Recognizing the Similarities and Appreciating the Differences? Content Choices and Perceived (Dis)similarity With TV Show Characters Among Youth

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Original content on video-on-demand platforms is often globally available but reflects the diversity of the American population in terms of ethnicities, races, and sexual identities. According to previous research, exposure to media with diverse characters can improve viewers’ attitudes toward minorities. However, are the audiences in racially homogenous countries or in countries that are less accepting of homosexuality interested in shows with diverse characters? Moreover, how do people select content from the diverse offerings on global video-on-demand platforms? To explore these issues, we study the entertainment media diets of Polish teenagers, aged 15–18. Specifically, we examine three research questions. First, what kind of content does the Polish youth select on streaming platforms? Second, what is the role of (dis)similarity between the characters and the viewers for Polish youth in selecting their entertainment TV shows on streaming platforms? Third, how do Polish youth understand the possible effects of their streamed TV content on their attitudes toward others? Based on 20 one-hour-long semi-structured interviews, we found that viewers sought psychologically complex and attractive characters, irrespective of race or sexual orientation. Recognizing the similarities of life experiences with TV characters mattered in youth’s decision about streaming content. Viewers also appreciated characters different from themselves because they were able to learn about them. The results are discussed with the implications for media selection and effects studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-218
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Popular Media
Issue number2
Early online date16 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2023

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