“Is He Talking to Me?”

How Breaking the Fourth Wall Influences Enjoyment

in Projections
View More View Less
  • 1 Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf (Germany) d.schluetz@filmuniversitaet.de
  • 2 Dept. of Journalism and Communication Research, Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media (Germany) daniel.possler@ijk.hmtm-hanniver.de
  • 3 Dept. of Journalism and Communication Research, Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media (Germany)
Restricted access

Abstract

In this study, we empirically investigate the enjoyment-related consequences of the TV trope of breaking the fourth wall (B4W), which is when a fictional character addresses viewers directly. Based on the model of narrative comprehension and engagement, we assume that B4W contributes to viewers’ cognitive and affective enjoyment by intensifying the parasocial interaction experience (EPSI). Alternatively, B4W could reduce enjoyment by disrupting viewers’ transportation into the narrative. We report two experiments with a total of N = 658 participants and three different stimuli based on the TV series House of Cards (HoC) and Malcolm in the Middle (MitM) as well as the movie Deadpool (DP). Analyses revealed that B4W increased the EPSI, which in turn fostered enjoyment.

Contributor Notes

Daniela M. Schlütz (PhD, Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media) is Professor of Theory and Empiricism of Digital Media at the Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf (Germany). Her research and teaching interests are popular culture (especially quality TV series), entertainment research, strategic communication, and empirical research methods. Her habilitation treatise deals with quality TV as an entertainment phenomenon and covers development, characteristics, use, and reception of complex television series like The Sopranos (David Chase, 1999–2007), The Wire (David Simon, 2002–2008), and Breaking Bad (Vince Gilligan, 2008–2013). Email: d.schluetz@filmuniversitaet.de

Daniel Possler (MA) is Doctoral Researcher in the Department of Journalism and Communication Research (IJK), Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media (Germany). In his research, he focusses on media uses and effects, media entertainment particularly resulting from digital, interactive media such as video games, and the integration of innovative computational methods in communication science. Email: daniel.possler@ijk.hmtm-hanniver.de

Lucas Golombek received his MA in Media Management from the Department of Journalism and Communication Research (IJK), Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media (Germany). He currently works as a data analyst at Otto (GmbH & Co KG).

Projections

The Journal for Movies and Mind

  • Andringa, Els. 1996. “Effects of ‘Narrative Distance’ on Readers’ Emotional Involvement and Response.” Poetics 23 (6): 431452. doi:10.1016/0304-422X(95)00009-9.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Auter, Philip J. 1992. “Psychometric: TV That Talks Back: An Experimental Validation of a Parasocial Interaction Scale.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 36 (2): 173181. doi:10.1080/08838159209364165.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Auter, Philip J., and Donald M. Davis. 1991. “When Characters Speak Directly to Viewers: Breaking the Fourth Wall in Television.Journalism Quarterly 68 (1–2): 165171. doi:10.1177/107769909106800117.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bálint, Katalin, and Ed S. Tan. 2015. “‘It Feels Like There Are Hooks inside My Chest’: The Construction of Narrative Absorption Experiences Using Image Schemata.” Projections 9 (2): 6388. doi:10.3167/proj.2015.090205.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Blanchet, Robert, and Margrethe Bruun Vaage. 2012. “Don, Peggy, and Other Fictional Friends? Engaging with Characters in Television Series.” Projections 6 (2): 1841. doi:10.3167/proj.2012.060203.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bonus, James Alex, Nicholas L. Matthews, and Tim Wulf. 2019 (online first). “The Impact of Moral Expectancy Violations on Audiences’ Parasocial Relationships with Movie Heroes and Villains.Communication Research, 123. doi:10.1177/0093650219886516.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brecht, Bertolt. 1969. Schriften zum Theater [On theater]. Frankfurt on the Main: Suhrkamp.

