Why Is "Parasocial" Inexorably Linked To John Mulaney?

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Why Is "Parasocial" Inexorably Linked To John Mulaney?

In 2016, the long-running Taylor Swift and Kanye West feud escalated quickly. Following Swift's publicized objections to being called "bitch" in the musician's "Famous" single, Kim Kardashian West took to Snapchat to reveal that Swift had, in fact, given Kanye approval to use her name (but, importantly, not the pejorative term) in the song. What came next was an online battle of Biblical proportions, with Kanye and Kim fans sending an endless stream of snake emojis to Swift, while members of the pop singer's "squad" — the virtual one, not the A-list one — demanded countless apologies from the couple.

It was such a matter of great importance to both sets of fans that calls for boycott and cancellation were still happening four years later. Yet, it was a curious, much-less-famous figure that ushered the term "parasocial" into the public lexicon: John Mulaney.

When news broke in September that Mulaney was having a baby with actor Olivia Munn just months after his divorce from his wife, fans who were outspoken about their disappointment in Mulaney (they felt tricked, in a way, since his on-stage persona appeared to differ from off-stage behavior) and those who expressed their feelings were met with criticism. Fans were admonished for not understanding that their relation with Mulaney was "parasocial."

Parasocial behavior is a psychological phenomenon in which individuals embark on one-sided relationships with famous individuals or characters they do not know. With each new development in the Mulaney relationship drama comes a wave of parasocial Twitter dismissals toward anyone who dare discuss it. These criticisms show no signs of slowing down; it's prevalent enough that it's inspired Halloween costumes...

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