Respondents in the leadership category also describe the application of methods as seen on the show in their own respective organizations, claiming that if the method is successful on the show then the same success can be guaranteed in their own lives. The respondents are confident that they are making the correct decision for their lives, after correcting the mistakes the character in the show originally made. Defensiveness in this category is common; respondents defend the characters’ actions as if they are explaining themselves and their own rationale.
This explanation of their mistakes, in a way, offers justification for the characters and themselves, as they feel connected with the decisions of the characters as if they were the viewers’ own, or something that the viewers would have done had they known better. The third subcategory is the characters’ role in terms of relationships. The ideas of friendship support structure is apparent in this category. Also, classification placement is most described by respondents. That is, the respondents would claim their friends are similar to the friends of the character being identified.
They look at the roles of friends on the show as a role model of sorts. This helps understand how viewers who symbolically boast may strive to boast with their friends in order to recreate the relationship structures on the show. Perhaps, the idea here is the relational support structures of the friends, as represented on the show. This identification is not based on literal connections but a concept based on identification. This is clear when the viewers describe the principles of friendship regardless of the methods taken by the character.
Vicarious role-taking (Ellis, Streeter, and Engelbrecht, 1983) may be evident in this category in that the respondents may relate on the role of a character so that they may reflect on whoever the character is interacting with, in this case the friend and their relationships on the show. The final subcategory created is related to the characters’ career or major ambitions. Respondents in this category state that they have similar interests in careers with that of the show’s characters. Men note only careers that, in the traditional sense, have high salaries, for example, a lawyer or doctor.
This suggests that men respect or revere the success of the character, or future successes that the character would have. Women, on the other hand, are more emphatic with the struggle and indecision about the future. Indecisiveness about the future seems to prompt this level of identification. The casual attitude and insecurity displayed by Cappie is described in a way that makes those characteristics desired by the respondents. The respondents describe their pressure for a decision and wish that they too are as carefree in their decision making processes.
This may serve to understand the concept of escapism (Henning & Vorderer, 2001) in respondents. Perhaps symbolically boasting with the character allows the respondents to feel less pressured and and can allows them to feel contented for a short time before having to make their own difficult decisions. Henning and Vorderer (2001) argue that the easiest way for individuals to escape pressure in their lives is to watch television and escape into that world. This, applied with symbolic boasting, allows the viewer to completely avoid the pressure and live in a carefree manner similar to the characters on the show.
Another trend in this category is the respondents’ use of the show as a relational maintenance tool. Here, respondents defend a controversial decision made by one of the supporting characters and argue that her behavior is acceptable and to be expected from someone in that particular career. The respondents cite the character’s behavior to their partners and discussed the outcome on the show. This dialogue about examples from the show may provide an outlet for relational maintenance with viewers.
They feel comfortable in using examples from the show in order to discuss how they would perform the situation similarly or differently in reality. It may also help respondents feel less vulnerable when performing relational maintenance because the viewers are discussing the characters’ actions, not their own specifically. The viewers may feel like they would act similarly but by learning their partner’s opinions or reactions in relation to the character could allow the viewers to have better knowledge of which ways to perform in the same situation.
It seems evident that the strongest connections made in symbolic boasting are made through the initial identification of personality type. This study has proven useful for future studies in that it has experimented with interview protocol, discovered motivations for identification, and further explained the concept of symbolic boasting. Viewers describe how they learned from watching the characters and use the information from the show in their own lives.
For example, it was seen how viewers use examples from the show to perform relational maintenance, resolve conflicts in their respective organizations, and improve their decision making processes after seeing how events played out in the show. They also aspire to restructure their lives to resemble those of the show’s characters. They show trends in offering justification for characters’ mistakes as if they were defending their own actions. This may also be a feature of symbolic boasting in that the viewers feel connected with the characters as if they were the viewers’ or that the decisions that the viewers would have made.
Limitations of this study include the fact that the storyline on the television show is always changing. It is difficult to draw conclusions in identification when the basis of the plot changes from week to week. Once a new episode is released, the respondents answers are outdated. In addition, some might see that asking the respondents if they directly claim they are a specific character may be leading the respondents or pushing for a specific answers. In this study, the goal is to clearly identify symbolic boasting, and this cannot be done without oral interaction.
The rationale here is to demonstrate the oral interaction and determine the level of symbolic boasting from that point on. Respondents do not show resistance in their answers and they do not seem to deviate from their original point in claiming that they are a specific character on the television show Greek. Greek is capable enough to produce symbolic boasting in viewers in that the situations represented in the show are the dramatization of circumstances faced by the respondents in their real lives.
When the viewers see the situations in real life, they may identify themselves in those situations and that results in symbolic boasting with the characters in the show. It has been suggested that when the size of community increases, expressions of identity need a context and the characters in media will fulfill the necessity for expressing the identity (Boxer, 2002). Perhaps, it is in these respective organizations that symbolic boasting is necessary in order to find one’s own place. Suffice it to say, symbolic boasting is an attempt to establish an identity and a sense of fulfillment.