chapter  4
40 Pages

Perceiving and Responding to Mass Media Characters

When people think about their favorite movies and television series, they often think first of the characters who populate them. Producers of entertainment fare seem to appreciate the role of characters in generating and maintaining audiences. In fact, many television executives believe that the most important aspect of a good program is the presence of likeable, intriguing characters (Gitlin, 1983). Sequels and spinoffs are often based on the assumption that the audience for an existing character will want to witness that character in new situations. For example, “Rhoda,” “Phyllis,” and “Lou Grant” were all based on characters developed on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Moreover, several film and television series, such as the James Bond films, have commissioned a series of actors, in succession, to play a single character, apparently under the assumption that interest in a specific character would be maintained even when a new actor played the part.