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How would you account for the continuing fascination the British television soap operas have for such a large and diverse audience?

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How would you account for the continuing fascination the British television soap operas have for such a large and diverse audience? The name soap operas dates back to the 1930s when daytime drama programmes were broadcast on radio in the US. They were targeted directly at a female audience (presumably housewives) and so soap manufacturers sponsored the programmes to advertise their brands to their primary consumers. Soaps have always been extremely melodramatic with high emotional content, exploring the domestic and personal worlds of their characters. For a soap to appeal to a large and diverse audience it has to involve characters that will appeal to a wide range of people. There has to be a character that has similar traits to people known by a viewer for the viewer to really engage in the soap. For example, if you look at characters in Eastenders, you have "the helpful problem solver" in Dot Cotton and quite the opposite to her is "the ruthless villain" type character in Phil Mitchell. ...read more.


By introducing dramatic and sometimes extreme storylines, a producer can capture the attention of a large audience. The typical melodramatic characteristic of soap is the notorious cliff hanger e.g. the sight of Phil Mitchell lying on the ground after being shot by a fellow character, not known to the audience. This is a clever media technique that entices the viewer into watching the following episodes that will reveal who was involved. It is a good way of enticing all members of a large audience into watching a soap as it involves an occurrence that could happen to any member of that audience in everyday life and it is not just appealing at one section of the audience (e.g. teenagers). When soaps are trying to attract new viewers to their programme they will introduce a new controversial storyline that will have some sort of twist to it to entice people to watch it. They will publicise these episodes highly in the hope that new people will be attracted to the soap. ...read more.


The close-up camera shot characteristically used in soaps enables viewers to focus on the character's emotions and to understand most, if not all of the actions depicted. Many viewers obtain please from being able to acknowledge the "true" emotions of the characters when they typically put on a brave face and hide their true feelings e.g. Alfie Moon in Eastenders is continually putting on a brave face even though his marriage is falling to pieces. In this way, the characters are emotional representatives inviting the audience to partake in the arising issues and conflicts in order that they make seek temporary solutions to the problems they are experiencing in real life. Another determining factor in soaps is the "time" that it is set in. Time is the foundation upon which the soap is organised i.e. a soap is in parallel to real life time and viewers can see things such as snow on the ground during a winter episode of Eastenders. This appeals to viewers because is allows them to imagine the goings on between episodes and again, adds to the realism of soap, which is such a major factor in determining if the audience are drawn to watching it. ...read more.

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