Think back to your worst breakup of all time. The truly soul-crushing split that came out of the blue. You felt like a Walking Dead extra at work. You thought one sobbing sesh was coming to an end, but then you remembered the way they looked at you the first time you flew on a plane together, and suddenly you couldn’t even get out of bed.
That level of grief, sadness, and pain is exactly what some people experience—literally—when their favorite TV couple breaks up.
Consider how social media goes nuts following big breakups on shows like Riverdale, whose iconic ship, Archie and Veronica, finally split this year and left fans devastated. Twitter exploded with sad, angry, brokenhearted comments (more than 95,000 tweets about Riverdale in 24 hours), and #SaveVarchie was born (it’s still going strong today). But it’s not just ships sending us into a tailspin.
After a beloved character dies—especially when it’s unexpected—hundreds of Reddit threads launch. A quick trip to a Reddit chat about Game of Thrones deaths is full of phrases like “ripped me apart,” “I felt like I lost a best friend,” and “I cried for weeks.” Virtual funerals packed with mourners are popping up every day.
And standom is more intense than ever. According to a recent study, 86 percent of millennials believe they have some ownership of things they’re fans of—this is why we lose our collective minds when a story line doesn’t go the way we want. It makes sense, considering how effective networks are at fueling the fire of fandom online with stuff like cast AMAs, post-show videos with showrunners, and watching an influencer watch a show while you watch the show. ABC even encourages us to pepper the Bachelor with Qs during an episode. And he answers! The ownership we feel isn’t just another sign of so-called millennial entitlement—TV is openly giving it to us.
There are even entire companies that exist just to heighten this emotional roller coaster. The Superfan Company, cofounded by “superfan expert” Brittany Hodak, studies and builds fandoms for Fortune 500 companies and clients like Taylor Swift. “Shows almost have an obligation to upset people because that’s what keeps viewers tuned in,” she says.
In other words, the next time you feel, well, all the feels (and then some) over a ship or a fatal demise, remember that a small army of professionals might be engineering your emotions. More important, take heart that you’re not alone. Here, some fellow stans share which pivotal moments tore them up and why.
Archie and Veronica call it quits (again) in season 3, because when your GF’s dad is framing you for murder, happily ever after is not in the cards.
Natalie Johnson, 22, San Francisco
“I cried for days when they broke up. I go to bed sad, thinking about it, and sometimes I’ll have a dream about it and then wake up the next day still sad. I’ll be sitting at work, and all of a sudden, I’ll be like, I can’t believe Veronica and Archie aren’t together. How could the writers do this to me?”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
OG supernatural badass Buffy eventually has to off her boyfriend/archnemesis, Angel.
Maggie Parker, 31, New York
“I had to put a sock in my mouth to stop the screaming. It felt like my insides were coming out. I was a wreck, in mourning, for days. It was sick, insane, how dedicated and devoted I was to this show. I wore a claddagh ring, which Angel gave Buffy, until I got engaged a few years ago. I told my fiancé, ‘I feel like to really understand me, you need to watch this show.’”
Quirky, charming Chris Miles, a beloved character on this popular British teen drama, goes from goofing around with a friend to an OMFG death from a brain aneurysm.
Kathleen Hayn, 26, Philadelphia
“The death of my favorite character definitely made my already lingering depression much worse and me a panicky mess all the way up until college. I had flashbacks for, like, six months. And for a long time, hearing the word ‘aneurysm’ was traumatic. Once, I was at a party, and I was like, Oh no, I’m going to start getting a headache, I’m going to collapse and have an aneurysm and die. It definitely made me less social.”
Game of Thrones
Season 3’s infamous Red Wedding, a nuptials-turned-bloody-carnage-betrayal, leaves key characters dead and GoT viewers in the fetal position.
Lauren Johnson, 26, Scottsdale, Arizona
“This guy just casually walks in and starts stabbing this beautiful pregnant woman in the stomach. It makes you want to throw up. I was irrationally angry, screaming profanities at my phone in my hand at 1 a.m. in my bed, as if I could help them and make it not real. I’m still pissed—I’m livid. I feel like I’m going to start crying now just talking about it.”
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