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Other Worlds

Other Worlds: Society Seen Through Soap Opera

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 171
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  • Book Info
    Other Worlds
    Book Description:

    In this entertaining but probing inquiry into the nature, history, and significance of the soaps, anthropologist Dorothy Anger shows how they reflect and shape the ethos of particular nations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0278-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 9-10)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 11-12)
  5. Notes to the Text
    (pp. 12-12)
  6. The Soaps
    (pp. 13-14)
  7. One Introduction: The History of the Soaps
    (pp. 15-38)

    When I was young, I wanted to spend my precious after-school hours hanging out on street corners. My girlfriends disappointed me bitterly; they raced home from school to watchThe Edge of Night.I thought watching soaps was a foolish waste of time.

    My time was to come; I became hooked on soaps slowly. In 1978, newly minted anthropology B.A. in hand, I took a position working with a First Nations council in northern British Columbia. I learned my first fieldwork lesson when I realized I hadn’t a hope of taking part in conversations if I didn’t knowAnother World’s...

  8. Two The Theory of the Practice
    (pp. 39-58)

    The first tenet of fair criticism is to investigate—tolook at—the subject of study. This might be thought too obvious to need stating. Yet, incredibly, many of the soaps’s severest critics seem never to have deigned to look directly at what they presume to study. Or, if they do look, it is with apparent distaste and preconceived notions.

    Critical analysis began soon after radio soaps first aired. At the request of American broadcasters, social scientist Paul Lazarsfeld formed a research team in the 1930s to inquire into who listened to the soaps and what messages they received (Williams...

  9. Three: The Art of the Soaps I: The Production Machine
    (pp. 59-86)

    Successful soaps can span decades on air and so can outlive their creators. With multiple episodes shown weekly, they require a huge number of people to produce them. They must also adapt to changes in society, the television industry, and the audiences, yet must tell new stories while also remaining faithful to their history. A long-lived soap needs fresh infusions of producers, editors, writers, designers, even actors in order to stay alive. That is a tall order for producers and writers, and not one shared by production teams of prime-time series. In this chapter we look at how the wheels...

  10. Four The Art of the Soaps II: Actors, Characters, and Stories
    (pp. 87-104)

    As well as good stories, good acting makes for good soaps. But soaps more than any other dramatic genre are beset by factors hostile to performance. In the US in particular, soaps are not valued by the entertainment industry. There is, therefore, no prestige for their actors outside soap opera circles, and correspondingly little inducement for talented and ambitious actors to consider soap roles worth vying for. But their lowly status is only one factor among a host of others that cast a pall over performance on American soap operas.

    Although critics often bemoan the clumsiness of the acting to...

  11. Five Spinning Dreams or Living Life: Messages of the Soaps
    (pp. 105-126)

    Should we think of the British and American soaps as no more than diversion or amusement, or are they instruments of instruction or social change?⁶⁷ Tony Warren, creator ofCS,has firm opinions on this matter:

    [CS]is purely and simply entertainment, and disposable entertainment at that. It was never designed to be anything more, or anything less, than that ... When it stops being that it worries me.” (Interview)

    Perhaps Warren should start worrying. For audiences, as well as being entertained, do glean messages about society and behaviour from the soaps they watch. The question is notwhethersoaps...

  12. Six: Conclusion: Who Watches, Why, and What Soaps Tell Us About Ourselves
    (pp. 127-144)

    No one gets hooked on a soap on first viewing. To the uninitiated, they make little sense: a scene that obviously is a continuation of a conversation cuts away to totally different people discussing a totally different issue, and at the end of the episode the loose ends are still untied. On traditional sitcoms or dramatic series, the first-time viewer typically sees a situation posed, with misunderstandings and attempts to understand, culminating in resolution (the classic Aristotelian formula). A viewer either likes the story and actors and tunes in next week—or does not. But on soaps, stories may be...

  13. Appendix A: Soaps’ Most Daring Stories
    (pp. 145-148)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 149-164)
  15. References
    (pp. 165-171)