Writing about soap opera

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Writing about Soap Opera- Charlotte Brunsdon-1984
Newspaper articles, novels, souvenir programmes, TV Times promotions, even cookery books, function to support the simultaneous co-existence ofthem and us.
Often, these stories of ‘real life’ run as a kind of sub-text, or parallel soap to
the one we watch on television. This sub-text is not kept separate
when watching. The knowledge youhave about particular characters
‘in real life’ feeds into and inflects the pleasure of soap watchin

However, in the main,
soap opera functions, within writing about other programmes, as asymbol of the truly awful. Thus, in a discussion of American
television, Rod Allen, writing in The Listener (8/7/76), observes that
these programmes ‘would make Crossroads look like Oscar Wilde bycomparison.’

There is an uneasy relationship between institutionalized
television criticism and popular taste and audience. What is the role
of television criticism which can neitherexplain the popularity of a
programme like Crossroads nor, indeed, even take this popularity

Hobson upbraids television critics for employing critical
criteria derived from highart in the evaluation of a popular form such
as soap opera, and appears to argue that popularity itself should be a
central evaluative criterion. Most usefully, she shows that the
audience forCrossroads is mainly female and often elderly. Here we
begin to see that it is not only issues of class, but also gender and age
status of the audience which may inflect critical judgement.

Soapopera is seen as the opium of the masses, particularly the female
masses – soothing, deluding, product and producer of false

– the credits of Brookside,
Coronation Street andCrossroads all work primarily to establish a
sense of place. It is not character, in the sense of heroes and heroines,
or the promise of action, and enigmas resolved, that is central, but the...