Engaging television characters: a cognitive approach to contemporary television

Kroener, Oliver (2018) Engaging television characters: a cognitive approach to contemporary television. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3330456


To what degree is the viewer’s engagement with a television character triggered by the distinct narrative context of a programme? As with other types of storytelling (e.g. film, literature), engaging with a television character is an integral part of the overall experience of watching television. More specifically, television characters provide an emotional focal point for the audience. They invite us to imagine ourselves in their situation, challenge our sense of morality, and encourage us to consider how we would react if we were to encounter them in our everyday life.

Whereas in the past relating to television characters has been somewhat of a private phenomenon, our relationship with television characters has become increasingly public within the last decade. The ever-growing recap culture around all types of television programmes on websites such as The AV Club, Uproxx, and IndieWire, and the lively discourse around television characters on social media (e.g. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) underline this increased public interest in television characters.

Given the current popular interest in viewer engagement with television characters, it is surprising that only a limited number of scholarly works have previously explored this subject. Furthermore, most existing studies on the viewer/character relationship in contemporary television exhibit little variation in their focus on genre and character type. More specifically, as a result of the impact of The Sopranos (1999 - 2007) and Breaking Bad (2008 – 13) on popular culture, scholarly discourse around television characters has been dominated by studies on the morally corrupt antihero protagonists of contemporary television drama. Aside from a few notable exceptions (e.g. Gorton, 2009; Blanchet and Vaage, 2012; Mittell, 2015), most existing studies on viewer engagement with television characters ignore the way in which narrative characteristics inherent to the television medium influence the viewer/character relationship.

The main aim of this thesis is to establish a medium- and programme-specific, text-based theoretical model for the study of viewer engagement with television characters. Various television formats are examined, including wrestling, contemporary drama, animated series, and late-night chat programmes. Also examined are the specific modes of engagement (e.g. antipathy, parasocial engagement, long-term viewer engagement) that shape the viewer-text relationship. The methodological approach is primarily based in cognitive media theory and television studies, however, studies on viewer engagement from a wide range of disciplines (e.g. literary studies, psychology, sociology) are also considered. By examining viewer engagement in this way, this thesis challenges and builds upon existing theoretical approaches, and seeks to provide the reader with a deeper understanding of a relationship that, despite its growing importance in the everyday lives of many television viewers, has thus far only received limited scholarly attention.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Television, cognition, emotion, viewer engagement, television characters, television genre.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Holdsworth, Dr. Amy
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Oliver Kroener
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30875
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 Oct 2018 13:52
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2024 09:50
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.30875
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/30875

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