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What makes a popular soap opera?

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  1. Introduction.
    1. Definition of the subject.
    2. The main characteristics.
  2. Soap as an entertainment.
    1. The main reasons.
    2. The influence of soaps in society.
  3. Soap as an educative programme.
    1. Soaps as a social identification programme.
    2. Soap as a gendered programme.
  4. The French example: Plus Belle La Vie.
  5. Conclusion.
  6. References.

A soap opera is a work of fiction taking the form of a serial, generally televised or radio phonic. They made their appearance with the radio in the Thirties. When the large networks started to develop, naturally these series followed .This designation comes from the fact that the first American radio phonic serials were sponsored by American laundry soap companies like Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Pepsodent. The term opera comes from the fact that operas tell a story, just as the soaps do. These serials were diffused in week during the day, aiming at the audience of the housewives. The soap is a particular kind in the field of the series because it does not answer any traditional diagram of construction of a series. Their great force lies in the fact that they manage to allure the lasting public for astronomical periods which can go up to 50 years for the oldest still broadcast (Guiding Light, 1952, radio soap).

[...] Soap as an educative programme Soaps as a social identification programme: "When I sit down to watch, I belong to the family in a way . I can enter into all the characters because they're so familiar" (comment from a viewer's interview). Livingstone says that viewers create an ?active parasocial relationship? with soaps characters. Many of them try to identify themselves with the plots and the characters, as if they were concerned and affected in their own lives, and as if these actors and actresses were their own friends or relatives. [...]


[...] Besides, it increases their self-confidence. This feeling of having to solve a mystery makes soaps seem all the more exciting to the audience. What is funny is that commercial breaks are often programmed at the very high suspense moment during the episode, as to fuel the suspense. Moreover, programmes are popular if viewers enjoy talking about them: ?Talking about television programmes and what has happened in them is essential to making a programme popular?. Soaps are known to fuel many conversations, especially women's. [...]


[...] Then, one other reason explaining the popularity of soap opera is escapism or relaxation. At the end of the day, the viewer can sit down, relax and watch an episode of their chosen soap, and escape from the problems of reality, and think about a character's problems instead. The influence of soaps in society: images are not only trusted; they are given more credence than real-life experiences?. Viewers tend to feel more capable of conceptualising TV fiction in terms of realism than news or current affairs. [...]

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