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Fans, web sites, and "The West Wing": A television show empowers and inspires its constituency
Unformatted Document Text:  Fans, web sites, and The West Wing 15 attention. Hence, viewers develop rules for watching the show that, unlike other television shows they may watch, demand the West Wing be attended to in utter silence. (One interviewee said she only answers phone calls from her mother during the show and, even then, she quickly instructs her that she will call her back at 10.) THE WEST WING AS ROMANTIC PARTNER These ritualistic patterns and devotion no doubt have an element of religiosity to them, but they are also characteristics of the emic metaphor that fans repeatedly used in conversation: West Wing as relationship. For example, one fan described a string of men that have weaved in and out of her life; The West Wing was the common thread: Really my whole experience with West Wing has involved a relationship. I starting dating this guy named Paul 1 over the summer, and I think he had watched the first season and so he liked the show. And so then I started watching it with him. I really got hooked and then that relationship ended. And then I started dating Tony, and so then I made Tony watch it, and then he got hooked as well. Even after we broke up he would tape it for me because we were still friends. And I had started work, and so I would go and we would watch it together still because we would hang out. And since then I have watched it with at least with two other guys. Like Tom now has watched it with me and this other guy I dated just for a brief short time. So my thing is that, you know, guys come and go but West Wing you can depend on. The West Wing is her dependable partner; her unflinching and unconditional mate that stands firm in the fickle sands of romantic relational maintenance. To borrow the terminology of relationship scholarship, this fan has “integrated” the show into her life (Knapp & Vangelisi, 2000). She has articulated an explicit commitment and established relationship norms or “relational rituals,” hallmarks of “integration” in interpersonal relationships (Knapp & Vangelisi, 2000; Bruess & Pearson, 1997). These norms, as the fan explained them, demand that the show gets watched devoutly, in silence each Wednesday. For one hour each week, The West Wing is her exclusive partner, no matter 1 I use pseudonyms here to ensure confidentiality.

Authors: Kozlowski, Dan.
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Fans, web sites, and The West Wing 15
attention. Hence, viewers develop rules for watching the show that, unlike other
television shows they may watch, demand the West Wing be attended to in utter silence.
(One interviewee said she only answers phone calls from her mother during the show
and, even then, she quickly instructs her that she will call her back at 10.)
THE WEST WING AS ROMANTIC PARTNER
These ritualistic patterns and devotion no doubt have an element of religiosity to
them, but they are also characteristics of the emic metaphor that fans repeatedly used in
conversation: West Wing as relationship. For example, one fan described a string of men
that have weaved in and out of her life; The West Wing was the common thread:
Really my whole experience with West Wing has involved a relationship. I
starting dating this guy named Paul
1
over the summer, and I think he had watched
the first season and so he liked the show. And so then I started watching it with
him. I really got hooked and then that relationship ended. And then I started
dating Tony, and so then I made Tony watch it, and then he got hooked as well.
Even after we broke up he would tape it for me because we were still friends. And
I had started work, and so I would go and we would watch it together still because
we would hang out. And since then I have watched it with at least with two other
guys. Like Tom now has watched it with me and this other guy I dated just for a
brief short time. So my thing is that, you know, guys come and go but West Wing
you can depend on.

The West Wing is her dependable partner; her unflinching and unconditional mate that
stands firm in the fickle sands of romantic relational maintenance. To borrow the
terminology of relationship scholarship, this fan has “integrated” the show into her life
(Knapp & Vangelisi, 2000). She has articulated an explicit commitment and established
relationship norms or “relational rituals,” hallmarks of “integration” in interpersonal
relationships (Knapp & Vangelisi, 2000; Bruess & Pearson, 1997). These norms, as the
fan explained them, demand that the show gets watched devoutly, in silence each
Wednesday. For one hour each week, The West Wing is her exclusive partner, no matter
1
I use pseudonyms here to ensure confidentiality.


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