This article is concerned with how recipients evaluate the reality status of media products, how they distinguish and how they interrelate elements of“fact” and “fiction.” On the basis of an overview of recent theories of fictionality, an approach comprising three independent perspectives for evaluating the reality status of media products is proposed:a pragmatic perspective concerning the product type (“fact,”“fiction,” and “hybrids”), a semantic perspective concerning product content (degrees of plausibility), and a perspective of mode referring to the (perceived) realism of the product (formal features and their effects on degree of involvement). Under all three perspectives, a media product will usually contain cues that orient the recipient toward ontic status, plausibility of content, and so forth. This model is then applied to a media product transcending the traditional boundaries between“fact” and “fiction,” the pseudodocumentary horror film The Blair Witch Project and its reception. To study the reception, a random sample of e-mails from Internet newsgroup discussions of the film is subjected to content analysis. A first analysis shows that among those e-mails written within six months after the release of the film, 38 percent refer to questions concerning its reality status. A second analysis explores the perspectives from which this reality status is discussed and whether the recipients regard the film as fiction or as nonfiction. While most discussants correctly identify it as fiction, almost 40 percent are at least temporarily uncertain as to the product type. To substantiate their perceptions of or their doubts concerning the film's ontic status, both recipients that consider it to be fiction and recipients who are uncertain frequently refer to information gathered from other media. By comparison, cues that permit the unambiguous identification of the film as fiction (impossible content elements, disclaimer as part of the credits) are only rarely given as reasons. These results show that novel, unfamiliar hybrid genres have the potential to confuse recipients and thus temporarily provide a way for“fiction” to enter “life.”

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