  • Brown, Tom. 2012. Breaking the Fourth Wall: Direct Address in the Cinema. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

  • Brown, William J. 2015. “Examining Four Processes of Audience Involvement with Media Personae: Transportation, Parasocial Interaction, Identification, and Worship.” Communication Theory 25 (3): 259283. doi:10.1111/comt.12053.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Busselle, Rick, and Helena Bilandzic. 2008. “Fictionality and Perceived Realism in Experiencing Stories: A Model of Narrative Comprehension and Engagement.” Communication Theory 18 (2): 255280. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2885.2008.00322.x.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Busselle, Rick, and Helena Bilandzic. 2009. “Measuring Narrative Engagement.” Media Psychology 12 (4): 321347. doi:10.1080/15213260903287259.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cohen, Jonathan. 2006. “Audience Identification with Media Characters.” In Psychology of Entertainment, ed. Bryant Jennings and Peter Vorderer, 183197. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cohen, Jonathan, Mary Beth Oliver, and Helena Bilandzic. 2018. “The Differential Effects of Direct Address on Parasocial Experience and Identification: Empirical Evidence for Conceptual Difference.” Communication Research Reports 36 (1): 7883. doi:10.1080/08824 096.2018.1530977.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Conway, Steven. 2009. “A Circular Wall? Reformulating the Fourth Wall for Video Games.Gamasutra, 22 July. https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/132475/a_circular_wall_reformulating_the_.php.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cummins, R. Glenn, and Boni Cui. 2014. “Reconceptualizing Address in Television Programming: The Effect of Address and Affective Empathy on Viewer Experience of Parasocial Interaction.” Journal of Communication 64 (4): 723742. doi:10.1111/jcom.12076.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dibble, Jayson L., Tilo Hartmann, and Sarah F. Rosaen. 2016. “Parasocial Interaction and Parasocial Relationship: Conceptual Clarification and a Critical Assessment of Measures.” Human Communication Research 42 (1): 2144. doi:10.1111/hcre.12063.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dickey, Josh. 2016. “All 23 Times ‘Deadpool’ Gleefully Smashed the 4th Wall.Mashable, 16 February. https://mashable.com/2016/02/16/deadpool-4th-wall-breaks/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Eder, Jens. 2006. “Ways of Being Close to Characters.” Film Studies 8 (1): 6880. doi:10.7227/FS.8.8.

  • Eder, Jens. 2010. “Understanding Characters.” Projections 4 (1): 1640. doi:10.3167/proj.2010.040103.

  • Gerrig, Richard J. 1993. Experiencing Narrative Worlds: On the Psychological Activities of Reading. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gerrig, Richard J., and Matthew A. Bezdek. 2013. “The Role of Participation in Aesthetic Illusion.” In Immersion and Distance: Aesthetic Illusion in Literature and Other Media, ed. Werner Wolf, Walter Bernhart, and Andreas Mahler, 89111. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gerrig, Richard J., and Deborah A. Prentice. 1993. “Notes on Audience Response.” In Post- Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies, ed. David Bordwell and Noël Carroll, 388403. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Giles, David C. 2002. “Parasocial Interaction: A Review of the Literature and a Model for Future Research.” Media Psychology 4 (3): 279305. doi:10.1207/S1532785XMEP0403_04.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Green Melanie C., and Timothy C. Brock. 2002. “In the Mind's Eye: Transportation-Imagery Model of Narrative Persuasion.” In Narrative Impact: Social and Cognitive Foundations, ed. Melanie C. Green, Jeffrey J. Strange, and Timothy C. Brock, 315341. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Green, Melanie C., Timothy C. Brock, and Geoff F. Kaufman. 2004. “Understanding Media Enjoyment: The Role of Transportation into Narrative Worlds.” Communication Theory 14 (4): 311327. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2885.2004.tb00317.x.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Green, Melanie C., Sheryl Kass, Jana Carrey, Benjamin Herzig, Ryan Feeney, and John Sabini. 2008. “Transportation across Media: Repeated Exposure to Print and Film.” Media Psychology 11 (4): 512539. doi:10.1080/15213260802492000.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hall, Alice E., and Cheryl C. Bracken. 2011. “‘I Really Liked That Movie.’Journal of Media Psychology 23 (2): 9099. doi:10.1027/1864-1105/a000036.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hartmann, Tilo. 2008. “Parasocial Interactions and Paracommunication with New Media Characters.” In Mediated Interpersonal Communication, ed. Elly A. Konijn, Martin Tanis and Susan B. Barnes, 177199. New York: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hartmann, Tilo, and Charlotte Goldhoorn. 2011. “Horton and Wohl Revisited: Exploring Viewers’ Experience of Parasocial Interaction.” Journal of Communication 61 (6): 11041121. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01595.x.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hayes, Andrew F. 2013. Introduction to Mediation, Moderation, and Conditional Process Analysis: A Regression-Based Approach. New York: Guilford Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hohle, Philip J. 2016. “How Viewers Respond to Transgressive Protagonist-Heroes in Film.” Projections 10 (2): 49-74. doi: https://doi.org/10.3167/proj.2016.100204.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horton, Donald, and Anselm Strauss. 1957. “Interaction in Audience-Participation Shows.American Journal of Sociology 62 (6): 579587. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2773133

