WKU POP 201

Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Archive for April, 2008

Primetime Crossover (well, kinda…)

Posted by Nick S. on April 30, 2008

A brief post to give a heads up that next week’s episode of House finds Hugh Laurie diagnosing a star on his favorite soap opera, a General Hospital parody (called “Passion Prescription”), after observing his symptoms on the TV. The episode joins what I guess is a fairly strong tradition of prime-time shows borrowing from their day-time brothers and sisters. Friends springs to mind as the most obvious one.

It’s a shame that unlike Friends they couldn’t feature a real life soap, as the potential for cross-over would be huge. I’m guessing it’s because Fox has no soap properties upon which to capitalize, and would veto producer NBC introducing their own soaps. Interesting that House seems to have moved back to his hospital dramas, and away from his Telenovelas…

Talking of House, last night’s episode (the first in a short run of four) was particularly soapy, containing basically little to no medical story and a ton of soapy goodness (House and Cameron shippers are no doubt particularly pleased by the revelation that she almost certainly slept with him). It will be interesting to see how long the show sticks around, particularly with its increasing move towards soapier content.

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Soap Operas and My Life

Posted by fourfourteenam on April 29, 2008

I know people say this all the time, but I’m fairly certain that my life… or at least the lives of my friends could easily be adapted into a soap opera.  And since this is my final post, I’d like to share 5 incredibly important lessons that I’ve learned in the past week.

1) We have a secret box.  At every party there is a box and every person who joins the party has to leave a secret.  You write some deep embarrassing secret confession in crayon and place it in the box.  Sometimes there are confessions that range from pulling a Henry and Vienna in the MIT chapel to having an illegitimate child to peeing in the shower.  There’s a surprising amount of drama out there, even at a place like MIT, even when we’re all pretending to do their psets.

2) I’m friends with a group of artists and we had a rather drama filled tea at three on Friday.  People dish about their relationships or stories that happen over the week.  I find this extremely soapy since all of them are proud soap opera and melodrama fans and all the men in the group are the stereotypical “Soap Opera Men in the 90s.”  It might have something to do with the fact that they are artists and are more willing to share their feelings than others, but I will say, many of them are quite brooding… and a couple even cry.  But valuable lessons are learned during tea.  

But during this short week at tea:

1) Problem: Someone is riding a bike across the country to support low cost housing.

Solution: Get a sheepskin covering from Ikea.

2) Problem: Someone’s ex has moved onto the same floor as them and is dating some girl who also lives on the floor.

Solution: Head held high… stilettos higher.

3) Problem: Not doing well on a test.

Solution: The only test that matters in the long run is one you have to pee on.

4) Problem: Not knowing when someone is that into you.

Solution: The next time someone wants to “trade shirts in private,” he really is that into you.

5) Problem: “I’m accidently naked in Harvard Square and have an interview in an hour”

Solution: WHAT?!?

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PGP poll about Nuke

Posted by laura47 on April 28, 2008

“PGP are running a phone poll to get opinions on whether to continue the Nuke storyline or not. Whether this will actually have any effect on what they decide to do we can’t tell, but obviously, we’re all for it! So, here’s what you need to do. Completely automated:
Call 1-800-331-3774 and press #1 to continue in English (or #2 for Spanish), then 2 to get to the ATWT poll, then press 1 to continue the storyline.”

(quoting http://community.livejournal.com/luke_noah/185337.html )

 

I hope to get you a real post about luke and noah later, but I just wanted to call people’s attention to this.

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What is REALLY happening with Ameera

Posted by jenn on April 26, 2008

I think it is time for another episode of “ATWT According to Jenn,” inspired by a conversation I had with Laura, a few of the other blog post topics, and my desire to SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT regarding Ameera. Since TIIC have seen fit to not reveal the truth yet (the truth being that Ameera and Noah are clearly brother and sister, of course) and since we’re in for a nice little Nuke treat next week, as Katharine pointed out in a comment in my earlier post this week, I feel the need to give you all a little treat as well, about what is up next in the Luke/Noah/Ameera storyline, in my mind.
Continue Reading

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Realistic Relationships

Posted by fourfourteenam on April 26, 2008

So this week, I was incredibly relieved to have the plot line of the Aaron, Sofie, Chris and Ali.  The awkwardness was so raw and… just great!  Ali’s comment about “Saint Sofie,” and Chris and Aaron’s little tiff were just, realistic and something I would expect to happen when exes do get together.  There was definitely some awkward tension between Ali and Aaron, but most of the drama was definitely caused by Chris just being unkind to Aaron and making him obviously uncomfortable.  What I did really want was to see more of the facial expressions of Ali and Sofie during the dinner argument because… well, we all know that Chris hates Aaron and vice versa… but I cannot even begin to see how awkward dinner would have been being Ali or Sofie.  Although, Sofie was too busy “gazing” at Paul to really notice.

