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Soap Opera

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Essay title: Soap Opera

To what extent can it be said that British soaps address and dramatise the class and gender realities of the lives of their audience? By MAMOON AHMED

Throughout the history of public service and commercial television the mainstay of its success and a massive ratings winner, none more so than in the latter 25-30 years of its existence, has been the immense popularity of soap operas. Soap operas have become a fundamental and now traditional part of British life. Every channel has at least one or more soaps which are pivotal to there existence. BBC 1 for example continually justify their license fee charge through the popularity of prime time soap opera Eastenders, concerning the working class people of London's east end. ITV 1 and Channel 4 gain massive amounts of revenue through their primetime soaps of Coronation Street and Hollyoaks respectively. Coronation Street is also sponsored by Cadburys, and so along with Hollyoaks and other Commercial channels, must gain a continual and loyal audience in order to justify advertisers’ placement of their commercials around the program and the vast sums of money that is spent on that particular time slot. It has been continually argued that the soap opera in general is a "woman's genre" and that and its appeal is only really understood and appreciated by the female gender. I have chosen to outline the certain dramatic devices soap operas employ to keep its target audience content.

The Family A central argument that stems from the initial question of whether or not soap operas can be defined or judged to be fundamentally a woman's genre of television is the associations of the family and the intrinsically links of parenting and maternal ties. In all of the contemporary soap operas of today the focus is consistently about families and their troubled lives behind closed doors. Eastenders for example uses the family as a pivotal vehicle in conveying their somewhat unconventional storylines in an immensely exciting life. Eastenders' Albert Square wouldn't be able to achieve some of the storylines that it has without the likes of the Mitchell's, the Fowlers and the Slater's along with the fact that channel fives flagship soap is named Family Affairs, which effectively tells you about what it is based upon.

Mother Figures

Again this area of argument about whether soap is a woman's genre is the link from the family in association with mother figures. Eastenders is a prime example of the role as Barbara Windsor is the powerful mother in her role as Peggy Mitchell and Wendy Richard plays the advice giving mother role, Pauline Fowler. Also in Coronation Street shop owner Rita could be described as the mother figure much in the same mould as Pauline Fowler if not more of a wisdom giver. Soaps typically embody the mother as 'all powerful'; the family's foundation of strength, providing the emotional, and sometimes monetary, support needed to keep the family 'afloat'. Gendered Audience Theory recognizes that watching soap operas is a social practice. It validates the woman's role in the home as "housewife" and "mother". Furthermore, the oral culture it promotes allows women to "play with dialogue ... for pleasure" (Brown, 1994: 16).


This is a key area in the character make-up of why the genre of soap could be classed as primarily a woman's genre. Modleski's research studies (1984) reveal that the soap opera primarily reflects the woman's role in the home. Modleski believes that within this area it could be argued that soaps extend upon the average everyday lives of a certain grouping of people and are really a sub-plot to focus upon, in a subtle or even subconscious manner, the responsibilities and expectancies of women concerning their roles in society. The up bringing of families along with the instances that deal with emotion and morality are, and will almost certainly always be associated with women, in the viewpoint of society and so obviously will be linked with the notion that soap is primarily feminine in its approach due to the clear connections that soap has with societal behaviour, attitudes and beliefs. Large emphasis is placed upon the family, public situations and more often than not the community. This gives viewers and women most notably a sense of belonging and provides, hypothetically speaking, a substitute family.


The vision of the woman as having a massive amount of independence is shown in soaps of today and as is another indication of it being a woman's genre. The amount of up front and powerful images of

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