Parasocial relationships in The Amalgamated Aggromulator

  • Feb. 11, 2024, 2:26 p.m.
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  • Public

Something new that showed up for me in 2023, in the summer, is a viewing habit. It appeared during the time of year when I usually have some sort of unreasonably intense compulsive activity suddenly going on, to mask - well, to mask I don’t know what it is, but let’s call it summer depression.

The “something new” refers to YouTube reaction videos. People film themselves watching movies and TV shows, and usually watching them for the first time.

Let’s say there is a movie you love. Maybe you have the DVD of the movie, or maybe you could find it streaming online. And you can watch it again, this familiar thing that you already know.
But there is something else that is delightful - watching someone else watch the same movie when they have never seen it before.

I have grown remarkably fond of some of these people. I subscribe to a now very large number of them in YouTube, and, in the mornings when I am drinking my excessively strong coffee and the house is still quiet and still, I keep refreshing YouTube to see if one of them has posted a video in which they’ve watched something that I love. It makes my day when this happens. Watching them be surprised, watching them laugh - and in a way watching the movie for the first time again myself, which is otherwise very difficult to do.

The videos themselves are short - in part because the whole unbroken reactions are generally only released on Patreon where people pay to see them, and in part because, when they are edited for YouTube, bits of the actual movie are added in a little window next to the reactor and the people can’t show too much without risking a copyright challenge. So you can watch one just in a small gap of free time, and you can watch quite a few of these things in a short period.

I cannot remember who I happened to see first or what the movie was, but now I am hooked. I can say that it’s the first thing I do on the Internet that I’m sure is outright, full-blown addicted behavior on my part. Or at least everything else has ifs, ands, and buts. I watch these reaction videos for comfort. Heck, I do it for companionship, I think, because really what they provide is like the high notes of companionship.
What these people are in effect selling (I say that because these lucky people make money off ads) is the experience of having friends over. Friends in a bottle.

I like the term “parasocial relationship”, although I never have occasion to use it (so here I am writing this so I can). Dictionary.com says of the term, “The term parasocial relationship refers to a relationship that a person imagines having with another person whom they do not actually know, such as a celebrity or a fictional character.”
(I also like the term because, if you used it without explanation and other people didn’t know the term, it could sound really kinky. You would of course pause before using the word and then look them frankly in the eye. I’m not sure when the right circumstances for this would show up, but I’m on the lookout.)

I must say that folks who have in the past not really watched a lot of things, or who have only watched a narrow genre, have a gold mine on their hands! Because they have so many things that they could film themselves watching with the words in the title “First Time Watching”. I do not know how so many people could have grown up locked in the cellar. One of my faves apparently only watched romantic comedies in her youth, which leaves a lot of space. And then there’s the terrific one who “Hates Horror Movies” - although at this point I think she can call herself a veteran.
And then there is the other factor, the amazing passage of time. So many movies have come out long enough ago that, quite naturally, newly grown-ups in 2024 will never have seen or heard of them.

It is just this ongoing thing with me now. I had such a good morning when I’d been wishing for months that Simone and George would watch Let The Right One In and then suddenly I saw that they had. And it was downright electrifying to see how intensely a young Bulgarian woman, with the shadows of the communist regime behind her, reacted to V For Vendetta. The movie might have been made just for her.

This much, anyway, to give a glimpse of what I do with my time.


Last updated February 11, 2024


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