I am going to be investigating into how women are treated in soap operas. The reason I have chosen to carry out this study is due to the fact that I think that women are given very stereotypical roles within soap operas and it is very hard for them to break out of those boundaries and those specific labels they have been given. The method I will take to reach my objective is to use the content analysis approach. This is a method I will adopt using Meehan’s research. My aim is to compare how much or how less has changed within that period of time.
I hypothesise that in comparison to Meehan’s analysis of soap operas women are still labelled in the same categories. From this method I should be able to reach to a conclusion as to whether my hypothesis is correct. The method of research I am going to use is content analysis of magazines, TV and newspaper. Content analysis involves the very careful quantification of the content of the media messages. It is able to give a general impression about media content, which can be the basis of theoretical work or policy and programme development.
Therefore the way I will carry out my research is by using Meehan’s study that was carried out in 1960s and 1970s on soap operas and how he categorised the women within the soaps into specific groups. I will carry out my research using a lot of primary resources. To investigate this concept I am going to look at the model, which is similar to the hypodermic syringe model. I am also going to use the feminist approach to try to explain some of the reasons as to why there are so many stereotypical views within soap operas towards women.
I am going to be looking at Ferguson’s feminist cult theory. This highlights how there are many stereotypical views within the soap operas. Context She is seen in Meehan’s content analysis study of the presentation of women in soap operas shows that in American drama serials there are only 10 female character types that are presented, they are; The Imp, a rebellious tomboy character. She is adventurous, not really sexual, often finds herself in trouble, she is the opposite of what society expects a women to be and the trouble she gets into is often a result of this.
The Goodwife, she is domestic, attractive, home-centred and content. She does not wish to become involved with the world outside the home, leaving this to her lovely husband. The Harpy, is an aggressive single woman. She is powerful, even overpowering and not afraid to take on or chase after men. The Bitch, is a sneak and a cheat. She is manipulative, dangerous and deceitful. She lacks the power to be a real villain (invariably male) but she causes real trouble for the forces of good.
The Victim, is the passive female who suffers accident, disease or violence, depending in the type of show or it could be to domestic violence. The Decoy, she is a heroine disguised as a victim. Apparently helpless and dependent, she’s actually strong and resourceful. She is quite likely to be mistreated, hurt or captured, but she is capable of overcoming her difficulties. The Siren, is a woman who uses her sexuality to lure her victim to a sticky end. The Courtesan, is close to being a prostitute and perhaps has been one.
The Witch, has extraordinary power despite this she is invariably dominated by a man and is persuaded often reluctantly to suppress her powers or use it for his aims. The Matriarch, prestige and authority. a positive light despite the fact that she is too old to be sexually attractive. Her status is almost of that of a hero. This study shows that women are portrayed as neater good or evil, never a combination. It also shows that “good” women are portrayed as submissive, sensitive and domesticated. “Bad” women are portrayed as rebellious, independent and selfish.
Male evil characters are always counterbalanced by good ones, this is not so with female evil characters. The number of occupations which women are portrayed as holding is limited to a few, primarily housewife, receptionist and whore, male roles are also few in number compared to reality, but are more exciting, such as doctor, spies, detective and astronaut. While studies such as Meehan’s, could be criticised for being dated and referring to the series of the 1960’s and 70’s. The content recycling of such series on satellite and cable channels means that they are still relevant.
Moreover, many of the point she makes are relevant even in more recent television. The number of women portrayed in the media depends very much on the medium concerned and the genre type. Soap operas have relatively high proportion of women, though they are still outnumbered by as much of 7 men to 3 women in some types of soap opera. In advertisements, there are three all male ads to every one all female ads. A study conducted by Beuf (1974) was based on 63 interviews with boys and girls between the ages of three and six.
Some girls had abandoned their ambitions even by this early age. Several girls mentioned that their ambitions could not be realised because of their sex. The implication is that because of the small number of high-status female models in the media available for girls to model themselves on, the ambitions of real women are limited. The power of the media in this respect is thought to be very strong. This is not surprising as the Average American girl will have spent more time in front of the TV by the time she is 15 than she will have spent in the classroom.
Beuf also argues that women suffer anxiety and stress due to this and because advertising and soap operas create concerns in women particularly about; their body image, the constant need to spend money on products to make them more attractive and desirable for males and also the competition with other women to fight and keep their man. Liberal feminists argue that individuals are trained by the mass media and other social institutions into patterns of behaviour which are performed unconsciously.
Sex-roles in particular, have been built up over a long period of time and have become embedded in our culture. Radical feminists identify men as the enemy. They believe that men consciously and unconsciously manipulate social institutions for their own benefit and to the detriment of women. Men hold the dominant positions throughout the media and are able to use them to reflect the images of women which they desire. According to socialist feminists the role of the media is to sustain and perpetuate the capitalist system and the supporting role of women in it.
Davies says that those who control the media are almost all rich men, there is every incentive for them to present the capitalist, patriarchal scheme of things as the most attractive system available and to convince the less privileged that the oppression and limitations of their lives are inevitable. According to Skirrow, for example video games are particularly unattractive to women, as they are part of a technology which is identified as male power, and they are about mastering a specifically male anxiety in a specific male way.