The genre of Soap opera

Introduction For our current piece of coursework, we have chosen to investigate the genre of Soap opera, this is a 30 minute serial (ongoing) programme which, in today’s society, is increasing popular with television viewers. I think this is because as a programme they offer complete escapism, even if it is for just 30 minutes, and allow people to identify or enjoy with any characters or storylines that are occurring.

There are many other genres of television, these includes things such as drama, comedy, sitcom, news or information programmes, music television and even children’s’ television. Soap operas first started in the 1950’s in America. But the first British soap opera was aired in 1959, it was called ‘The Archers’, and was a much listened to radio soap. Shortly after this, in 1960, the very first television Soap opera, ‘Coronation Street’ was aired, both became immensely popular and soon became common place in every household.

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Over the years, Soap opera has evolved dramatically. The public fascination with fictitious characters and made up storylines has only increased, and the television companies are only to happy to continue making them. Although the public generally loves soap operas, be it ‘Hollyoaks’ to ‘Eastenders’, certain soaps do have their shelf life. Should a soaps ratings plummet or their costs of production soar, then television companies cease funding, and the soap is ultimately doomed. This was the case with the now defunct channel 4 soap ‘Brookside. ‘

However, the costs of the modern day soap opera is much more than it was in the earliest days of the genre. This is because of the increased production prices, and continual paying of the cast members, this has always been the case, but now the pay has increased, causing the overall costs of production to increase with it. In each genre and programme on television, there are certain stereotypical characters, or characters that are represented in a certain way (although some programmes may occasionally challenge these for example by having a female villain or such like.

) A soap opera, probably has the most clearly stereotypical characters of any genre of television, these include people like the older matriarch (for example Pauline Fowler In Eastenders), Jack the lad, the tart with a hart, the young married couple, the tearaway teen, and the villain. These are stereotypical, as they are universally applied, and in each soap usually have similar storylines, locations, and characteristics to each other.

For example in our soap we are using the stereotypical tearaway teen in the character of Chelsy, I say stereotypical, because she does everything that a stereotypical tearaway teen in a soap opera would do, for example drinking and getting into trouble. However, stereotypes do not just apply to characters, they can just as easily be applied to storylines, even locations, to suit the programme in which they are being featured. For example, a stereotypical storyline of a soap opera could be a pregnancy or a marriage.

These are storylines or occurrences that appear universally, and aid the viewer in distinguishing which genre of television they are watching. Just as importantly, there are a number of stereotypical locations in a soap opera, these include a local pub, local shop, and usually a local doctor, these again are stereotypical, as they appear in almost every soap opera, and are usually involved in similar storylines in each one. For example we are using a stereotypical storyline for a doctors surgery in our soap, as we are having one of our characters being told that they are pregnant.

Although this is a fairly stereotypical storyline for this location, we also challenging stereotypes, as the character that is pregnant is only 15 years old. This is stereotypical, as pregnancy is usually associated with older women is soaps. The audience of a soap opera is ultimately the most important thing of all, if no one watches the soap, then there is no reason to produce it. In order to cater for audiences, scriptwriters and producers must work continually hard to please.

The modern viewer is no longer happy to settle for normal mundane storylines, and should a writer fail to recognise this, then their soap will loose appeal its audience (whoever they may be) and will allow their competition to steal their ratings. Each soap must have a target audience, and we have chosen the older teenager, this is because we feel as a group that this is the audience most neglected by the soap production companies. We have chosen to put our soap on channel 4, as this is the channel most appealing to the younger viewers in our minds.

It is also a channel that, because it not government funded, can afford to take risks with its storylines, as opposed to BBC one who needs to fairly conservative about what it shows and doesn’t show. The iconography of a soap opera is sometimes referred to as props or equipment, this is because it is used to make the surroundings and living environments of the characters more realistic and believable. For example the iconography of a soap opera pub, could be a pint or wine glass. This is because these are things that make the pub more realistic as a soap location.

Similarly, in our soap, we would ensure that for example in a family home, there were photos of the characters together in a family format, perhaps a bowl of fruit on the table, or a television in the corner. Anything that suggests this is a working and used house, and convinces the audience that characters are real and the relationships have are also real. The narrative of our soap opera storyline is fairly typical, I say this because they’re not far removed from the ones seen on television today.

For example we have used pregnancies, affairs and marriages in our storylines, these are nothing unusual in the soap operas that are seen today. However, although our naarative is fairly usual, we have tried to challenge stereotypes. For example when we use a schoolgirl in our pregnancy storyline instead the stereotypical married couple. The ideology of a soap opera is the message that it conveys through its characters, storylines and even locations. For example, the ideology of a villain being caught is that it is wrong or bad to commit crimes or do whatever this villain has done.

The ideology we have used in say our teen pregnancy storyline, is that there is no good that can come out of affairs and secrets. However, soaps have come under scrutiny in the past for using the wrong ideology or conveying the wrong message to impressionable young viewers. For example, if a villain is not punished, and gets away with his crimes, then it could be seen as saying that is all right to do bad or even illegal things and you will not get punished.

Even the name of a soap can promote certain ideas or messages. For example we have chosen the name ‘Stuntley’ the ideology of this could be that it is a fairly blunt word, therefore the characters or storylines might reflect this. In conclusion, there are many different things that affect the making and ideas of a soap opera, the main thing however is to make it interesting so that your target audience will be compelled to watch it, as without the audience, there is no soap.