, and many viewers suffered emotionally from its end.

In an interview with Fox News Digital, Dr. Adam Gerace, a senior psychology lecturer at Central Queensland University in Australia, discussed the experience.

“We often feel a sense of loss when our favorite television series ends because we form relationships with our favorite characters,” he said. “When a series ends or a [favorite] character dies, people often report feeling sadness and disbelief, almost as if an important relationship is ending in their lives.”

“I surveyed fans about their feelings of loss and sadness, their reasons for watching the series, how they felt about their [favorite] characters, and to what extent they felt they were able to commemorate the end of this series,” he continued. “They watched it for entertainment and excitement, which makes sense given that it’s a drama serial or soap opera, as well as to think about social issues and be exposed to lifestyles and situations they might not encounter in the everyday world.”

Fox reported, “Of the 1,289 respondents who answered the survey, 76% were female, with a mean age of 45.”

While a common experience, parasocial relationships can become unhealthy and may even be a form of idolatry.

“There’s a sense where it’s not even really accurate to call them relationships,” said Vance Ricks, associate teaching professor of philosophy and computer science at Northeastern University.

He continued, “I might listen to these people and think I know who they are because they’re such a part of my own life, but they have no idea that I exist. That’s one of the hallmarks of a parasocial relationship: It’s a unidirectional one…In essence, the way that it makes sense to call it a relationship is you’re conjuring up the idea that there is a relationship, when in fact there really isn’t.”

Ricks mentioned that this phenomenon has only grown since the pandemic, where everyone had to isolate from real relationships.

“One of the things that sociologists and psychologists have been pointing out for a couple of decades — and this has been turbocharged because of the pandemic — is the self-reported amount of isolation that Americans talk about, the plunge in the number of people Americans identify as close friends and the retreat from a lot of social space.”

Regardless of what we are going through, we are to avoid idolatry or the worship of other people. 1 Corinthians 10:14 says, “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.” We must foster healthy and real relationships even with our favorite shows to avoid allowing counterfeit idols to consume our hearts and minds.


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