It is also difficult to classify characters because of the frequent changes in story lines and their prominence within them. Stereotypes are frequently used as a way of creating easily identifiable characters. They do not tend to create a bad representation of people, as that is not their function. For example, Peggy is a stereotypical busty, blond, loud landlady, but she is not seen in a bad light, in fact the opposite is true as she is seen as a strong woman able to cope with anything life throws at her.
This highlights one of Mary Ellen Brown’s points that soap operas portray strong women outside the domestic setting.
Although stereotypes make characters easier to relate to, they do take a way some of the realism, because they tend to be over exaggerated. The representation of Australia is an issue, especially when concerned with a British audience. In Neighbours we see the characters frequently having barbecues, which is a stereotype attached to Australian culture.
The characters use Australian slang such as ‘G’day’, ‘this arvo’ etc. which we see as being normal because we know no different. The mise-en-scene connotes the lifestyle and class of the characters.
The open plan houses in Neighbours in comparison with the small ‘pokey’ houses in Eastenders connote a much more relaxed and affluent lifestyle. But British soaps tent to have a strong ‘regional identity’ and are clearly located in a particular geographical area which is not the case in Neighbours. We know that the residents of Ramsey street frequent Lou’s place and the Coffee shop but we have no idea how far away they are from their houses. In Eastenders establishing shots of Albert Square are frequently used to show where the characters live.
We know that the cafiis just across the road from the B&B and that Mark has a plot on the market that is right behind his house. This all related to the opening sequences. The aerial view of London quickly establishes the characters in their location, showing that this is an important issue, and the smiling faces of the Neighbours shows that relationships between them is going to be an important issue. Just walking around the street in our everyday lives you tend to hear people discussing aspects of soap opera life. I have heard it said on many occasions that Eastenders is depressing and sometimes boring.
One explanation for this is that it is not providing gratification for its audience. If someone watches a soap for a form of escapism they do not want to be presented with the gritty reality of life, but more a comical outlook which is something presented in Neighbours. So this makes it seem that Eastenders is more realistic than Neighbours. The audience are positioned to read soap operas as realistic. This is due to the fact that they concentrate on current social issues which affect people’s lives. Soap operas relate to all aspects of the uses and gratification model.
People watch soaps as a form of escapism but also to see how the characters react to situations that the audience may find themselves in, giving them a sense of personal identity. The audience are gratified by seeing resolutions in story lines and by the sheer number of bad things that happen to certain characters, making their own lives seem quite good and simple. The fact that the audience talk about what is going in soaps shows their personal relationship with the programmes and the moralistic storylines provide information for the audience on how to handle certain situations.
Although product placement doesn’t really occur in soaps, advertising is a big feature. Emmerdale and Crossroads for example are sponsored by soap powder companies which shows that in a sense soaps have come full circle from when they started. This shows that the institutions involved in the production of the soap and the advertising have been reassured that their original target of bored housewives are still tuning in. But there is a newer audience that soaps are attracting.
When Neighbours was first broadcast in Britain, there was a panic because children began turning up late to lessons because they had been watching their favourite soap in their dinner hour. The scheduling of soaps is therefore very important. The producers of neighbours realised that if they broadcasted at tea-time when the whole family were at home they could increase their viewing figures, which they did, making it the second popular programme on the BBC after Eastenders. The scheduling of the two soaps helps to explain why they have such different audiences.
Neighbours is on at a time when many children are just coming home from school and are likely to watch the television to wind down. Because many storylines are about teenagers this also helps to explain why a large proportion of the audience are teenagers. In conclusion Eastenders appears to be more realistic than Neighbours, but both soaps contain realistic and fictional elements. The scheduling and aims of the producers of Neighbours explain the more humorous approach to the genre while the nature and principals of the BBC and of British soaps as a whole, give some explanation to the more ‘gritty’ approach.
Looking at soaps on the surface, they do not seem to be very realistic at all, but a closer study proves that their success to some extent relies on the audience being able to relate to the characters’ lives, which must therefore be realistic to be believable. At the end of the day they are meant to be fictional and they are not trying to be like documentaries, but their balance between the realistic sets and setting and the over exaggerated narratives and characters is what makes the genre so successful.
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Cite this essay
Steve Owen in Eastenders. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/steve-owen-eastenders-4619-new-essay