Ali seems to still be really nice to Aaron and he obviously still cares about her well-being.  Aaron seems to really care about Ali and was incredibly concerned when she was dating Matt.  I think there might have been some remaining sparks but most of it really was out of concern.  When there was the whole baby stealing custody fighting debacle, Gwen and Will depended on Ali to convince Aaron to testify really testing his loyalties and friendship with Sofie.  I’m just glad that some of the awkwardness and the tension ended up coming out during dinner…

Katie and Henry are also really interesting.  From previous posts, I think it was made clear that Henry was really into Katie and was really upset when she divorced him.  Yes, they were best friends, but I’m just really surprised that he’s still there at her beck and call and she still considers him as a best friend.  I think it’s fairly interesting to see them still working together as best friends.

Soap operas have always made me feel sorta bad about my past relationships.  I’m not going to lie when I say that I 1) I wouldn’t ever invite my exes to my wedding and 2) if someone needed someone to talk to my ex into doing something… it certainly wouldn’t be me.  I might just be THAT vindictive or soap opera relationships between exes just aren’t that realistic.  But I can’t say that most people go around scheming around like Emily to drug Chris and make him look bad in front of his father.  I would just say that normal people are somewhere in between the two extremes, and I would really like to to see more of the awkwardness in ATWT.

I guess if everyone had long lasting awkwardness and the sort of hatred between Emily and Chris, nothing would ever get done on the show because everyone would be so caught up hating each other and scheming together to bring each other down!  I was just ultra-glad that the awkwardness was portrayed so well and the awkwardness was fairly realistic.

 

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Dum Dum Da-dum!

Posted by jenn on April 24, 2008

Ah, the soap opera wedding. Highly anticipated, highly celebrated, they often raise ratings (as Brad and Katie tried to do themselves for Oakdale Now) and thrill viewers. The wedding of Scott and Charlene on the Australian soap opera Neighbours, for example, attracted more than 2 million Australian viewers and more than 19 million viewers in the UK, and was one of the most watched soap episodes. In American soaps; Luke and Laura on GH, Bo and Nora on OLTL, and Nina and Cliff on AMC are just a few of the more memorable and popular weddings.

This past week, we had the wedding of Katie and Brad. And I’m not quite sure why, but I felt no excitement or anticipation around it. Maybe it was because it all happened so quickly. Maybe it is because I watched all 5 episodes from the week at once, not allowing anticipation to build or having to wait until tomorrow to find out what is going to happen next. And maybe it is because I didn’t particularly want the wedding to happen (though that should have increased my anticipation!). Or MAYBE its because the wedding was pulled off as such a sham that I couldn’t allow myself to get excited at all. Continue Reading

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The New Katie

Posted by fourfourteenam on April 24, 2008

In the beginning I wasn’t too big on Sofie, I mean she made bad decisions, was always sad about losing her baby, and I liked Will and Gwen a whole lot more.  The whole emotionally damaged girl act was really annoying to me, and her incompetence was really infuriating.  She could hardly take care of herself, and every time Hallie was in her care bad things would happen to her.

After watching her in several episodes after the whole adoption fiasco, I realized that I didn’t dislike her as much anymore.  She wasn’t really evil and trying to give Will and Gwen a hard time; she was really that clueless and it made me a little more patient with her.

After watching ATWT by myself (with no one to confirm my findings) and writing a 20 page paper on social cues and signals, I watched the interaction between Sofie and Paul and it seems to me that Sofie is developing a slight crush on Paul.  Paul on the other hand, is absolutely in love with Meg and is completely oblivious to the fact.  

I’m not quite sure, but it seems she was a little upset when Paul used her idea about the hot air balloon to win over Meg.  I’m not sure if she was jealous about him using her idea or just sad that he wasn’t that into her, but it did make me step back and think a little.

Is Sophie the new Katie?  She’s got something going on with several of the men on the show: Aaron, Paul and Chris.  And even though she seems to enjoy spending time with Aaron,  she doesn’t seem to feel the same way about him as he does about her.  And Paul?  She seems to be fairly close with him.  I mean, sure she must feel sorry for Barbara Ryan, but I hardly think she’s the only reason she stays with Paul all the time.  Aren’t there food banks, orphanages or impoverished people in Oakdale?  She has other places to do good deeds.  It seems so cliche that she is trying to so hard to help Barbara even though 1) she dislikes is when people help her and she was really unkind to Alison just for doing her job and 2) her son Paul doesn’t even care that much about her sprinting off to go on his date with Meg instead of staying with her.  It seems that even though Chris started something with Alison, when he saw Sofie it seemed like he tried a little too hard to make her come to dinner.  You can never be too careful with Chris… if he’ll cheat on you with your sister, he’ll most likely use a random girl just to make you jealous.

I’m fairly certain that Sofie doesn’t really have an interest in Chris, but I’m really interested to see how the dinner story line plays out to see if he is using Alison to get to Emily and Sofie at the same time.  For a while, it seemed like Sofie was really busy mourning the loss of Hallie to actually show interest in someone, but this week there were certainly some developments.

I personally prefer Aaron with Sofie… and I’m completely biased because of the way she says his name with the funny sounding nasaly ‘A’ in the beginning and because Aaron seems the nicest of the three boys.  We all know what I think about Paul, and frankly, Chris isn’t much higher on the list either.

