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The Popularity Of Soap Operas Essay

5119 words - 20 pages

The Popularity of Soap Operas

Television researchers have established a number of reasons why soap
operas appeal to such a large and diverse audience. In this essay I
will be examining these reasons with reference to my own attraction to
soaps, and seeing how they fit into the everyday lives of the millions
who watch them. Furthermore, I will investigate the way in which the
construction and conventions of a soap opera aids its appeal. I will
be considering such aspects as class, race, ethnicity and gender in
order to determine the pleasures of soap opera viewing and will
briefly look at their international appeal. My discussion will
comprise aspects of the British soaps, for example, Brookside,
Coronation Street, Crossroads and Eastenders, the American super soaps
such as Dallas and Dynasty and the Australian soap Home and Away.

Dorothy Hobson conduced a set of interviews between February 2nd & 7th
1987, to establish how far the soap operas fit into the working
environment of women. With the help of her secretary she set about
interviewing six women who worked for Birmingham City Council: Diane,
Gill, Mary, Susan, Vijya and Wendy, whose ages ranged from 23 to 35.
The interviews took place at a night club which opens for lunches
during the day. The informal setting enabled the women to speak freely
about their viewing habits and the mode of discourse was relaxed as
the women were accustomed to socialising together. In consequence,
talking in unison or interrupting one another were not uncommon during
the interview, for example, when Gill was commenting on the characters
she found annoying in Brookside, the other women added in unison "The
Corkhills" (Seiter et al., 1991: 153), in support of her opinion.

Hobson asked the women why they actually like soap operas and they
claimed that it was due to their undemanding natures, the interesting
story lines and the ability to become emotionally involved in the
programme. The women make distinctions between American and British
soaps describing British soaps as 'down-to-earth' and American ones as
'fantasy'. Hobson found that they spoke more favourably about the
female characters suggesting that they are more interesting to watch
than the males. However, they admired J.R. in Dallas for his powerful
personality and Bobby's attractive physique but the women recognised
that the characters' constant scheming about Ewing oil would not be a
preferred aspect of evade real life. When asked whether the glamour
depicted in the American soaps appealed to them or made them envious,
the women replied that it did not make them envious, rather it
appealed to their fantasies. Wendy summed up the extravagance
portrayed in the show by stating the following, (as if she was one of
the characters), "'re dolled up as though you're going out for

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