May 8, 2019

Why we mourn the deaths of our favorite TV and movie characters

Glenn Sparks Glenn Sparks
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WHAT: Fans of “Avengers: Endgame” and “Game of Thrones” are coping the best they can with the deaths of their favorite characters on the big screen and television. An “Avengers” fan, for example, was hospitalized after crying too hard during the film’s opening weekend. “Game of Thrones” fans, on the other hand, have shown a morbid curiosity about the TV show’s deceased characters, maintaining a running list of who has been killed and speculating about who’s next.

EXPERT: Glenn Sparks, a professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University, is an author and expert on media effects research. For decades, Sparks has studied the mental and emotional effects on viewers, including children, of media violence and frightening films.

QUOTE: “Viewers become invested in what happens to the characters they’ve learned to love. When favorite characters die, the emotional consequences of the death may feel very much like the grief people feel when real-life friends die. Media scholars refer to this phenomenon as a para-social relationship — the experience of forming bonds with fictional characters that provide the same sorts of feelings that we experience with our real social relationships with close friends or family.”

MORE INFORMATION: Sparks also studies the effects of electronic media and paranormal depictions in media. He is author of “Media Effects Research: A Basic Overview
 and “A First Look at Communication Theory,” and co-author of “Refrigerator Rights: Our Crucial Need for Close Connection.” 

Writer: Joseph Paul, 765-494-9541, paul102@purdue.edu

Source: Glenn Sparks, 765-464-9536, gsparks@purdue.edu

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