The Paradox of Disgust Revisited. The Meta-Emotional Entertainment Experience of “Hannibal”
Keywords:quality TV, paradox of disgust, violence, meta-emotions, enjoyment, appreciation
This paper addresses the paradoxical nature of entertainment experiences like the pleasure derived from violent media content. Building on the psychological concept of multidimensional meta-emotions (comprising suspense, enjoyment, appreciation, and artistic value) an empirical survey with 876 fans of the quality TV series Hannibal (NBC 2013–2015) was conducted. The study addressed perception and experience of Hannibal as well as its engagement potential. Results showed that respondents assessed the show as quality TV that is highly aesthetically appealing, but comparatively low on violent content. Moreover, the study showed that Hannibal elicited a complex entertainment experience that was enhanced by a positive aesthetic judgement, while a stronger perception of the show’s violence diminished it. Finally, it showed that respondents hardly engaged with additional content. If viewers did engage, however, the entertainment experience was slightly enhanced. Overall, the study showed that besides hedonic enjoyment and suspense viewers also find meaningfulness and artistic value in Hannibal. The perceived violence, however, is tolerated rather than enjoyed or appreciated. If we concede effects of violent media content on individuals or the society as a whole, less (violence) might be more, not only to enhance viewing pleasure but also to lessen the potential for harmful effects.
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