I hugely believe that we can learn through different subject areas in life, including television programmes. For me, soap operas are a huge part of my television watching and have been a consistent part of my whole life. With soap operas having such a rich history in terms of the many years they have been on screen, sometimes containing the same characters for decades, we get to almost feel part of a fictional world that we can watch multiple times a week. With this comes the opportunity to learn from them because they often contain storylines that are based in fact, and extensive research has gone into them to make sure their portrayal is as real-life as it can be. For these reasons, there are many things we can learn from watching soap operas.
How to deal with real life issues
2020 is a big example of a year that has enabled a huge real-life issue to be focused on in soap operas. The production of soap operas had to stop in March 2020 due to the global pandemic, leading to some going off air for a couple of months, having special episodes written to reflect lockdown, or the need to blend in pre and post lockdown scenes into normal episodes. Most soap operas have included the global pandemic and the lockdown into their storytelling, and this adds to the realism they try to portray. Some dialogue has even included thoughts from the characters about how life has changed. A major part has been how the businesses now reflect the new practices, and we are seeing a lot of characters wear face masks when necessary, which reinforces what everyone should be doing in real life where needed. However, real life issues have always been reflected upon in soap operas, and there are certain topic areas that can really make an impact on the viewers, such as storylines surrounding health, crime and stigmas within society. Due to soap operas being windows into real life and a reflection of society, they have the opportunity to really drive through changing opinion on certain topic areas, such as mental health.
I have discussed my top 3 mental health storylines in soap operas, and there were so many I had to choose from as there have been lots of storylines based on mental health over the years. However, in recent years there has been a larger focus on mental health in society, and more and more television shows contain elements of mental health awareness, whether that be famous people talking about their experiences with their own mental health, or television dramas using it as part of their storytelling. Soap operas are no different and have long been looking at mental health in their storylines, but it could be said that in recent years there has been even more of a focus. Hollyoaks, for example, has had a long-running campaign called ‘Don’t Filter Feelings’ which has been the driving force behind multiple storylines for many years now. Storylines on the topics of self-harm, eating disorders and depression are just some of the storylines that have been developed, and this even resulted in the show winning Mind’s Making A Difference award in 2018. I believe that the stigma surrounding mental health is being eroded, but the great work soap operas are doing can continue to help with that.
Ideas for change
Soap operas aim to portray real life, so viewers have the opportunity to learn more about certain things. I have previously spoken about how I have learnt about different types of employment through TV shows, and soap operas have the platform to do this on a wider scale. Because soap operas portray real life, they have the potential to portray an area that some viewers may not know anything about. This could be a certain type of job, career path, or even a way of dealing with a problem, such as within relationships. Not all soap storylines are necessarily realistic in all elements as an artistic licence can be taken in order to create some drama that keeps people watching, but they could at least give viewers some ideas for what could be done if a situation on a show is similar to one in their own life.
Soap operas are a huge part of an audience’s television consumption, and aim to reflect real life even when they are also being written to provide drama. With this brings with them the opportunities to learn some things from them that has the potential to benefit the soap audience in a variety of ways.
Do you agree with my list of what we can learn from watching soap operas? Let me know in the comments below.