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horton, Donald, and Richard Wohl. 1956. “Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction.” Psychiatry 19 (3): 215229. doi:10.1080/00332747.1956.11023049.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Klimmt, Christoph, Tilo Hartmann, and Holger Schramm. 2006. “Parasocial Interactions and Relationships.” In Psychology of Entertainment, ed. Jennings Bryant and Peter Vorderer, 291313. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Krakowiak, K. Maja. 2008. “When Good Characters Do Bad Things: Examining the Effect of Moral Ambiguity Enjoyment.” PhD diss., Pennsylvania State University. https://etda.libraries.psu.edu/catalog/8577.

    • Export Citation
  • Krakowiak, K. Maja, and Mary Beth Oliver. 2012. “When Good Characters Do Bad Things: Examining the Effect of Moral Ambiguity on Enjoyment.Journal of Communication 62 (1): 117135. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01618.x

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Madison, T. Phillip, and Lance V. Porter. 2015. “Cognitive and Imagery Attributes of Parasocial Relationships.” Imagination, Cognition and Personality 35 (4): 359379. doi:10.1177/0276236615599340.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Madison, T. Phillip, Lance V. Porter, and Al Greule. 2016. “Parasocial Compensation Hypothesis: Predictors of Using Parasocial Relationships to Compensate for Real-Life Interaction.” Imagination, Cognition and Personality 35 (3): 258279. doi:10.1177/0276236615595232.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mar, Raymond A., and Keith Oatley. 2008. “The Function of Fiction Is the Abstraction and Simulation of Social Experience.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 3 (3): 172192. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6924.2008.00073.x.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mittell, Jason. 2006. “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television.” The Velvet Light Trap 58 (1): 2940. doi:10.1353/vlt.2006.0032.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mittell, Jason. 2015. Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling. New York: New York University Press.

  • Moyer-Gusé, Emily. 2015. “Extending the Examination of Audience Involvement with Media Personae: Response to Brown.” Communication Theory 25 (3): 284289. doi:10.1111/comt.12071.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Oatley, Keith. 2002. “Emotions and the Story Worlds of Fiction.” In Narrative Impact: Social and Cognitive Foundations, ed. Melanie C. Green, Jeffrey J. Strange, and Timothy C. Brock, 3969. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Paulus, Christoph. 2009. “Der Saarbrücker Persönlichkeitsfragebogen SPF(IRI) zur Messung von Empathie” [The Saarbrucken personality questionnaire for measuring empathy]. http://psydok.psycharchives.de/jspui/handle/20.500.11780/3343.

