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The representations of ethnicity in a range of soap operas Essay

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In coronation Street there are not really and positive role models for the ethnic community, Dev is slimy, devious and Vik begins to get involved with illegal smuggling. Overall this gives the ethnic minorities in that area a bad name and does not clearly represent the ethnic population and the ‘values’ being represented are largely negative. But it has to be noted that for the first time in 25 years an Asian family has existed on Coronation Street. In Eastenders we have seen a number of Asian characters who are seen to be portraying the ethnic communities.

Eastenders is set in Albert Square in the east end of London. Only the residents of the square are featured and most of the action is centered around the local public house. There is a wide ethnic mix in Albert Square but the stories tend to revolve around established families. One family that was well known in Eastenders was the De Marcos. Rosa was a middle aged matriarchal figure who was the stereotype of an Italian ‘mama’. The Italian culture was reinforced via the plot vehicle of the family business. The producers use their knowledge of the Italian culture to try and portray this family to the best they can.

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The older brothers Gianni and Beppe were both fiercely protective of their younger sisters. The Grandmother, who was also present in the storyline, helped in the restaurant, this is showing the idea of extended rather than nuclear family. Rosa De Marco had an affair with ‘George’ a middle aged, gangland character who we seemed to associate with ‘the mob’. This could be seen as stereotyping because it is going on the basis of imagination. People might not know that there actually is a mob in Italy but would portray one because it is interesting. In Eastenders we have a huge number of black characters, Paul, Anthony, Patrick Truman and Gus.

Patrick is unemployed and has just recently appeared on the scene. For many years he had not been involved in his son’s lives. Paul is seen as a ‘trickster’ like his ‘father’ he is also unemployed but loves his scams! Paul was revealed to have taken the blame for Anthony’s car accident to save Anthony’s career. This shows that most characters have two sides, one soft side and the other a hard side that they reveal to the other people on stage, but because a soap opera dwells further we get to know the characters more personally and can connect with them on a more personal level.

Gus Smith is a sensitive, poetic soul who was attracted to Albert Square by Sonia’s ‘mysterious’ charms. Ho won the affection of Dot and Jim and seemed all set to pop the question, before his world turned upside down. We, as the audience empathize with these kinds of characters because they represent what we feel like. Gus is seen as a sensitive male who has found what he wants but it’s out of his reach. A number of Asian characters have also been featured, Asif and Nita. Asif is a friend of Martins; he is seen as a typical 18 years old that is carefree and is ‘chilling’.

His ethnicity does not seem to be fore grounded whereas Nita and her son Anish have moved to Walford to get away from things. The story is still continuing of how Nita’s mum is calling her back over to India again to live with them however she has now settled down with Robbie. After the death of her husband, she fled to Walford to escape her suffocating family. They portray Nita and Asif in different ways because I think they want to show males and females (Asians) and how they are treated due to their sex. The demographic mix in family Affairs is not very equal.

There are a limited number of ‘black’ or ‘asian’ characters, the only black/asian characters that I am aware of is Yasmin Matthews and Becky and Darren Scott. Yasmin has been portrayed as an extremely difficult character. Yasmin’s thoughts may be shallow but her past isn’t. A murdered husband, an estranged father, and a miscarriage clutter her past but Yasmin’s personality and her character allow her to cover that up and play her part well. When looking at all the things that Yasmin Matthews has been through it seems unbelievable that this has happened to one person.

This may not be realistic as the producers want it to seem. Becky is seen as a rebellious schoolgirl who is living by the motto ‘ill live my life as I wish’ she has had her ups and downs with her mother regarding her ‘boyfriends’ and has her regular family feuds with her mother and brother. Becky first appeared on Family Affairs in January 2000, this shows that during this time producers became more aware of ethnicity and knew they had to portray it in their soaps. This is what Coronation Street has done, because for the first time in 25 years there has been an Asian family on the Street which I see as an achievement.

Darren in the last noticeable ethnic character present in Family Affairs. Darren’s life has been filled with all sorts of traumas both major and minor. For instance, his dad Adrian was an ex-convict, his step dad lost his job, and his stepbrother Luke assumed the role of his new stepfather after he started an affair with Nikki and then rubbed more salt in it by proceeding to date his sister. This background shows the audience that the child may be unstable and so his character will be slightly disturbed. A media theory concerning why people use and enjoy different forms of media.

In other words we all watch different forms of media because we ‘get something out of it’ most commonly. When analysing the soap operas according to messages they portray we see that the storylines are a form of escapism i. e. to escape the harsh realities of everyday life. We also watch them to gain information about the outside world Raj Persaud psychologist says that we gain a lot of useful information from soap operas which helps us to ‘rehearse’ the way in which we would deal with similar crises to the actors in the soap opera where they too affect our lives.

Another message we can get from soap operas is the fact that they use ‘stereotypes’ this is so that we can compare ourselves with other people e. g. if I was age same age as Nita or Asif in Eastenders I would look at them and then compare them to myself. A critic Erwin Panfosky (1979) said that all of the personality ‘types’ that we see represented on our screens are actually derived from the theatre which was used in early cinema. ‘Types’ are characters who are ‘defined by what they represent rather than being genuine individuals’.

A ‘type’ is signified by an actor’s appearance and behaviour and, unlike the stereotype, does not really exist in the real world. Types that exist in Eastenders are Winston and Tracy, that are just normally hanging around and don’t have an actual storyline. Stereotypes offer a kind of sophisticated shorthand about characters and people in the real world. However in ‘Image and Representation’ by Nick Lacey, he tells us that although stereotypes are very common there are many assumptions (according to Tessa Perkins in her book ‘Rethinking stereotypes’) which people have about stereotypes.

E. g. they are pejorative concepts, they are usually about oppressed or minority groups, they are simplistic and they are rigid and unchangeable. Because someone holds a stereotype of a group his or her behaviour towards a member of that group can be predicted Overall producers has attempted to portray ethnicity to the best of their ability and have not been able to at times due to lack of research, but it is noticeable that society is beginning to accept ethnic minorities in soap operas and accept them as part of the community.

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