Soap Opera Essay
When it comes to props for individual characters, the most identifiable would be that of Pat Butchers huge earrings, which seem to get bigger and more wild as the years go on but strangely enough, you do see people turned out like this in the Eastend and though you wonder why, it is a code which should be included because it’s realistic and is a great example of key observation by the Eastenders research team. They also cleverly use simple items such as fruit machines, dartboards and the statue of Queen Victoria’s Head in the pub itself to bring together all aspects of the traditional East-end local.
The set itself is based at Elstree studios in Hertfordshire and is filmed on a real street used as the set. A lot of research has obviously gone into creating the right location, as everything seems very realistic, even minor aspects such as the Arthur Fowler memorial bench in the middle of the street, the high steps leading up to the houses, the local pub with the market outside, the fish and chip shop and the underground train station; it all fits together nicely to connote a typical London area.
There are also extra details with things like graffiti and fly-posters on the walls. Along with the stereotypes of the cast, it all works successfully and again has obviously come from very observant, detailed work. It would be practically impossible to put these codes and conventions into another medium with similar affect. Take the original medium form of Soap; radio, for example. The whole structure of Eastenders would have to be adapted to work with sound only and it couldn’t possibly be considered as the same entertaining show.
As I have just discussed; a good majority of Eastenders success comes from the great detail and accuracy used in the mise-en-scene, which is what can actually be seen in each shot, therefore this could not easily be transferred to a medium such as radio. Radio uses only sound and relies on the audiences imagination for image creation, therefore the minor aspects such as graffiti, fly-posters on the wall and Pat Butchers character-identifying earrings can’t be constantly described without boring the audience.
If Eastenders was originally created for radio only, the team would have a completely different approach and would rely only on street-like, rural sound effects to create the London scene, they would hope the audience imagines aspects like graffiti but in some cases they wont. As a radio show, they would have to emphasise and rely more on storylines rather than setting, props and costume, therefore with their current entertainment methods Eastenders would not be a successful radio show, however, if it was greatly adapted, it could work but would seem like a different show completely.
As far as I’m aware, soap has never been attempted at the medium level of a theatre, stage production. Again, I feel this would need great adaptation and this would most likely take it out of the ‘Soap Opera’ category. A Soap Opera traditionally updates every week in different episodes with storylines being introduced, finished or continued. Though, I’m not aware of a rule stating that this must be the case for it to be classed as a Soap Opera but then the current and original shows themselves set the rules and boundaries.
I suppose a Soap Opera could be attempted to fit all in one solid show, this would traditionally be the case if it was to be done in a theatre production but it would be a very intense production and probably would be unsuccessful at what it’s trying to achieve. If the team intended for viewers to return every week to see the next part of the story it may make it just inside of the Soap Opera category but this still would not be successful as it would limit the amount of viewers to a minimal amount, which seems pointless and would not be successful for anyone.
If cameras were to be used in the theatre itself allowing it to also be broadcast, that would make a little more sense, so people can decide if they want to try and watch it at the theatre itself or on their television at home. Though this would also limit the forms of codes and conventions that can be used and would have to be performed live and we all know we don’t appreciate Soap Opera’s for their acting qualities. With little use of locations in a theatre, it won’t have any appeal!
If Eastenders was to be attempted in this medium, it would be interesting to see how it turns out. Though, again I feel it may as well be given a different title because it wouldn’t be able to work with the successful methods it uses on our television screens today. Robert J Thompson of the Museum of Television and Radio suggests ‘They are worlds without end’ stating the fact that Soap Opera cannot work in theatre because theatre productions all have to end at some point, simple as that.
Eastenders is generally suited to television because Soap Opera’s of this calibre are designed to run alongside our lifestyles for us to relate to everyday. It’s influential codes and conventions are for the pleasure and interest of the human eye. Therefore, it can only work on a television medium. It could be argued that Eastenders in a film medium would allow use of the same techniques but this would again be kept within a maximum time limit of about three to four hours, therefore in my view, cannot be considered a Soap Opera.
In her 2003 book ‘Soap Opera’, Dorothy Hobson suggests that Eastenders cannot work to it’s full ‘individual’ potential by any other existing medium than television from the fact that it shows a ‘Cultural’ London. She states that other media forms would only show a Metropolitan view, as Cultural media productions are best suited for television. ‘Eastenders embraces the modern version of the East End and has shown to be multicultural by consistently including a wide range of Asian and black, first and second generation Londoners.
Eastenders has integrated good and bad characters, as representations of many cultures, creeds and colours’. Another view is that of Ron Simon from the Museum of Television and Radio who claims that television makes Eastenders easier for people to relate to, as they can sometimes see parts of their own lifestyles around the characters on screen, viewing things they have experienced themselves. On the radio they are never sure exactly what the image is supposed to be, Eastenders is directed at that basis of human relation.
I believe that the majority of the codes used in Eastenders cannot be transferred to the viewer by any other medium as successfully as television proves to do so today. When a new medium overcomes television in this field, a whole new Soap Opera era will begin.
Bibliography Soap Opera by Dorothy Hobson (Polity Publishers) www. mtr. org (Museum of Television and Radio) Eastenders Real Soap by Karen Sinotok (Generation Publications) Eastenders Who’s Who by Kate Lock (BBC Publications) (NOT USED) Brookside Real Soap by Kay Nicholls (Generation Publications) (NOT USED) Reading Television by John Fiske (Routledge) (NOT USED) ??
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 13 September 2017
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