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A Case Study On Parasocial Relationships: Dancing With The Devil

Dancing With The Devil, the full docuseries is now available on YouTube. It is not just about Demi Lovato, not even really about her music but about her history with mental illness, depression, eating disorders and drug addiction. 

The first two episodes share how the documentary was originally going to concentrate on her world tour, Tell Me You Love Me in 2018. However, the documentary was put to a halt when she was found having overdosed on drugs laced with fentanyl. 

After almost a two-year break, during lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Demi and the producers decided to start back up filming to explain what happened and what was the result of her overdose. 

Episode 3, “reclaiming power,” starts with sharing the experience of what her choreographer and friend, Dani Vitale went through. We learned in the previous episode that a group of friends was hanging out with Demi for Dani’s birthday. Demi was passing out sparkling water, dancing, singing, having fun. When Dani was tired and wanted to go home, she admitted there was a hesitating feeling that she should not leave but there was no other evidence to keep her staying with Demi.

She left and woke up to the news that Demi called a drug dealer and had overdosed a few hours after they left her house.

A screenshot from the YouTube docuseries

In the following months, Dani lost teaching jobs, clients and received four or five thousand death threats a day from fans of Demi’s. They blamed her for leaving Demi alone, some thought maybe she was the one who brought the drugs in. But the reality was, as Demi admits, she is a talented liar as she is a musician and no one knew that she had relapsed. 

“My fans are amazing. They are very passionate but they are a little out of line sometimes because they want what’s best for me but don’t always have all the information.” 

This is an example of parasocial relationships and the dark side of fans wanting the best but only making matters worse. 

In the fourth episode, “rebirthing,” Elton John was interviewed and sharing his admiration for Demi’s openness. He is 30+ years sober and started out young, though not as young as Demi. He explained, “When you’re young and so famous, my God, it’s tough. You are put up a pedestal and you’re not suppose to be human.” 

People in the media, particularly musicians connect with everyday people. They can sing, speak, and sometimes when words are not enough, the melodies can transport us. It can be very intimate and in turn, there sometimes is a sense of ownership or at least a familiarity with this person you listen to, perhaps idolize.

We don’t know what the whole story is. With social media, we feel like we do because of how much can be shared. As fans, we want the best for our favorite talents. When you hear of them getting hurt, you get into protective mode. But there is only so much you can do, and also not all the details are shared. 

Learn from the example of what happened to Demi’s friend. People blamed her when she had nothing to do with Demi’s relapse and overdose. The result was a young woman’s career was derailed all because of someone else’s actions and other people attacking her. It took two years to hear her side of the story with Demi’s support. We are all human and we can’t always be protected or protect others. We just need to be caring and supportive. 

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