Binging on Gilmore Girls: a parasocial exploration of fans' viewing behaviors

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University of Alabama Libraries

Binge-watching has become increasingly popular with the rise of video-on-demand services and online streaming sites, but little has been done to evaluate the effects of this new viewing behavior on audiences. This study explores binge-watching as a possible mechanism in the formation of parasocial relationships with media personae as well as a motivator for the negative affects experienced when a persona is no longer included in new content, the phenomenon known as parasocial breakup. Other variables, such as the extent to which the media is watched alone or with others, were also explored. To test these relationships, two online surveys were completed by fans of the television show Gilmore Girls, one before the release of a new Gilmore Girls mini-series on Netflix and one after the release. A total of 387 fans participated in the surveys, which assessed their viewing behaviors of the mini-series and already-released episodes in the time leading up to the mini-series’ premiere. In the post-watching sample, it was found that binge-watching the mini-series was negatively related to parasocial relationship intensity. Furthermore, parasocial relationship intensity was positively related to parasocial breakup distress. Other predictors of parasocial relationship intensity include show affinity and age of viewer, while mini-series enjoyment was found to have a strong, negative correlation to parasocial breakup distress. Findings suggest further research regarding the relationship between binge-watching and parasocial relationships, as well as the influence that discussing the show with others has on breakup distress.

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