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‘I’m never gonna stop watching it’: The paradox of parasocial break-ups in a post-object era

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In this article, we propose an understanding of parasocial relationships, in which fans build an affective relationship with characters and television programmes, as fandom’s emotional interior. Rather than being structured by fan productivity and community, parasocial relationships exist in a private, intimate space as fans develop deep emotional bonds with characters. When a series concludes, fans must therefore reconcile the dissolution of these relationships in a personal way, a process called the parasocial break-up. However, the current media landscape fosters the sense that the fan object is never truly ‘over’, which tempers the negative emotions of the parasocial break-up. Interviews with fans of The Office revealed that this process is paradoxical, as fans assert both the devastation of loss and the agency of denying that loss.
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Keywords: American television; The Office; fandom; parasocial break-up; post-object fandom; reception studies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: 0000000107458995Missouri State University 2: 000000009560654XUniversity of Memphis

Publication date: September 1, 2019

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  • The multi – disciplinary nature of fan studies makes the development of a community of scholars sometimes difficult to achieve. The Journal of Fandom Studies seeks to offer scholars a dedicated publication that promotes current scholarship into the fields of fan and audience studies across a variety of media. It focuses on the critical exploration, within a wide range of disciplines and fan cultures, of issues surrounding production and consumption of popular media (including film, music, television, sports and gaming), The journal aims to address key issues in fans studies itself, while also fostering new areas of enquiry that take us beyond the bounds of current scholarship.
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