Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Archive for January, 2011


Posted by meganserio on January 31, 2011

My name is Megan Serio, and I am a freshman at Western Kentucky University. I was a Photojournalism major for the previous semester, but before registering for Spring classes, I decided to change my major to Popular Culture Studies. I’m still trying to figure out where my life is heading, at least career-wise. All I know right now is that pop culture is something I am very interested in, and this seems like a very interesting and enjoyable place to start.

I’ve been watching soap operas since middle school, when my mom got me hooked. Soaps provide another interesting way for my mom and I to bond, as bizarre as that may sound. We’ll both yell at the television together and complain about the characters; it’s incredibly fun. As a child, I remember them playing on the television, but I never actually sat down to watch. However, I’ve always been familiar with the characters of General Hospital, The Young and The Restless, All My Children, and One Life To Live. When I started watching for real, I learned just how addictive they could be. But I never understood why!

I notice that this class will be a challenge for me, because I don’t suppose I’ve had my share of critical thinking yet, especially with something as quizzical as soap operas, of all things. Just to put that out there. But I know this will be an interesting class, and I’m not going to take any chances and miss out on it. I hope that over the course of this semester I can develop my critical thinking and writing skills.


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The empty briefcase syndrome

Posted by drmom2011 on January 31, 2011

My husband and I always call the unrealistic props in movies the empty briefcase syndrome…you know where the luggage is empty but they are going on a six month trip, or the purse has nothing in it but a cell phone, etc. What woman could get away with that? In class we talked about the imagination being part of the positive experience in the radio days, and we talked about the fake props and one of the readings referred to old soaps having plastic grass, and actors never going outdoors on the soaps–and we talked about this in terms of it being one of the things that readers/viewers accept about soaps. We willingly buy into that.

There is, however, one of these things that I have trouble buying into–not acknowledging the real pregnancy of an actress. I could take it when big purses were used to disguise the tummy, or the character sat for six months behind a desk or a potted plant, or went into a coma so she could  actually take maternity leave, but I just can’t buy into ignoring it completely. I understand this is probably all about budget cuts, etc. But this is one area that I as a fan for 40 years see as violating my contract! What do some of you think? How does it affect the “believe-ability” of the soap? Does it hurt?

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Oprah Winfrey Network

Posted by drmom2011 on January 31, 2011

In case there is someone out there reading this that has a “connection” to Oprah….please suggest to her that her new network would be a great home for a new or old/discontinued soap opera. I don’t know where to find the OWN yet here locally, but if there was a soap on it, I would find it very quickly! Other thoughts?

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Kandace Boyd

Posted by nyny02003 on January 28, 2011

Hello, my name is Kandace Boyd and I am a junior at WKU. I am obtaining a degree in Biology with a concentration in Zoology, and a minor in Sexuality studies. I am originally from Elizabethtown, Ky and moved to Bowling Green last year but recently moved back to Elizabethtown to save money. I am a mother of two beautiful little girls, Havyn 6, and Nyvah 5. They are my world and the reason why I am getting my college education. They make me strive to be a better person and show them the world. So in July we will be headed to Australia so I can study abroad and let them learn about a different culture.

 I am interested in lots of things and enjoy watching soap operas with my mom when I can. That is a time where we can bond and enjoy each other’s company. We currently watch “One Life to Live” and ” All My Children”. They are both one hour long and gives us lots to talk about. I don’t really watch any other ones. I am very intrigued about how soap operas came about and learning all aspects about them. Since this class has started I have taken a different look at soap operas. I use to just watch and get caught up in the conversations and situations that happen between the characters. Now I notice the music or lack of, set design, body language, wardrobe, as well as other technial ideas. And I actually think that I enjoy the soap operas even more now. I hope that as my girls get older I can share the knowledge that I learn about soaps with them and that they will have an appreciation for them too. Im very excited about this class and know that there will be great discussions to be had.

