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Do Soaps Represent 'real' life?

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Do Soaps Represent'real' life? Soap operas are viewed by millions of our population every day; on average Eastenders has a viewing coverage of approximately 13million. There are a number of reasons as to 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 the soap stories 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 relates to 'real' life. My discussion will include different aspects of a range of the most popular British soaps, for example, Crossroads, Coronation Street, Hollyoaks and Eastenders. It is hard to prove that soaps represent real life. Surely if they were truly reflective, we would all have fallen tragically into at least one coma by now. And we would have come out of it, too, with better hair and a new contract. It is true that the murder rate in Britain is at a record high. But if soaps were to be believed, it would be a whole lot closer to Colombia's murder rate. You're no one on the small screen until you've been whacked. The incidence of animal-print evening wear has also skyrocketed in this country. But it could never reach soap-opera Bet Lynch proportions. ...read more.


Indeed, Jane Feuer emphasises that, 'the originally derisive term 'soap opera', with its melodrama, may now emerge as a mode better described as "social realism"' (Feuer.J cited in Allen, 1992, p140] This statement explicitly suggests that the soaps may have been a little unrealistic years ago but they have progressed to a state where they are representative of 'social realism'. In support to this idea, it can be noted that contemporary soaps now employ a number of standard conventions, and many researchers have attempted to list some of the typical characteristics. For example, Sonia Livingstone believes the common soap opera features include: 'transmission at regular, frequent times, often daily; predominantly aimed at female viewers , occupying day-time/early evening slots; use of fairly constant and large cast, over many years, and a faithful audience; cheap production costs, regarded as low prestige entertainment; concern with daily activities, centred on a small community and/or large family; simulation of real time and realistic events; interwoven narratives, with overlapping resolutions; 'cliff-hangers' to ensure committed viewing; focus on female characters and 'feminine' or domestic concerns.' (Livingstone.S, 1990, p54) Once again however, we must question these ideas of why a soap might be representative of 'real' life. I mean is life really full of 'cliff-hangers'? Is the domesticated life still merely focused on the female sex? As all these soaps appear to portray, are there so few ethnic minorities in every community? ...read more.


In comparison to soaps, our everyday lives are uninteresting. The less people work and live in the same locality, let alone live and work with their neighbours, the more this fantasy ideal is portrayed in the representations of community. The more anonymous and superficial our contact with our neighbours is, the less information we have to gossip about them, the more one 'knows', and can gossip, about the fictional characters in Eastenders, Coronation Street, Hollyoaks or whatever. The less our interest in guessing the development of our friends' lives, the greater our attraction to the abstract game of predicting what's going to happen to that character that millions of other spectators are trying to guess about. The more threatening and discomforting the streets become, the more consoling it is to consume fictional conflicts in the safety and comfort of our misappropriately-named 'living' rooms. The more slow-plodding our real lives are, the more fast-paced the unfolding of the plot lines in soaps become: things that would normally take a year to develop in real life, take a week or less in the soaps. For example pregnancies seem to only take three or four months as opposed to the 'standard' nine (the Tracey Barlowe plot line in Coronation Street being a current example). Effectively the view of the audience is that Fiction is stranger than truth, and so very much more interesting. ...read more.

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