Soap operas. Not quite the real McCoy, are they? See, they’re a funny sort of imitation; like looking in a fairground mirror. They’re a reflection of something real, but not really a true mirror image.
Now, I hate to waste words on something people often think are, dare I say it, crap. But soap operas really are a figurehead of social and cultural reality, just in an unreal world. The people look pretty real; the situation and circumstances seem real, and even the issues touched upon ring true to viewers at home. But are they actually believable? Or are they simply that cheap Chanel replica found on the market stall on the town square on Tuesdays?
The sordid affairs, and murder plots, with embarrassingly on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments, concluding with a rather sudden and solemn drum solo known the whole country over. So why do people watch them? If they’re so realistic and representative of everyday life, why do we use them as a vehicle of escapism?
Whether it’s a book, film, magazine, TV drama, they’re all a form of induced location unawareness. We want to forget about the woman who shouted down the phone to us, or our boss who had a rather disappointed ‘little chat’ with us before we’d even started our shift. We don’t give a shit about the fact we stained our new suede boots (although we really actually do…) Our insistent departure from reality for just a little while; to get wrapped up in the seemingly same shit but to another person, is common for large figure of the population.
And their lives eventually intertwine with our lives, so much so we spend minutes of our days discussing the scandalous events of soapworld with other real people like us, who love to escape too.
But what I can’t understand is, in modern 21st century society, where cultures not only merge through, over and between national and international boundaries, but explode in conflict and disagreement, would you want to ‘escape’ to somewhere that almost seems worse than reality? All the bad points of life are grossly and unashamedly enlarged and magnified in soapworld, to a level we find enjoyable. But why?
When I ‘escape’, I hope it’s to somewhere better than a replica of the world I live in world. A cheap, nasty, fake and frankly equally (if not more awful) escape route to soapworld isn’t my retreat of choice.
And what’s worse is that soapworld is considered a media tool and cultural method of reflecting serious and often socially difficult and sensitive topics. Homosexuality, rape, addiction, incest, promiscuity, infidelity. It has it all. It’s the seven deadly sins of life, magnified for our entertainment. But why do we find that an escape?
Are we all socially accepted sadists? Do we generally just say it’s ok to see others in pain? Because, let’s face it, soapworld rarely allows anyone to be happy for too long. That would be boring, and boring means lower viewer numbers. And because we, the real ones, are in control of soapworld, we dictate their moves. Are editors and writers in fact puppeteers of our socially sadist episodes, viewed every night by millions vegging on the sofa with a wine?
But is there a, well, a ‘thing’ that means it’s natural to want to see people worse off that us? Is it a catharsis to see others suffer? If you’ve had a hellish day, does it make you feel better to release your angst and tension to see others suffer, presumably that of which you wish to impart upon the cause of your frustrations?
There’s more than the surface to scratch with soapworld, and as I’m sure multiple media educators and actors can tell you so, there’s hundreds of layers. As Shrek as you like, soapworld needs a lot of ponder to fully understand the reality vehicle that it is.
Take the writer. They are creating the soapworld; every little detail. Yet, regardless of it being nothing more than a mere story on TV with actors, countless scores of thousands of us continue to drown ourselves and our daily stresses into another world, where we can view those same stresses on other people, and often feel a release in tension and ultimately feel better because of that.
It just all seems a bit sick, doesn’t it, really? Soapworld is that weird wavy mirror in the Wacky World fun house at the county fair on a dark dank October evening.. You can be looking at you, but you’re a bit wider than in real life, and your head looks bigger, and your legs look longer. It’s all a bit… confused. A bit surreal, and unrealistic. But it’s based on you. It’s your reflection. It’s supposed to be a true representation… but you know it’s not.
Soapworld just isn’t the real McCoy really, is it?