This study examines symbolic boasting in terms of culture, identification and popularizations of group-oriented commonalties. Upon analysis of the data, it appears that members of various Greek organizations have symbolically boasted relationships, as they relate themselves with characters from the television show called Greek. The adoration of actors and actresses to the point of them being considered as idols or role models is a customary attitude and is prevalent in the culture. Viewers of the show may change their behaviors and the way they view things based on how they see themselves as part of those characters.
In addition, they may see the characters as who the viewers are, and not necessarily as idols or role models. The intensity of the affiliation appears as if it is related to the degree of identification viewers feel with the characters of the show. The more that these viewers, especially students, identify with the fictional characters, the more that they become emotionally attached and tend to be emotional in their opinions, views, and responses. Students generally watch the television show Greek for two main reasons.
First, it provides the viewers the opportunity to identify with the fictional characters given that they are representatives of real life scenarios. This means that the viewers see the show as real or possible in real life, which makes the identification easier. In addition, they idolize the characters or scenarios represented on the show, or admire and desire to have a particular quality, attitude or the plot of the character in their lives. Here, viewers may wish to be more like the character and symbolic boasting may bring them closer to what they consider as ideal.
This study found that knowledge of the characters is a crucial component in identification. The distinction between self-description and self-disclosure (Culbert, 1967) provides insight on how and why viewers choose characters to identify with. The information learned from self-disclosure allows viewers to know more about the character and, therefore, identify and symbolically boast with the character. The more prominent or known the characters are, the more likely the show is to have longer and complicated stories, and therefore, more information about the characters can be seen.
This, perhaps, can result in stronger identification with the characters. In the show, the fact that Casey is the character that viewers most responded to is to be expected, as she is the main character of the show. However, this may lean to the idea that identification or symbolic boasting occurs only through the ideal or model of a particular example, in this case the television show. Respondents may be more unwilling to boast with the supporting characters on a show because they are not what the show focuses on and the storyline does not revolve around them.
People who associate themselves with Casey also indicate their willingness or need to be the leader and the person in-charge of their lives. They look up to this control and executive position and wish to have it in their own lives, and this may be possible through symbolic boasting. The social aspect of the respondents’ viewing patterns reveals that the initial exposure of the show often was a result of ritualized television viewing (Rubin, 1984), which is viewing associated with passing time and habit.
Respondents here note that they probably never would have become involved with the show were it not for a brother or sister who introduced it to them. This may also add to the idea of classification placement on others. By suggesting to a friend to watch the show, they could be projecting the situations and qualities upon the friend in order to aid them in understanding the television show Greek’s perspective. Respondents note that after they were introduced to the show, they began to see similar relationship structures in themselves with those who introduced them to it.
This means that the viewer who identifies with relationship structures most often claims that the individual who introduced the viewer to the show is a part of the relationship structure similar to that on the show. This is significant in that the motivations for identification with others may be based on people’s common interests in the show and their mutual understanding of the characters. As noted earlier, an understanding of the nuances of the characters is needed in symbolic boasting in order to correctly align with the appropriate character.
This might also show that viewers desire interpersonal relationships wherein they can discuss and analyze the show and what it means in relation to their own lives. Respondents note that they discussed their similarities with their friends and those who introduced them to the show and how they all fit into certain characters. This may serve in shaping the symbolic boasting relationships in that the viewer may need the motivation from others to recognize the initial similarities.
The expectations of the show on initial viewing seem to be quite low with most of the respondents expecting it to be similar to older television shows attempting to expose Greek life for its negative attributes. The respondents note their surprise that the television show Greek portrayed Greek life in its most positive aspects, while at the same time highlighting struggles that are within the lives of average college students and their Greek involvement.
It appears that the more that the respondents watched the show, the more that they became involved, and the more they wanted to know everything about the show. The evening drama genre of the show may contribute to this, as most of the show’s episodes are set up with a cliffhanger ending but participants suggest that watching the show, learning about the characters and situations, and becoming more involved with the characters served a purpose. The connections with characters on the show are made possible through repeated exposure and self-disclosure by the characters.
Respondents who watched the show more often felt stronger connections with the characters and situations. For example, one respondent identifies how he felt disappointed and distressed if he failed to see the show when it airs. When respondents demonstrate a frustration and dissatisfaction with a character, they follow their description with an explanation on behalf of the character in a way that shows their diversity and difference with the character.
The explanation is demonstrative of the discounting of differences that is a part of symbolic boasting. Similarly, when differences from what is real and the representations on the show are noticed, the respondents offer explanations for these differences. These explanations suggest that they believe that if these specific differences were not present, then the real life experiences and situations on the show would be the same.