By: Mabel Ayala, Raúl Robles, Diego Nishizawa and Fernanda Balbas.
Have you ever wondered what is it with soap operas that people just can’t stop watching them? We all have probably asked ourselves that question at least once, if we can guess the end since the very beginning, why do we still watch them? As amazing as it sounds, the answer goes far away from “because the story is pretty good”, or even far away from “because the principal actor/actress is handsome/beautiful”.
A little of history
Before starting to talk about soap operas, we must know where they came from and why they became so popular. The predecessor of the soap opera was the radio-novel, a novel that, in the absence of television, was broadcasted on the radio. These novels began during World War II, by that time all the men were sent to war, so women ran the household; novels were planned to entertain these women, who dreamed of a happier world where they could be with their entire family without the fear of a bomb crashing their house.
After a few years, in 1958, the most famous soap opera of the moment: “Forbidden Path”, was moved from broadcasting on the radio to broadcast on television at 6 pm, the time when the whole family met, but mainly when the housewives found a time they could devote to what gradually became an addiction. This melodramatic boom made Mexico part of a conservative and entrenched culture that has been passed down through generations.
The central plots in most of the stories talk about issues where women could succeed, of course, with the help of a strong and attractive man with lots of money. As a result, soap operas pulled the attention of housewives, who identified themselves with the struggle of recognition that most of the protagonists of these stories had.
“The ideas presented to audiences in the media as liabilities, are easily influenced by the power of the media.”
Curran, 1998: 378
We have already mentioned what attracts soap operas but, what do they really speak about? Throughout this research we found out the formula of how to make a soap opera. Ingredients: An attractive female protagonist with a financial problem, an attractive male protagonist economically stable, and finally an attractive female antagonistic who is in love with the attractive male protagonist.
How to prepare: The antagonistic should try to separate the protagonists throughout the soap opera, make the protagonists fall in love and he must help solve her financial problems, at the end both should marry themselves and, if desired, have children. The antagonistic should become good or lose their mental faculties to finish in a psychiatric hospital, in prison or dead.
How to prepare option 2: Allow the protagonist succeed alone considering that will make it “bad”, so to antagonistic and principal will be exchanged at the end of the story.
But why? Why? WHY?
Everything’s fault of the rating. But, what is the rating? The rating figure represents the percentage of households or people watching a television program at a specific time. A rating point refers to 1% of the target based on the average viewer of the event studied; measured by a people meter, which is an electronic device installed in households selected for the sample and records the power of television, channel selection, the residence time in the channel, channel change, and the number of people who are watching the television.
On Mexican television predominates “what sells”, the producers prefer to dramatize, repeat and induce fashion genres such as reality shows instead of thinking, discuss and hire because that is considered boring and does not generate ratings. Producers can air any content, without any regulation hiding behind the power of the rating, “hidden god that dominates the screens…”.
The remote control
The cultural industry is the responsible for determining and organized mass consumption (such as soap operas) and not the consumer, as we all believe. Thanks to this, the society in which we live is stereotyped; viewers show an immediate gratification stimuli media without requiring a reflection.
Miguel Roiz mentions in his book “La sociedad persuasora” producers exclude anything new, they are left alone with repeated themes as these cultural products, they are intended to produce a mythical fatichization, i.e., these products (in this case we speak of soap operas) address issues of common interest, whether or not real, cause addiction to keep watching them.
But soap operas are not directed only to women, also addressed to men, in fact there have been studies where statistics show that 51.1% of the population in Mexico watching soap operas every day, 47.3% are men.
With this we can conclude that soap operas, beyond just entertaining the public, have a rationale: creating the need to follow viewers watching. Similarly one could say that the success of soap operas is due to the “simple” of its realization, as well as its popularity is due to the fanciful vision given on how to solve problems although we know that in real life not these solutions can be used.
It is very important for everybody to understand that even though soap operas might sometimes entertain people, there is not good substantial content in them to be a good influence in society.
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Curran, J. et al (1998). Estudios Culturales y comunicación: Análisis, producción y consumo cultural de las políticas de identidad y el postmodernismo.
Lozano, J. C. (2007). Los estudios culturales. Teoría e investigación de la comunicación de masas. México: Pearson Comunicación. Segunda edición.
Roiz, M. (2002). La sociedad Persuasora: Control Cultural y Comunicación de Masas. España: Paidós.
Terra Networks (11 de Abril de 2013). El 51.1% de los mexicanos ven telenovelas; de éstos, un 47.3% son hombres: encuesta GCE. Recuperado el 19 de Enero de 2014, de http://economia.terra.com.co/noticias/noticia.aspx?idNoticia=201304112125_AGE_82140303