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Craig Lonas, The Soap Opera Outsider and His Adventure into the Light

Posted by craiglonas on January 28, 2011

I knew that POP399 was for me when I had a revelation during the popular prime time sitcom The Nanny. The episode “The Nanny Napper” features the nanny and protagonist Fran Fine as she is mistakenly separated with an immigrant that does not speak English through an accident on the subway. However she realizes after being separated from this random stranger that she is holding the woman’s infant child. The rest of the show follows the antics of Fran as she is accused of kidnapping the child. As she is about to be locked away after another confusing incident in the police station trying to reason with the mother through the language barrier she does something interesting from a cultural perspective. She makes reference haphazard reference to being just like “Nicki” on “The Young and the Restless.” What ensues is a beautiful moment crossing cultures, sexes, and language.
See here…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XacEemYUSL8 Fast forward to 9:10 in the clip
These are the reasons that soap operas are an amazing piece of popular culture to study. When Soaps are effective they connect with people and this is why I believe pop culture is important.

My name is Craig Lonas, and I am a Pop Culture and Photojournalism Double Major with a minor in African-American studies. I am also a resident assistant in McCormack Hall an all-male, mostly freshman residence hall on campus. I have never been a daytime soap opera fan, but I am more than obscenely obsessed with the prime time show Glee (which I will defend as a soap opera) and The OC. I am really looking forward to my new love affair with The Bold and the Beautiful (B&B) as well as the chance to think critically about the world of the soap opera.
I really think I have a connection to B&B even starting from the 1/24/11 airing. I work with students on a regular basis and there is almost nothing more dramatic than a dorm setting. I am also an aspiring photographer and love that the show centers on a house of fashion. This semester I hope to try and delve into some aspects that I enjoy talking/writing/blogging about such as: the role of African-Americans in serial drama, the presence of the LGBTQ in the media, and hopefully masculinity issues centering on the program. (Although a trashy moment of elation over juicy soap operatic fodder is certainly in my near future.)
I look forward to the semester of blogging and if you would like to further discuss B&B you may venture into the Twitterverse and follow me @craiglonas.
Stay Bold. Stay Beautiful.
Craig Lonas

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Valflop29 Intro

Posted by valflop29 on January 28, 2011

I am currently ending my final year of college and I am finally taking a class that I will actually enjoy.  I have been watching soap operas since the day I was born.  Literally, I was born during an episode of As the World Turns at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, MO.  At the time everything was done in the same room, breathing, birth, and recovery.  My mother being an avid soap fan was watching As the World Turns during contractions.  The television stayed on as I entered the world.  Of course it became my favorite soap. It was sad and unfortunate for me when it finally went of the air. 

I have enjoyed B&B so far.  It has been one of the few soaps I had never watched before, but I was familiar with a few of the characters.  More so, I recognized many of the actors.  For instance, the old Victoria from the Young and the Restless is Katie on B&B.  I remember watching her for many years on Y&R, as well as the character of Bill on B&B who was once Brad on Y&R.  I think that it is facinating that some people watch a different soap becausee the actor they liked switched over to another show.  Many of the people I enjoyed on As the World Turns are on other soaps that I now watch. It is interesting to see if they play the same type of role or if they take over a completely different persona and if the audience accepts them in that role.

I enjoyed that from what I have seen, the Bold and the Beautiful really does portray things that happen in real life.  Such as the sentimental proposal and the fight to stop smoking.  These are real events that happen to real people. Irna would at least be happy that a soap opera was trying to have some sort of reality set in.  I do find it interesting that she said she tried to have characters that would make the audience think, ” I know someone like that.”  Unfortunately, today some of the characters on soaps are a little too crazy for me in the way they act.  I definitely have never known anyone like James Stenbeck on As the World Turns who died what seemed to be five  hundred times and still seemed to come back and blow someone up or kidnap yet another person.

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Introducing Elizabeth Bartsch

Posted by elizabethbartsch on January 27, 2011

I am a returning student after receiving my first degree here at Western about 15 years ago.  I am originally from Bowling Green and have worked in government the last 17 years.  I am obtaining a Pop Culture degree this time around.  I have seen so many positive changes here at Western,  such as the Pop Culture degree,  and am glad to be back on the hill.

I have a daughter who is in elementary school who is the light of my life and thinks I am still a pretty cool mommy.

