The sample essay on Soap Opera Conventions deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches, and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
In soap operas the term “realistic” is when a soap opera makes us believe that what is happening is taking place in real time, continually, to ordinary people in an ordinary location in a close community. Soaps use melodrama so that it can have sensational plots which appeal to the audience through, exaggerating the narratives, Cliff hangers, cinematography and the editing.
Social realism is drawn on by soaps to make the soap more realistic by referring to realistic social issues of the working class people such as unemployment, sexuality and racial issues.
My question is “With reference to specific soap opera texts that you have studied, discuss how far they may be considered to be ‘realistic’”, and I will answer this with references to the soap operas Coronation Street East Enders by giving examples from these texts which relate to the question.
I will also define and talk about social realism, how the soap narratives and technical conventions promote realism, and I will also discuss how elements of melodrama are used in the soaps.
Social realism is ‘capturing in a truthful way, the everyday life of the working class people’ so it represents the social issues of these working class people such as unemployment, teenage pregnancy, abortion, crime, single-parent families, sexual health and sexuality making it more realistic as it is portraying the significant things in society and in the news at any one time, so the soap has issues the audience can relate to.
Examples of social realism in East Enders, is when Ian (before he got married to Janie) was looking after his kids alone representing an issue in the present society, and when Zoe has an abortion with Den’s child. Little Moe also is a social realistic issue as she has been raped, but carried on the raise the child and she also became a single parent after she split up with billy, Jules as a drug deal is also a social realistic issue, then he dropped dealing in drugs and went to work in Ian’s cafi?.
Melodrama is a text with a sensational plot which is used to appeal to the audiences emotions such as in East Enders, when Billy told everyone about Alfie and Little Moe’s relationship, there was a cliff hanger when Kat attacks Little Moe. Also when Johnny sends a hit man to deal with Peggy, and was stopped by Phil and Grant, Johnny was waiting silently for a reply from the Hit man, but as there was complete silence, the audience knows that there is trouble.
When Alfie and Kat takes Nanna to see the queen is an example of an extra ordinary Event as the narrative rarely leaves East Enders. Also in coronation street, when Sunita finds out that Dev has been sleeping with other women who are looking after his shops, is an example of an exaggerated narrative. In these soaps, the main narrative and technical conventions are that they are Ongoing, where they have no beginning and no end, this makes it more realistic as the soap not going to stop so it is always going to show the lives of working class in their set locations.
The soaps also establish the setting at the beginning, to remind the audience that it is still in the same location and also begins at the start of the day working to the end of the day, this adds to the realism as it shows the characters day to day activity’s from morning to night. Dramatic irony is also a narrative convention, where the audience knows things that the characters do not know, such as when Den was murdered, only a few characters (Zoe, Chrissy and Sam) know about it and also the audience this relates to the hierarchy of knowledge (who knows what first).
As the soaps are dialogue driven most of the time, adding to the realism of working class peoples’ everyday lives so they would use shots which make the camera as invisible as possible, using establishing shots, over-the-shoulder shouts two shots, mid close ups and extreme close ups. And also they when there are interweaving storylines, they need moving of the camera from one narrative to another. The editing in soaps is also simple where there are no dissolves, fades just pure hard cuts making it more realistic as it is just taking us from one storyline to another “naturally”.
Sounds used in soaps are mainly digetic except for the theme tunes, this makes it more realistic. The soaps would be mainly conversation orientated and this would be digetic sounds, and also when they are in pubs (Coronation Street, East Enders) there would be background sounds such as the stereo in the pub playing a music album which would relate to the present time music making it more realistic.
The lighting used is conventionally naturalistic lighting this adds to the realism as it represents the real world and also the use of Mise-en-Scene, where costumes and props, e interior and exterior design, and the layout is realistic such as a school uniform that Ian’s kids wear in East Enders, and the casual present day outfits the characters in both East Enders and Coronation street wear, are realistic as it reflects what normal working class people wear in the real world.
Representations also promote realism, as the representations of the characters are supposed to represent the working class society in real life. Examples are Patrick, a race issue, as he owns a news agent and also in Coronation Street, Dev owns newsagents as well representing these job roles are a non-white role. Also the black characters are stereotyped such as when Jules entered East Enders, he was a drug dealer and also Paul Trueman was a drug dealer. Also when Patrick entered East Enders he was stereotyped to be a traditional African where he liked drinking alcohol, and was a girl’s man.
The women are also represented as house wives and those who look after the kids such as Rosie Miller, who looks after the house while her husband does nothing. To conclude my opinion for the question “With reference to specific soap opera texts that you have studied discuss how far they may be considered to be ‘Realistic’”, is that they make the soaps as realistic as possible using Technical and Narrative conventions stated above, where everything from camera shots to sounds are used to make the soaps more realistic such as no non-digetic sound tracks during the soap and putting it in as digetic sound in environments such as pubs.
Representations of the Ethnicity adds to the realism of these soaps and the issues that are brought up in the narratives of the soaps add to the realism as these issues are dealt with in everyday life of working class people in the society.