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But Martin Kemp, former guitarist in Spandau Ballet, plays the character of Steve Owen in Eastenders. Many people will recognise him from his former career but there was a substantial break between his music career and his appearance on Eastenders, making it more acceptable. Also because much of soaps audience is made up of children and young adults, they may not be familiar with his past career. Those who are will also know that he appeared in the film ‘The Krays’ where he played a gangster which adds to his star persona of a ‘gangster type’ character in Eastenders.
But in Brookside for example, Ben Hull who played Lewis in Hollyoaks plays the new doctor. He has gone straight from one to the other so I still see him as the character of Lewis, not as his Brookside character. This is an explanation as to why many soap characters find it difficult to leave their genre because they are recognised as particular characters. Much of soaps realism comes from the time scale of the episodes. ‘Real world time’ is seen in individual segments though across the episode time is compressed.
Because they have open-ended narratives and are on the television so frequently, we feel like we are seeing into a small part of the character’s lives. The half an hour episode of Eastenders I have chosen spans a day for the characters, so we see them from when they get up to when they are at a night-time party. We feel that we have seen all the important events in the day, because unlike a fly on the wall documentary, soaps miss out the boring parts, although ‘dead time’ is often left in. But we feel that we have seen everything, because as in real life, the small events can often be the most important.
This is illustrated in sequence 13 when we see that there is no resentment between Kat and Zoe unlike in previous episodes. This is an important scene because we see a side of Kat that most of the other characters don’t see so we feel privileged. She is known as a hard-faced woman who always puts on her best show, and make-up, for people and doesn’t show her emotions. But here we see a sensitive, even soppy side to her. This is also shown in Neighbours in sequence 4 when Emily is playing with Dahl and Audrey, the pets belonging to the Kennedys.
We get a true sense of her innocence which is important with the imminent arrival of Ellie, who used to be like that, but now turns up with a police escort as they suspect she is going to graffiti a wall. As well as soap time corresponding to ‘real world time’ in terms of the hours of a day, they also reflect what is going on at certain times of the year. For example in the episode of Eastenders, one of the minor plot lines is the preparation for Dot and Jim’s Valentines Day wedding. This was screened on Valentines Day. One thing that does not reflect actual life is the Christmas episode.
This is usually the most eventful episode of the year; usually involving the clichi?? birth or a tragic death, unlike the boring reality of Christmas day which has been represented more realistically in the BBC comedy ‘The Royale Family’, where the family are shown watching the repeats on television whilst eating cold turkey sandwiches. Another important area which adds to the realism of soaps is the mise-en-scene. The Kennedy house includes all the props you would find in an everyday house including a portrait of the three children, all of whom have left home.
Regular viewers of the soap will know that this was painted by Helen Daniels, one of the original cast members who had to be written out because of ill health in real life. This portrait adds depth to the characters because it gives them a past. Because the episode switches from the Rodeo to Ramsey Street, establishing shots are used frequently to make sure the audience knows where the scene is taking place. The Rodeo is unfamiliar to the audience so there are a string of establishing shots to introduce the audience to the setting of that scene, therefore not alienating potential new audiences.
This episode of Neighbours is unusual because it is half filmed off location. Soaps are generally cheap to produce because they use the same sets over and over and they stick to the same locations. This allows the audience to become familiar with the habitat of the characters and feel that they are a part of their community. So everyone who watches is familiar with the Cafi?? and Lou’s Place. The two soaps I have studied focus on different areas of society. Neighbours concentrates on middle class families whereas Eastenders is more about working class people.
In both episodes the characters have money troubles, reflecting a common occurrence in real life. But there is a big difference. In Neighbours Drew and Libby have lent Scottie some money and they are worried that he won’t be able to pay them back. But despite this they have managed to buy their own house and set up their own business, all with a baby on the way. It is unlikely that Eastenders would have two young characters being this successful at setting up their first home together. The characters of Woody and Mitch seem out of place because of their backgrounds.
