The fan identity theory revolving around celebrities is a bit different that the Fan Identity Theories that i have already discussed.The fan-celebrity relationship is seen as a compensation of the unfulfilled social interaction of the ‘fan’. Unlike the last couple fan identity’s that I have talked about, this fan identity isn’t seen as a part of the ‘usual social interaction’. It is seen as a sign of a pathological relationship in which a fan is projecting their lack of ‘social intimacy’ with others onto a celebrity figure. This is because the interaction between audience and celebrity gives the illusion of typical social relationship and is called a ‘para-social relationship (PSI)’. PSI can be developed to the point where media audiences begin to view the mediated others as”real friends”. Feelings of PSI are nurtured through carefully constructed mechanisms, such as verbal and nonverbal interaction cues, and can carry over to subsequent encounters. This type of relationship is very different from our usual ‘imagined community’ and takes us down a different path in talking about social identity theory when dealing with this type of relationship.
A paper written by Horton and Wohl in 1956 demonstrated the boundary between a real-life social interaction and a para-social relationship. A celebrity is considered as a ‘persona’ in a PSI since his or her personality is created by their fans in order to meet their psychological need. The purpose of developing a para-social relationship with a ‘persona’ is to fulfil the lack of desired interaction in real life. Like the imagined communities in our last fan identities, this imagined relationship gives individuals a sense of belonging. This effects is said to originate because the image which is presented makes available nuances of appearance and gesture to which ordinary social perception is attentive and to which interaction is cued.
A study which included individuals who watched soap operas answering questionnaires found that, similar to social relationships, parasocial relationships with favorite soap opera characters were based, to some extent, on reduction of uncertainty and the ability to predict accurately the feelings and attitudes of the persona. Meaning that individuals were who felt a connection with these celebrities thought of them as friends. This means that the fan identity is unique in the fact that the central symbol of that fandoms, the celebrity, is seen in that fandoms to have some sort of actual relationship with the fans. Celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons is also associated with poorer mental heath and this relationship can be understood within the dimensions of “neuroticism and a coping style that suggests disengagement with real life”(Maltby 2004). Effecting behaviour of individuals by making them less prone to create meaningful relationships outside of this ‘imagined relationship’, if you will.
In conclusion, fan identity surrounding celebrities seems to come back to the hazards of ‘celebrity worship’ and behavioural problems of para-social relationship. Making it so individuals create relationships that are really there, making them invest in meaningless relationships, an taking away their ability to create relationships outdid of this ‘imagined relationship’.
- Social identity of Fans and its Interaction with Fandom
- Mass Communication and Para-social Interaction
- Attribution in Social and Parasocial Relationships
- Personality and coping: A context for examining celebrity worship and mental health