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McDreamy is McDead: Fan responses to a parasocial break-up

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Grounded in scholarship regarding post-object fandom, parasocial break-ups and parasocial grief, this research explored tweets regarding the death of a long-running, central character on the TV show Grey’s Anatomy. A theory-driven thematic analysis revealed five major themes including: emotional expressions of grief, recovery and coping, advocating, not wanting to watch, and memorializing, each encompassing various subthemes. Fans expressed these responses with varying levels of intensity. The results suggest that there are fan responses to a parasocial break-up, especially a parasocial death, not suggested in prior studies that should be examined in future research. Furthermore, a parasocial break-up can be a powerful experience for fans even disrupting their everyday lives.
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Keywords: parasocial break-ups; parasocial grief; parasocial relationships; post-object fandom; television; thematic analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000403946950St. Norbert College

Publication date: June 1, 2020

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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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