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The use of pregnancy on ATWT

Posted by laura47 on April 23, 2008

 

Soaps cover all of life’s big events: birth, childhood (albeit often briefly), school, dating, marriage, pregnancy, divorce, old age, and death. I am particularly interested in how pregnancy and childbirth are used in soaps. It seems, from my casual observation of soap storylines, that soap writers seems to view pregnancy as much more interesting the actual raising of children. The prevalence of SORASing (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome) certainly speaks  to this to some degree, but I wonder about way pregnancy and surrounding events (miscarriage, abortion, childbirth, paternity, custody, adoption) are treated in general. 

A pregnancy plot is exciting! Pregnancy means people had sex, often people who are not married or (to a statistically improbably degree!) engaged in a one night stand! If no one had sex, then there was likely fertility treatments of some sort, and those have their own excitements attached. Is the pregnancy wanted? Angst possibility there! Is paternity clear? Very typical soapy angst there! Will the pregnancy cause medical problems? Will the mother fall down any staircases? Will the pregnancy be carried to term? Where will the mother be when she gives birth? (Odds seem to point against “in a hospital”.) 

Having a small child is not so exciting. Diapers, nursing, crying, all that. It seems these children mostly disappear offscreen unless they are part of a custody battle or some other plot that makes them “interesting”. Have we ever seen Lily and Holden’s youngest child since we’ve been watching ATWT? A baby doesn’t have much personality, and on soaps they seem to mostly serve as an object for adults to fight over and have emotions about.

As far as we know, no one is pregnant on ATWT right now, and no one has been in the ~3 months we have been watching. I assume that is because we came in on the tail end of two pregnancy plots, Meg’s miscarriage and everything surrounding Hallie. (Random question: who was Cole talking to on the phone when he tried to kidnap Hallie? What was up with that?) Anyone want to place bets on how long until someone else gets knocked up? 🙂

I did a bit of research into the reproductive history of some of our ATWT leading ladies. I can’t guarantee it is complete, because as always it is hard to find good sources, but, here is what I found:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Pobol y Cwm: Operâu sebon

Posted by Nick S. on April 23, 2008

(…with apologies for my butchering of the Welsh language in the title)

I’m going to conclude my little diversion into global soaps with a look at a category of soaps that’s fairly strong across Europe, but lacking in North America – the ‘language tool’ soap opera. What exactly does that mean? Well, it’s quite simply a soap opera produced in a minority native language (I’m careful to avoid throwing original/imported Spanish soaps on US television into this category, if only because the language base for these soaps is large and thriving). 

In terms of language learning, soaps are very useful. Soap story-lines, as we’ve seen, feature near universal themes that can be understood across countries – love, death, etc. Furthermore, soaps produce large amounts of content that inevitably require repetition of plot on a day-to-day basis. 

Perhaps the most interesting of these minority language soaps are the gaelic language programs broadcast in Britain and Ireland. Both the Irish and British governments spend a sizable amount of money in an attempt to preserve gaelic languages. In Wales, road signs and publications are bi-lingual, and a state sponsored network broadcasts a numbers of shows in Welsh. One of these is Pobol y Cwm (don’t ask me to pronounce it, a soap opera that not only airs more episodes per week than the prime-time shows in the UK, but has also been going for a good 34 years. Literally ‘People of the Valley’, it’s set in rural Wales and features a reasonable cast of around 20 regulars (interesting fact: in terms of cost per viewer, it’s probably one of the most expensive soaps produced).

Here’s a scene from PYC – I wonder if you could guess it was actually a Welsh soap produced in the UK if it didn’t have subtitles…

Caerdyd is a far newer, more youth oriented soap set in Cardiff (also home of Torchwood, Laura’s favorite), and then there’s an Irish soap called Ros na Run (which is, if you’re ever around Philadelphia, also broadcast on a public access station there). Minority language soap operas are interesting to know about, if only people for the most part they’re a) state sponsored, and b) one of the best ways to increase awareness of the language and promote its use on a day to day basis.

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How to judge characters: action or character

Posted by ernestalba on April 22, 2008

I want to touch on something Katherine mentioned earlier in a post. In talking about the ongoing political drama that is shaping the coming presidential election, she made the point that many Democratic voters take as a base assumption that the platform of each candidate is similar enough that discussing the relative merit of each platform is useless. The platform of each candidate is essentially a Democratic Party platform. Therefore, the merit of each candidate’s character can be exclusively used to determine who is the “better” candidate.

From her analysis of the hoopla surrounding Obama and Hillary and from what I’ve seen on the political blogs, news, etc., it seems like the election process is turning into a soap. This comparison has likely been drawn before, but probably not by people who take soap operas seriously. I can think of at least one pundit who has likened the sparring between Obama(tm) and Hillary(tm) to a “bad soap,” but these types of generalizations aren’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the way, just to theorize a bit, soap fans judge soap characters. Read the rest of this entry »

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