In Eastenders it is the Jackson family that are in need of money. Jamie needs i?? 5 to buy Sonia a present, but no one is able to lend it to him so he steals it from the milk jar. Pauline is hassling Jim about arranging a honeymoon, but he cannot afford it. In later episodes we see the Square rallying round to make Dot and Jim’s wedding really special because they deserve it but cannot afford it. This reflects the ideology that older people are generally good citizens and that the state doesn’t provide them with much money.
It also shows the old-fashioned community spirit which rarely exists in modern society. In this episode we also see that people with money do not fit into life in Albert Square. The character of Belinda is over exaggerated to show that she does not belong, and the over exaggeration makes it seem as if she is being represented in a negative light, showing the ideology that people with money are seen as the enemy in working class societies. This is further illustrated with Mel, who is seen to be over dressed for going to the Vic.
In a later episode Laura tells her that she doesn’t fit in because she has money and sees herself as being better than those who don’t. The fact that people for all different classes drink in the same pub could be seen as an unrealistic feature. Eastenders presents an ideology of social harmony, a classless society which does not exist. In reality, people like Mel would normally be associated with trendy wine bars rather than their local pub. An example of an ‘ideologically correct’ outcome to storylines in Eastenders is the death of Steve Owen.
Steve killed someone so there for it must be shown some how that you cannot get away with crime. This story was drawn out for a very long time, he escaped a prison sentence and several people have tried to murder him in revenge for things he has done to them, but he finally got his comeuppance when he died in a car crash, a satisfying end (from the audience’s point of view) to a story-line where he was deceiving everyone around him. The techniques used in soaps add to their realism. Close ups are used to show emotions and there are very rarely anything but jump cuts used.
These are generally conventions used in documentary form. In sequence 3 of Neighbours, when Woody is explaining himself, fast editing is used to show the tension between the characters. But in Neighbours, non-diegetic music is used to increase the tension, and in this episode it is used in nearly every scene involving Steph and Woody. This makes it seem less realistic but reflects the light-hearted nature of the soap. When Chooka first appears a low angle shot is used to show that he is of some significance.
Subtle enigma is used because we first see him with his back to the camera which makes the audience wonder who he is and what his role will be. Diegetic music from the fairground is amplified to become non-diegetic and show that although his involvement is significant, (because of Aussie Big Brother) it is not important. When he begins talking to Drew the music fades back into the background. Sequence 10 (when Ellie arrives) adds the comic element to this episode. Just as Susan is about to go out looking for Ellie there is a knock at the door.
‘Jaws’ style music is introduced as Ellie, dressed in bright orange, including her hair, walks through the door with the greeting ‘Hey Auntie Suzie, what’s up? ‘ A close up of the look of horror and disbelief on Susan’s face illustrates the hilarity of the situation. The story of Zoe’s parents has led to the introduction of techniques not normally associated with soap operas. It is very rare to find the use of music, as in Neighbours, in British soaps as well as use of flashbacks, which are used frequently in Home and Away.
But in an episode of Eastenders where Kat was in hospital after taking a overdose, flashbacks were used to show the audience what happened to her as a child, when her uncle Harry raped her, resulting in the birth of Zoe. This made the scene seem less realistic, but it was needed to give the audience insight into Kat’s past. In the episode I have studied, the end scene where Charlie is looking at his girls having fun, the diegetic sound is muffled. This accompanied by an extreme close up of Charlie’s face shows his disbelief and confusion of the events involving his brother, concluding with his death.
These unusual techniques emphasise emotions of the audience at such a dramatic story. Propp’s character functions can be difficult to apply to soaps, especially Eastenders where the characters move in and out of their functions. Kat for example is shown as being a mother figure, and a good, caring person who is a victim of abuse in this episode. But in previous episodes she has been represented as a bad person who sleeps around and doesn’t do any work. Therefore she cannot be classified as occupying a specific role.