This study took advantage of the recent release of several mainstream, franchise action films featuring diverse casts to investigate how the gender and race of viewers interacts with those of the characters to shape viewers’ sense of connection to the characters. Through an online survey of 147 viewers, it addresses which characters within a film the viewers saw themselves as most connected to, and considers two types of subjective, virtual connections to specific characters - identification and parasocial relationship (PSR). Respondents were more likely to cite characters played by actors of the same gender or the same race as the one to which they felt most connected. Participants reported stronger parasocial relationships with characters played by actors who were women. A viewer-actor match in terms of race was associated with stronger PSR, which was attributable to African American respondents’ engagement with characters from Black Panther. Demographic correspondences between the viewers and the actors playing their selected characters were not associated with stronger identification.
Journal of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Hall, Alice, "[Accepted Article Manuscript Version (Postprint)] Audience Responses to Diverse Superheroes: The Roles of Gender and Race in Forging Connections with Media Characters in Superhero Franchise Films" (2020). Communication and Media Faculty Works. 10.
Available at: https://irl.umsl.edu/communication-faculty/10