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TV-Hero(in)es of Boys and Girls

Reception Studies of Favorite Characters

Maya Götz

Out of all the media that today’s children encounter, what makes a particular TV character a child’s favorite? Based on 80 case studies, in-depth fan studies and standardized surveys with over 5,000 children between the ages six and twelve in Germany, this book elucidates how girls and boys use TV characters in their everyday lives and their identity work.
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Who Are Children’s Favorite TV Characters?

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The Results of Representative Studies Between 2005 and 2013

As the previous chapters have shown, favorite television characters are linked at a profound level to individual processes of identity formation, and are located within the context of the respective social surroundings. Children select “their” television heroes or heroines from a very broad offering. The detailed reasons for this selection can only be reconstructed in each individual case. At the same time, it is possible to identify trends. Who are these favorite characters, and what gender- and age-related trends does this choice reveal in quantitative terms? Direct questions about favorite characters have usually proven successful in studies to date. It was identified more or less unanimously that girls and boys have different favorite characters. Boys and girls tend to choose favorite characters of the same sex as themselves, although a certain number of male characters are often to be found among girls’ favorite characters (Appiah,2001; Austin, Roberts & Nass, 1990; Harwood, 1999; Reeves & Miller, 1978; Reis, 2007).

The sample sizes are limited, however. For example, Hoffner questioned 155 youths aged 7 to 12 years about their favorite TV characters (Hoffner, 1996), Aubrey and Harrison asked 190 first and second graders about their favorite shows (Aubrey & Harrison, 2004), and Rosaen et al. questioned 183 children aged 5 to 12 years in 2008 (Rosaen & Dibble, 2008) and 270 in 2011 (Rosaen et al., 2011). The children usually came from one or two schools...

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