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How movies can ease the fear of death: the survival or death of the protagonists in meaningful movies


Rieger, Diana; Hofer, Matthias (2017). How movies can ease the fear of death: the survival or death of the protagonists in meaningful movies. Mass Communication and Society, 20(5):710-733.

Abstract

Many media entertainment products address the fragility of life by portraying the severe illness or death of the protagonist. According to terror management theory, people need to create meaning in their lives when they are reminded of their own mortality, for instance, by engaging in close relationships with others. Meaningful films may provide recipients with an anxiety buffer that helps them to cope with existential fear. The results of an experimental study (N = 130) demonstrated that participants who had been reminded of their mortality appreciated a meaningful movie more and liked the protagonist better when he survived than when he died. Further, participants who viewed the movie in which the protagonist survived did not activate their self-esteem-based anxiety buffer. The results point toward the potential of entertainment to provide internal anxiety buffers and thereby help in coping with self-threatening situations. The findings are discussed in terms of the connections between meaningful media entertainment, coping mechanisms, and viewers’ terror management.

Abstract

Many media entertainment products address the fragility of life by portraying the severe illness or death of the protagonist. According to terror management theory, people need to create meaning in their lives when they are reminded of their own mortality, for instance, by engaging in close relationships with others. Meaningful films may provide recipients with an anxiety buffer that helps them to cope with existential fear. The results of an experimental study (N = 130) demonstrated that participants who had been reminded of their mortality appreciated a meaningful movie more and liked the protagonist better when he survived than when he died. Further, participants who viewed the movie in which the protagonist survived did not activate their self-esteem-based anxiety buffer. The results point toward the potential of entertainment to provide internal anxiety buffers and thereby help in coping with self-threatening situations. The findings are discussed in terms of the connections between meaningful media entertainment, coping mechanisms, and viewers’ terror management.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:700 Arts
Language:English
Date:3 April 2017
Deposited On:16 Jan 2018 14:27
Last Modified:17 Sep 2019 18:58
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1520-5436
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/15205436.2017.1300666

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