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How do you account for the wide appeal and popularity of soap operas?

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Introduction

How do you account for the wide appeal and popularity of soap operas? The Cambridge dictionary defines a soap opera as ' a series of television or radio programmes about the lives and problems of a particular group of characters'. Soap operas originated from American radio and have been revolutionised of the last half century to become one of the worlds leading television genres. Thirty years ago, the normative view on soaps was that they were merely 'chewing gum for the eyes' (Kilborn), however today, people are allured to their TV sets like Sir John Benjamin who openly stated 'Mondays and Wednesdays, I live for then. Thank god, half past seven tonight and I will be in paradise. Today, the most common soap operas in Britain are Eastenders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale farm. It is these soaps that posses characteristics that have revolutionised viewing habits of media consumers and it is my objective during this assignment to identify the cause of their appeal. All soaps have codes and conventions which give them their identity, such as their regularity, interwoven narratives, concern with every day activities and famously their cliff hangers. These are some of the basic reasons why soaps are so popular, never the less there are many more. ...read more.

Middle

In order to re -enforce the escapism theme, many women see soaps as a means of escape even after the soap has finished. Studies have proven that women equally enjoy discussing the events of past episodes with their work colleagues and friends the next day, as much if not more than watching the soap itself. I conform to this view, as it is impossible to go through a day without hearing a phrase similar to '.....did you watch ..... last night? The soap genre has become a part of British culture and is also a means of socialising. The use of melodramatic aesthetic in soap is also a contributing factor to their appeal. By introducing dramatic, sometimes extreme story lines, the producer can capture the attention of the viewer. The typical melodramatic characteristic of ever soap is the notorious cliff hanger. I have lost count how many times I have heard people swear and scream at their TV sets because the producer has ended the episode at the pinnacle of the dramatic tention e.g. the vision of Ian Beale lying on the floor after he had been shot by his wife Cindy. However this is a media technique that makes the viewer determined to watch the next episode. ...read more.

Conclusion

The most influential in my mind was the Eastenders advertising strategy during the 'who shot Phil?' episodes. They used shots of the soap characters asking rhetorical questions to the audience which increased their longing to watch the next episode. The use of advertising is crucial as it constantly reminds people that they wanted to watch the next episode. They even advertise on nights that the soap isn't broadcasting to ensure that the soap, is in the mind of its viewers every day. The duration of my presentation thus far has focused on other peoples assumption of why soaps are so popular. However, it is in my view that soap operas are indeed multi generic. They combine an array of aspects from other TV genres such as chat shows, drama and film and is the reason why the soap genre has been described as 'the most popular form of television in the world'. To conclude, it is evident that the appeal of soap opera has been created via the psychological manipulation of soap viewers. Putting this aside, its main appeal is its ability to appeal to an large audience span that can not be achieved by any other TV genre in this way. It is obvious that Soaps have become a part of the British culture and now they act as educators, inspirers and sources of escape for many. ...read more.

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