Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

5-2010

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis

Degree Title

Master of Arts in Communication

Department

Communication

Major Advisor

Laurel Traynowicz, Ph.D.

Abstract

This autoethnographic study examines the relationship between media consumption and hero worship in the lived experience of an individual over the course of a lifetime spent dedicated to achieving a career in professional wrestling. The focus of this study is on identity creation through repeated exposure to media sources relating to that lifelong dream. Previous communication research regarding media exposure provides significant knowledge on the potential effects of the media consumption on the lived experience of the audience, but virtually no prior research has examined explicit effects on a deeply individual level. Narratives encompassing the years devoted to a professional wrestling dream are analyzed and examined. Two prevalent themes were present throughout the lived experience narrative: self-identification and desired validation. Extensive analysis of the two themes, combined with application of modified elements from uses and gratifications theory and cultivation theory, provides understanding regarding the presence of hero worship in the life of a devoted media consumer. As the lived experience evolved, the purpose and subsequent impact of media consumption changed in accordance with the themes of self-identification and desired validation. The unique approach of this study provides a valuable future reference for additional media studies, allowing insight into the personal impact of media exposure on the lives of audience members.

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