A parasocial relationship is one in which an individual is attracted to another individual (Usually a celeb) but the target individual is usually unaware of the existence of the person who created the relationship (Horton and Wohl) Such relationships are appealing as makes few demands to the individual. Due to the fact the individual doesn't have a real relationship with the celebrity they do not run the risk of criticsm or rejection, as might be the case in real relationships. (McCutcheon)
Keinlen (1998) and McCann (2001) both believe that fans have a tendency to create parasocial relationships with celebrities. They also say this is most likely to happen with people who are ‘insecurely attached’; this could be because parasocial relationships don’t come with the threat of disappointment and break-ups, something insecure people might be especially worried about.
However, there are positives of parasocial relationships, for example these relationships can help fight loneliness. Also, parasocial relationships can help teach the fan important lessons (because the fan is more likely to listen in a parasocial relationship).
The absorption-addiction Model
This model, put forward by McCutcheon, says people seek parasocial relationships with celebrities to fill the dissatisfaction they feel in their own lives. For example, someone might feel like they haven’t achieved much in their lives, so by becoming fanatical about a ‘successful’ celebrity, the fan ‘absorbs’ some of the success.
McCutcheon said that this fanaticism will normally stay at a healthy level, however sometimes this can lead to addiction. Giles and Maltby said this progression can okay in 3 stages:
1) Entertainment-social – Fans are attracted to celebrities because it provides entertainment
2) Intense-personal – Fans feel a connection with the celebrity, for example feeling like they are ‘soul-mates’ with the celebrity
3) Borderline pathological – Fans in this category have uncontrollable behaviours and fantasies about their celebrity which are completely disjoined from reality
The addiction felt by certain fans can eventually lead to being borderline pathological, which can lead to things such as stalking and obsession.
Explanation of the attraction to celebrity – Evolu
Attraction to creativity (Neophilla)
Humans have an innate love of novelty and creativity, so when females came to choosing mates they looked for ever more creativity in men. In the 21st century this love of creativity still exists, but now we look for creativity in talents such as music, art and humour. This can explain why we idolise and are attracted to talented and creative celebrities, such as singings and actors.
Evaluation – Shiraishi found an enzyme, MAOA, which correlates with the love of creativity and novelty. Some people have higher levels of this enzyme, which could explain why some people are more attracted to celebrities than other.
One way in which we show our attraction to celebrity is by gossiping about them. De Backer suggests that gossiping has been developed to help build social relationships and to strengthen bonds between group members, something vital for our ancestors. Similarly gossiping could be a useful in informing other group members about possible dangers. Barkow (1992) suggests that we fool ourselves into thinking celebrities are part of our social groups, hence why we gossip about them.
Evaluation – De Backer surveyed 800 participants and found that they do find gossiping a useful way to gain information that could be useful about other members of a social group, just as our ancestors did. This suggests the reasoning for our gossiping about celebrities are still similar to those of thousands of years ago.