The absorption-addiction Model
This model, put forward by McCutcheon, says people seek parasocial relationships with celebrities to fill the dissatisfaction they feel in their own lives. For example, someone might feel like they haven’t achieved much in their lives, so by becoming fanatical about a ‘successful’ celebrity, the fan ‘absorbs’ some of the success.
McCutcheon said that this fanaticism will normally stay at a healthy level, however sometimes this can lead to addiction. Giles and Maltby said this progression can okay in 3 stages:
1) Entertainment-social – Fans are attracted to celebrities because it provides entertainment
2) Intense-personal – Fans feel a connection with the celebrity, for example feeling like they are ‘soul-mates’ with the celebrity
3) Borderline pathological – Fans in this category have uncontrollable behaviours and fantasies about their celebrity which are completely disjoined from reality
The addiction felt by certain fans can eventually lead to being borderline pathological, which can lead to things such as stalking and obsession.
A parasocial relationship is one where one person (the fan) believes they are in a relationship, but the other person (the celebrity) doesn’t even know the fan exists. Keinlen (1998) and McCann (2001) both believe that fans have a tendency to create parasocial relationships with celebrities. They also say this is most likely to happen with people who are ‘insecurely attached’; this could be because parasocial relationships don’t come with the threat of disappointment and break-ups, something insecure people might be especially worried about.
However, there are positives of parasocial relationships, for example these relationships can help fight loneliness. Also, parasocial relationships can help teach the fan important lessons (because the fan is more likely to listen in a parasocial relationship).