This study investigated identification and parasocial relationships (PSRs) with media characters by examining viewers’ responses to the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens through an online survey of 113 audience members who saw the film in a theater within a month of its release. Participants reported stronger PSR and identification with the more familiar characters from the first trilogy than with the new characters introduced in the film, although the association with identification was limited to older participants. Star Wars fanship was associated with identification and PSR for old and new characters. Familiarity with the earlier films was associated with PSR of old and new characters and with identification with the old characters. Participants were more likely to cite characters of the same gender as the one to which they felt most connected, but among the “most connected” newer characters a viewer–character gender match was not associated with stronger identification or PSR. Identification, but not PSR, with the story antagonist was associated with greater hedonic enjoyment and appreciation. Implications for audience responses to other transmedia narratives and for processes of audience reception in general are discussed.
Psychology of Popular Media Culture
Hall, Alice, "Identification and Parasocial Relationships With Characters From Star Wars: The Force Awakens." (2019). Communication and Media Faculty Works. 3.