When I first saw the teaser actor Sebastian Stan put up on his Instagram for his indie movie, Monday, I checked the comments.
It was the usual, “Did he just lick her face?” “I am so jealous of her!” “He is so hot!” etc etc and then there was this one that popped up:
“idk if i will watch becuase idk if i can bare seeing u kiss another woman” followed by over 180 likes and comments asking, “Why does this hurt so much?”
Now I have an answer to that question. This attachment to an actor is an example of a parasocial relationship.
The term was invented in the 1950s by scientists Donald Horton and Richard Wohl, it basically means when a person forms a one-sided relationship with the media. So you know when you get excited when a character gets their happy ending? Does it feel like a friend or even possibly you also got their happy ending? Is it because you spent so much time investing in this character’s story? That’s parasocial.
Now let’s say you like that character so much, you wanted to see who was the actor portraying that character and then you start to like the actor too. You follow them on social media, watch whatever else they have been in, read their interviews, etc. Now you are a full-blown fan of not just the character but of the actor as well.
This is not just about actors, it can happen to any form of media. Musicians and athletes are in a whole league of their own. People hate each other or love each other based on what team they support. But that is for another time.
Parasocial became a form of a relationship when the visual medium was used. Fans have existed for as long as entertainment has, there were fans of Shakespeare during his time, of Beethoven during his time. But when the TV came and people could watch and listen to someone in the comfort of their own living rooms, enjoying dinner with their families, every night, well that changed things. A parasocial relationship was formed. Lucille Ball didn’t know every single viewer, just like how Sebastian Stan doesn’t know every 5.3+ million followers he has on Instagram. But the viewers know Lucille Ball, and the followers know Sebastian Stan and care for these media personalities.
So for the fans who commented, “Why does this hurt?” It hurts because you formed a one-sided relationship with him, an emotional attachment and attraction to him as an actor, and as a person. Therefore, to see someone you know care for kiss someone else (or lick their face as he does in the clip), you feel in a sense cheated on. At the very least, you feel jealous or protective of who your favorite actor is spending his time with.
It is actually not that uncommon but it has heightened now that we are in the digital age. Instead of going to a theater, or watching the tv in a designated spot in the house, you can watch or listen to whoever you want, whenever you want, however you want. It is all accessible in the palm of your hand, called a smartphone.
So what can you do? The first step is to admit that these feelings you have for the actor shows that they are doing their job well. You are a fan, they appreciate your passion but it is not really a relationship past that of fandom.
If it really is taking a lot out of you, take a break from the media, delete the streaming services and social media apps off your phone. Designate a time limit to your exposure to them. That distance can do you a lot of good. Because then, you can enjoy the media for what it is, entertainment.
There is nothing wrong with crushing on an actor, but don’t let it ruin your mood when you aren’t the one he is kissing on the screen (or in real life for that matter).