Student Life

Parasocial Partners: Students Gush Over Their Celebrity Crush

Mao Reynolds | The PhoenixMaya Szymczak has a multitude of fictional and non-fictional crushes.

Single or not, it can be argued that everyone has their own celebrity hall pass. While some daydream about Ryan Gosling or make TikTok fan edits of Zendaya, others have more unusual crushes. To find out these more acquired tastes, The Phoenix spoke to students about their star-crossed love interests.

According to a 2018 study in the Journal of Children and Media, 73% of teenagers and 80% of adults had at least one parasocial relationship – meaning one-sided friendships, romances, or other relationships — with a media figure during adolescence.

In 2016, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was named People’s Sexiest Man Alive, but to Loyola third-year Bailey Allison, he’s not just a crush. He’s her childhood hero.

Allison, a molecular biology major, said Johnson (“Jumanji,” “Moana”) was her favorite wrestler as a kid.

“Something about his body building, I don’t know, draws my attention,” the 28-year-old said.

Allison mentioned another celebrity crush, one she called the “polar opposite” of The Rock — Kristen Stewart (“Twilight,” “Adventureland”).

“I just like her demeanor, her weird quirkiness, too,” Allison said. “Her as just a normal person, she seems really cool, down-to-earth.”

Allison described the wide range of emotions she’d experience if she ever met Johnson or Stewart.

“I think I’d be pretty starstruck,” she said. “I’d babble or something, be like, ‘You’re amazing!’ Maybe cry a little, try to talk normal. Human to human.”

Intense parasocial relationships correlate with unrealistic romantic expectations, found the Journal of Children and Media study. Subjects reported feeling more connected with their identity through their celebrity crushes.

Mao Reynolds | The Phoenix Caitrin McLaughlin likes “Ghost Adventures'” Zak Bagans.

Caitrin McLaughlin, a first-year criminal justice student, said she had a crush on Zak Bagans from the Discovery+ paranormal reality show “Ghost Adventures”.

“He’s kind of terrible,” McLaughlin said, laughing. “It’s just funny. He’s kind of a douchebag.”

The 18-year-old said she’d love to visit Bagans’ The Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, which showcases his personal collection of supposedly supernatural artifacts. However, McLaughlin said if she ever met him, she would only ask for a picture.

When asked why she finds him attractive, McLaughlin laughed again.

“I honestly could not tell you,” she said. “I think I just like that he’s an idiot on camera.”

Indie-pop musicians Thomas Headon and Peter McPoland have captured the attention of Sydney Dulak, a sophomore environmental studies major.

Dulak said she’s gone to both artists’ concerts and talked to them at meet-and-greets, recounting her personal experiences in meeting them.

“I get in my head,” she said. “I’m like, ‘What if they fell in love with me?’ … Then I meet them for one second, and they’re literally doing a meet-and-greet with a bunch of other people, so why 0do I think that one second will do anything? I don’t know.”

With social media, fans have endless access to contact and engage in celebrity content by commenting on their idols’ Instagram posts or chatting with them on TikTok lives.

Dulak said she prefers fictional characters because they don’t get her hopes up. Some of her favorites include Sokka from “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, Nick Miller from “New Girl” and Captain America. She said celebrities seem too real to crush on.

Mao Reynolds | The Phoenix Genesis Morro likes “Gotham’s” Jerome Valeska and his quirky personality.

Fictional characters got another shout-out from sophomore Genesis Morro, who called “Gotham” character Jerome Valeska their celebrity crush.

In “Gotham,” a Batman-inspired drama, anarchist and murderer Valeska sports the same scarred smile and wild flint in his eyes as the Joker.

Morro, 20, said they liked the actor’s “weird” personality.

“He’s very theatrical,” they said. “It’s just very attractive for some reason. He’s so creepy in the show, but a cool creepy.”

Morro compared their feelings for Valeska to other people’s romanticization of the Joker. They said the chaotic crush wasn’t necessarily logical to have but there’s “just something about” it. However, Morro distinguished the actor from the character. 

“If I met Jerome’s actor, Cameron, I feel like he’d be the complete opposite of what he portrays,” they said. “I’d be calm around him but still freaking out.”

Students’ fictional crushes weren’t restricted to humans. Maya Szymczak said her celebrity crush was Alex, the lion from the 2005 animated comedy “Madagascar.”

“I just think it’s funny to say that he’s a cute, attractive character,” she said.

In less flattering terms, 18-year-old Szymczak also counted actor Steve Carell as a celebrity crush.

“He’s not the ugliest in The Office,” she said. “That other movie he’s in, where he’s muscular and possessive — he’s cute.”

As if she was on a mission, Szymczak pulled out her phone and scrolled through Carell’s official Instagram account, finding a photo of him in a suit and tie.

Mao Reynolds | The Phoenix Maya Szymczak has a multitude of fictional and non-fictional crushes.

“That’s weirdly not terrible,” she said with a smile. “Like, that’s weirdly not bad.”

With fan culture now a mainstream phenomenon, younger people are more open about their odder celebrity crushes. Whether they’re 60-year-old comedians, former wrestlers or animated lions, they all have a place in someone’s heart.

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