I think that soap operas have to be realistic in a way because if they weren’t they would be considered as fiction or science fiction, and shown as a drama or movie rather than a long continuous series of episodes such as Coronation Street which was first aired in 1960. The soap must deal with factors that may occur in peoples’ lives, but in soap operas they tend to be exaggerated for viewer entertainment.
This is also why a variety of people from all walks of life are cast in soaps, so the exaggeration occurs among a larger, more varied group of people, making the effect of entertainment greater, and increasing the chance that the public can relate to the show, which would in turn create more ratings for the soap. Soaps are obviously not set about real families, which is why such dramatic events can occur that cause so many different opinions in the public.
It is common to hear arguments about soaps such as Eastenders, for example when Jamie died, some people were glad to see the end of his character whereas many people, especially girls, were upset and crying because they couldn’t imagine the show without him.
After dramatic events take place in the show, the ratings tend to rise which is why soaps have slowly become more violent and socially involved…shows like Dallas based their entertainment around purely exaggerated fiction, but still kept an air of reality about it, but soaps today tend to exaggerate things which actually occur socially on a day-to-day basis such as drug abuse and domestic violence, which means today’s soaps would pick up much higher ratings than those of the 60’s and 70’s. Do They Influence The Audience? When people are able to relate to soap operas, then they are more liable to be influenced by it.
The actions of the character/characters they seem to relate to sometimes can cause people to do the same, just because it works out OK for them on TV, but this doesn’t mean it applies to real life, because the lives of TV characters can be manipulated. The aim of soaps is to provide entertainment, but today’s soaps are aimed to emotionally link the public to characters they like, so that they may excite and entertain them by manipulating their lives on TV. But this causes people to mimic the actions they have witnessed on TV, which isn’t healthy.
On the other hand, you could be sceptical about soap operas and not tend to watch them as much, or take as much notice of them and watch them purely for the thrill of the plot… but then older soaps with more interesting fictional plots would probably suit them better! Soaps have a great ability to influence the public especially when there are emotional links made to fictional characters, and when there are issues that much of the public can relate to. I feel that soaps have a great potential to manipulate their audiences, if they are open to the story and not sceptical to the show.
Do we learn anything from soaps? This ties in with soaps being influencing to their audience in the way that if you understand and relate to what is going on, you think you can learn from the character’s mistakes and try to not do the same thing. For example if a certain character has a drug addiction, and the public can see clearly how bad the situation for that character is, then people will realise that drugs can have that bad effect on you and you may well end up like the character in the soap. It is possible to learn things from soaps, issues concerning social activities in soaps can be learnt from.
I don’t think you would learn much general knowledge in an academic sense, but if you are not very worldly-wise, then you may be able to learn something about sociability and ways of behaviour from them. How relevant are soaps to today’s society? Soaps are considered relevant by a large majority of people in the UK. Over a third of the population of England tune in to watch Coronation Street and just under a third watch Eastenders. Looking at these statistics alone, it is clear to see that soaps are relevant enough to attract at least 15million viewers!
Many soaps of this decade have dealt with social issues, except the odd one or two such as Sunset Beach, which was based around a completely fictional storyline. People find that soaps are relevant because they deal with issues that are commonplace all around us such as drug abuse, teenage pregnancies and vandalism and robbery. People find that they can relate to the show, so they feel it is relevant because they may learn how to handle situations and realise the consequences of their own actions.