As far as my connection and experience with soap operas,  I was never a die hard follower of the day time soaps too much (moreso of the nighttime soaps).  I watched General Hospital enough to know the characters and general premise of the direction of the show,  but not so much that I knew every detail about them.  I would watch sporadically and be able to catch up and stay abreast but as college and work came into play,  even that fell to the way side.   I have never watched the Bold & The Beautiful but hope to enjoy it and am glad that it is only a 30 minute show  (about 22 mins thanks to DVR – HaHa)

I am looking forward to this class, and  am glad to see that there weren’t any tests, or at least according to the syllabus, and learning about the history and influence of soap operas and have enjoyed the class style and discussions so far.

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Introduction from Victoria

Posted by samford on January 27, 2011

Victoria had trouble posting this to the blog, so I wanted to share it on her behalf:

I am not sure of proper protocol, so bear with me. My overall goal in taking a course on soaps is to try to find out why soaps are so important to me and why so many people don’t “get” it. I am a new viewer and an old fan of the Bold and the Beautiful. I watched this soap when it was new, at the time when my youngest daughter was born. I was a student at the time, so I was home a lot during the day time. Initially, the appeal of the soap for me was to see some old “friends” from other soaps I had watched previously in new roles–my life was far from the glamorous high fashion world of Forrester Creations–centered squarely around diaper delivery service and studying.

Fast forward 20 years or so–and here I am picking up B&B again. After one episode, I am of course “hooked” again. Why? First, we have some of the same faces from 20+ years ago. And the faces have not been changed through plastic surgery–so I see the little wrinkles on the younger stars (younger meaning my age)–that I have too. Second, two of the three story lines were presented that I could relate to–a proposal and the subsequent spreading of that news. (My son just proposed last weekend to his girlfriend–so in my personal life I found a connection.) Proposals and buying the ring are a big deal in a young man’s life (not to mention the young woman) and therefore a big deal for the whole family.

Finally, the story of Nick and his battle with cigars–brings me also to other personal connections. My oldest daughter is a pharmaceutical rep for Pfizer and one of her products she sells is Chantix. So, this brought to mind some of what I have been reading in the course text about advertisements, product placement, etc. Since I just started watching this soap, I am uncertain how long the tobacco issue has been in the soap, but I wondered if any thought had been given to specific product placement in the soap or with advertisers. I did not catch whether “Nick” was chewing a specific brand of nicotine gum or if he had a particular box of patches. So, if that was intended, I missed it. Additionally, some of the dialogue is right out of my life, and probably a lot of others. Specifically, when Stephanie tells Nick’s mother about his health problem–he is upset and says–I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to upset or worry you. I think that is a very realistic approach that we often take to “spare” someone a lot of anxiety when we are waiting for test results or are unsure of a diagnosis, etc. To me this had a lot of truth in the dialogue.

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The Semester Begins!

Posted by samford on January 27, 2011

Welcome to the relaunch of this blog! My name is Sam Ford, and I am teaching a course this semester in the Popular Culture Studies Program at Western Kentucky University covering U.S. soap operas. This blog will be a gathering place for the 15 of us in the class to discuss what we are reading and the discussions we are having about U.S. daytime serial dramas. For the course, we are reading a variety of essays, in addition to Robert C. Allen’s Speaking of Soap Opera, C. Lee Harrington and Denise Bielby’s Soap Fans, Nancy Baym’s Tune In, Log On, and the 2011 book I co-edited with C. Lee Harrington and Abigail De Kosnik, The Survival of Soap Opera.

My grandmother was a viewer of CBS’ As the World Turns from the beginning. My mom grew up with that show in her life. Thus, from my earliest memories, the characters of Oakdale, Illinois, were a part of my life. While I was a graduate student at the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, I decided to do my Master’s thesis work on the serial drama and how it was adapting to a digital age. In the process, I met a variety of other academics, television critics, fans, and members of the soap opera industry who were writing and thinking about the future of the soap at a time when many of these shows were at risk of cancellation. That’s what inspired me to work with Lee and Abigail on The Survival of Soap Opera.

In the past couple of years, the two longest-running television series in history–CBS’ Guiding Light (which began as a radio show in 1937) and “my story” As the World Turns–have both gone off the air.  Thus, soaps are at a particularly critical juncture. Yet there are still millions of people who watch the six shows still on the air, and many millions more who watched those soaps at one point or another.

This class is a chance for us to work through the history of the genre and what it might tell us about television in a digital era. The class will be posting our opinions on what we’re reading, discussing, and watching throughout the semester and to discuss and debate with one another. We hope that you will join us!

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