As mass media are an integral part of our everyday lives, their role in constituting emotions and feeling rules receives heightened attention. However, content analyses and psychoanalytical/reaction analyses focus on a film-viewer-relation that does not consider the group character of media consumption. This article deals with the question of how fear is socially constructed and interactively negotiated by taking an ethnomethodological look at videos that teenagers have taken of themselves while watching the horror movie Insidious. It puts forward two inter-related forms of ambiguity: the ambiguity of what emotions are appropriate, that is, the ways in which feeling rules are treated as topics and as features of the viewing settings, and, secondly, the ambiguity of belonging that concerns the question of how several viewers can draw themselves out of a terrifying situation while simultaneously ensuring that the group is held together. Fear is regarded as a separating emotion insofar as actors withdraw, actively locate their bodies as barriers against the movie’s sensual impressions and thus simultaneously constrain interaction by blocking central channels of communication. Special attention is given to the ways in which this affects interaction. The article contributes to the understanding of visual spectatorship and the undertaking of bringing affect into media studies by bringing together audience research and emotion sociology.


Emotion, Horror Movie, Fear, Feeling Rules, Visual Spectatorship

Author Bio(s)

Charlotte Renda is a doctoral student in Sociology at Bielefeld University, Germany. Her research interests include the relation of feelings and organizational structure, emotional atmospheres and sociological theory. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: charlotte.renda@uni-bielefeld.de.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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