    • Export Citation
  • Poulaki, Maria. 2014. “Puzzled Hollywood and the Return of Complex Films.” In Hollywood Puzzle Films, ed. Warren Buckland, 3553. New York: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Raney, Arthur A. 2002. “Moral Judgment as a Predictor of Enjoyment of Crime Drama.Media Psychology 4 (4): 305322. doi:10.1207/S1532785XMEP0404_01.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Raney, Arthur A. 2003. “Disposition-Based Theories of Enjoyment.” In Communication and Emotion: Essays in Honor of Dolf Zillmann, ed. David Roskos-Ewoldsen, Joanne Cantor, and Jennings Bryant, 6184. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Raney, Arthur A. 2004. “Expanding Disposition Theory: Reconsidering Character Liking, Moral Evaluations, and Enjoyment.” Communication Theory 14 (4): 348369. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2885.2004.tb00319.x.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schramm, Holger, and Werner Wirth. 2010. “Testing a Universal Tool for Measuring Parasocial Interactions across Different Situations and Media.” Journal of Media Psychology 22 (1): 2636. doi:10.1027/1864-1105/a000004.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Semmler, Shane M., Travis Loof, and Collin Berke. 2015. “The Influence of Audio-Only Character Narration on Character and Narrative Engagement.” Communication Research Reports 32 (1): 6372. doi:10.1080/08824096.2014.989976.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, Murray. 1996. “The Logic and Legacy of Brechtianism.” In Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies, ed. David Bordwell and Noël Carroll, 130148. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tal-Or, Nurit, and Jonathan Cohen. 2010. “Understanding Audience Involvement: Conceptualizing and Manipulating Identification and Transportation.” Poetics 38 (4): 402418. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2010.05.004.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tan, Ed S. 1994. “Film-Induced Affect as a Witness Emotion.” Poetics, Emotions and Cultural Products 23 (1): 732. doi:10.1016/0304-422X(94)00024-Z.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tan, Ed S. 1996. Emotion and the Structure of Narrative: Film as an Emotion Machine. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  • Tan, Ed S. 2008. “Entertainment Is Emotion: The Functional Architecture of the Entertainment Experience.” Media Psychology 11 (1): 2851. doi:10.1080/15213260701853161.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tian, Qing, and Cynthia A. Hoffner. 2010. “Parasocial Interaction with Liked, Neutral, and Disliked Characters on a Popular TV Series.” Mass Communication and Society 13 (3): 250269. doi:10.1080/15205430903296051.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tomko, Michael. 2015. Beyond the Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Poetic Fait from Coleridge to Tolkien. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

  • Tukachinsky, Riva, and Angeline Sangalang. 2016. “The Effect of Relational and Interactive Aspects of Parasocial Experiences on Attitudes and Message Resistance.” Communication Reports 29 (3): 175188. doi:10.1080/08934215.2016.1148750.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Van Laer, Tom, Ko de Ruyter, Luca M. Visconti, and Martin Wetzels. 2014. “The Extended Transportation-Imagery Model: A Meta-Analysis of the Antecedents and Consequences of Consumers’ Narrative Transportation.” Journal of Consumer Research 40 (5): 797817. doi:10.1086/673383.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Visch, Valentijn, and Ed S. Tan. 2008. “Narrative versus Style: Effect of Genre-Typical Events versus Genre-Typical Filmic Realizations on Film Viewers’ Genre Recognition.” Poetics 36 (4): 301315. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2008.03.003.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vorderer, Peter, Christoph Klimmt, and Ute Ritterfeld. 2004. “Enjoyment: At the Heart of Media Entertainment.” Communication Theory 14 (4): 388408. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2885.2004.tb00321.x.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wolf, Werner. 2004. “Aesthetic Illusion as an Effect of Fiction.Style 38 (3): 325350. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/style.38.3.325

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wolf, Werner. 2013. “Aesthetic Illusion.” In Immersion and Distance: Aesthetic Illusion in Literature and Other Media, ed. Werner Wolf, Walter Bernhart, and Andreas Mahler, 163. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wolf, Werner. 2014. “Illusion (Aesthetic).” In The Living Handbook of Narratology, Hamburg: Hamburg University. http://www.lhn.uni-hamburg.de/node/71.html (accessed 17 January).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zillmann, Dolf. 2006. “Empathy: Affective Reactivity to Others’ Emotional Experiences.” In Psychology of Entertainment, ed. Jennings Bryant and Peter Vorderer, 151181. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 722 722 102
Full Text Views 110 110 10
PDF Downloads 129 129 20