Emotional Investment in Television


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I watch a lot of television. Like, a lot. More than a normal person does or, rather, should. But I am sure I am not the only person who gets entirely too emotionally invested in the lives of television characters. I cheer when good things happen and I get depressed when they encounter tragedy (and let's just put it out there, sometimes I cry, sue me!). But I never really wondered why that is until now. Why do I care so much about the lives of people that, well, just aren't real?

The answer I found was pretty simple. The question has been asked pretty often, but the answer isn't too far-fetched. Television is an escape for many people. We love to see characters doing things we will never do (I will never be a bad-ass CIA agent like Carrie on Homeland, and that's why it is my favorite show). We live vicariously through the things these fictional characters do. So it is easy to understand that we become a little obsessed with things that these characters do. Additionally, television serves as an outlet for our own hopes and desires, and can inspire hope in a person. Thus, people become obsessed with television because it helps them escape their own world which doesn't always seem bright.

So the emotional investment is pretty clear to see. We become enamored with these characters and what they are doing that we get a little more emotional than we should when it comes to their actions. Is it unhealthy? Well it hasn't been proven to be detrimental yet, so I say obsess on, TV lovers!

4 Comments

I am not a big fan of television but my roommate is and she goes through all the emotions you mentioned. I often see her screaming at the TV saying things like "NO!! He's alive." I don't understand these feelings considering the fact that I am emotionally detached from most things. I do understand that television is a way to escape our mundane lives but watching reality TV and seeing how they act is actually a turn off for me. The same can be said for dramas. They just do not appeal to me at all.

Interesting blog, I like writing screenplays and I agree that characters that a big part of it is about living vicariously through other people. I think all drama on TV is pretty much a struggle between good and evil, and people like to see people who are good and who suffer a lot succeed in the end, and those other people fail. It's incredible how TV has the ability to get you on the side of almost any character and make them relatable and also has the ability to make you hate someone so much you are happy when you see them get killed. It's all about seeing yourself and connecting everything to your own life.

I am not the sit on the couch and browse the channels type, but once I get hooked on a series, I'm in for the long haul. My television preferences tend, I admit, to reflect the lives of glamour, fame, talent, and fortune that I would love to be living myself (i.e. "Gossip Girl", "Smashed", "Glee" and "Sex and The City"). This leads me to question, perhaps this is why certain shows are only viewed by a certain group, class, gender, raise, or age or people? After all, I never find myself watching, say, "The Simpsons", "Survivor" or "Family Guy".

I learned in psychology that we all have mirror neurons, which allow us to look at someone's experience (like someone who is crying for instance) and immediately feel the emotions that they might be feeling because of our own experiences. This explains why some people can become connected to certain characters and why people cringe and get excited during sporting events; they are putting themselves in the positions of the people they are watching and essentially experiencing the emotions themselves. This is also why, as Katherine mentioned, we are all more likely to gravitate toward shows that feature characters that we can relate to or whom we admire. However, this does not explain why there are some people who cannot connect to anyone on TV at all. Does anyone have any thoughts about that?

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