Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Archive for May, 2011

Thank you!

Posted by drmom2011 on May 11, 2011

Hi All–

Just a quick thank you to my “classmates” for their patience in letting me vent about my love/hate relationship with soaps–I love them all, but hate that some are ending. You all were gracious and welcoming, and I so appreciate your courtesy and kindness in listening to my opinions and letting me share my experiences of watching soaps for the last 40 years.  It was most importantly a very special opportunity for me to share a little piece of this last semester with my daughter.  Unlike in the soaps–she will not leave “the show” and return next week with a degree in medicine or law. But, she is leaving and she and I will be transitioning into a new phase of our relationship as she gets married and moves away. So, thank you all for allowing us to spend a little quality time together this semester.

Finally, I want to tell you that I finally read the Radway book–that is referenced in several of our readings. It is the book called Reading the Romance. Radway states that “the act of reading the romance is a declaration of independence” (p 7), and further quotes Smithton on page 12 who says that women “use their books to erect a barrier between themselves and their families in order to declare themselves temporarily off limits to those who would mine them for emotional support and material care.” Radway states that reading romances is a “form of individual resistance….It buys time and privacy for women….it addresses the womens’ longing for emotional replenishment.”  For me, this is what watching soaps has given me–I wasn’t trying to run away from home–just take a little break everyday. Taking this class has allowed me the opportunity to vocalize and verbalize these feelings, and this is why the end of soaps is very painful for me. I feel like this lack of understanding of this female viewpoint–is why Oprah does not “get” why the continuation of soaps is so important……….


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Interview with Abigail De Kosnik

Posted by jtg3 on May 9, 2011

1. According to the introduction of your piece Soaps for Tomorrow, you have been a fan of the soap opera since age 6, and currently are a fan of the soaps on ABC, CBS, and NBC. Do you have any personal pros and cons with how the networks present their soaps in terms of subject matter or just overall presentation?
I’m not sure what you mean by “how the networks present their soaps in terms of subject matter” – if you’re talking about whether I think that the networks are advertising and marketing their daytime dramas incorrectly, no, I don’t think that’s the case.  With soaps, I don’t think that bad marketing is to blame for  the decline in ratings.  Soap ads and promos have more or less been exactly the same since the 1980s.  But soaps have declined in quality in the eyes of many longtime viewers in the last fifteen years, and this has compounded the problem of the most “natural” soap audience – stay-at-home mothers and children/young adults who are home during afternoons and all day during school holidays – having tons of other options for what to do with their afternoon hours besides sitting at home watching soap operas (many moms now work outside of the home, many kids now are on their digital devices, etc.).  Because soaps have not delivered the kinds of stories that they used to, that their most loyal fans expect, their hardcore viewing base has lost interest, and they’ve failed to “recruit” new viewers to watch these shows (for example, moms don’t make their kids watch soaps, teenagers don’t gather at each others’ houses to watch soaps – and these used to be very typical ways that soaps found new viewers).

2. In your piece Soaps for Tomorrow you talk about fans’ obsessions with soaps getting so extreme that they begin to blur the line between fiction and reality. I am a member of a Ghostbusters fan club where we dress up in costume with replicas of the films’ props. Where do you see instances of fans costuming (or “cosplaying”) along the spectrum of fandom in terms of extremes?

Just to be clear, my essay isn’t about “fans’ obsessions with soaps getting so extreme that they begin to blur the line between fiction and reality.”  The essay is about fans of celebrities (real-life people) basically treating those real people’s lives as if they were fiction – fans of Jennifer Aniston, say, turning every bit of documentation about Aniston’s, Brad Pitt’s, and Angelina Jolie’s lives into narratives that are very soap-opera-like.  That kind of fandom isn’t (necessarily, or often) obsessive, I think that in today’s celebrity culture, which is documented 24/7 by paparazzi, it’s natural and easy for celebrities’ fans to create soap-y stories about the “dramas” that go on in those famous people’s lives.
Cos-play has a long history and has been a part of fandoms for at least as long as Star Trek conventions have been taking place, so a minimum of 50 years.  As the name indicates, cos-play is a form of play, and is becoming more mainstream as comic-book-based movies (all the Marvel and D.C. franchises that have been turned into films) have become tentpole franchises, which has swelled the attendance numbers of Comic Con and Wonder Con, at which cos-play is so prevalent as to be something of a norm.  So I think cos-play has nothing to do, in the vast majority of cases, with unhealthy obsession, and is now veering towards the total mainstream of performing fandom.

3. Along the lines of Question 2, do you believe that soaps are the most common factor in women blurring the lines of reality and a fictional world, or do you believe that there are worse programs out there causing more damage?

Again, my essay isn’t about “women blurring the lines of reality and a fictional world.”  Where do you get that from?  My piece isn’t about “damage” suffered by people as a result of watching television.  In fact, I am firmly against any claim that watching TV damages people, or causes people to lose their sense of reality.  Soap operas have long been blamed for causing some kind of damage to women and making them confuse reality and fantasy, but I believe that this has never been common.  Rather, soap operas are melodramas, and melodrama has never been a mainstream genre.  It’s outright sentimentality and focus on romance and relationships, and “feminine” issues of family and marriage and parenting, has always made it a marginalized genre, labeled “low culture” or “pop culture” or “trash culture” by cultural elites.  But melodrama (like other “suspect” genres of media – for example, video games) has never been proven to damage its audiences in some kind of systemic way.

4. You talk in depth about the interest soap fans have for celebrity gossip and the gossip spread amongst characters in soap opera programs. Do you believe that soap fans have been participating heavily in gossip as heavily, if not worse, back when soaps were on the radio, or even when early soaps were on television?

Yes – serial narratives always provoke gossip, and we have documentation that this kind of sharing and commenting and speculation occurred when soaps were only on the radio, when they were both on the radio and on TV, and when they were only on TV.

5. On page 242 of Survival of Soap Opera you talk about fans dissecting and re-writing celeb gossip to find the real person. How dangerous do you feel that this is compared to middle-aged mothers getting lost in the world(s) of their favorite soap(s)?

Again, I object to your presumption that middle-aged mothers get “lost” in the world of their favorite soap and that this is “dangerous.”  I included a quote from a William Gibson novel at the start of my essay that made this presumption, but take a stand against this kind of thinking in the essay.  Watching soaps is not dangerous to anyone, and the vast majority of women do not get “lost” in the world of their favorite soaps.  Nor do people who follow celebrities’ lives through paparazzi photos and online gossip blogs get “lost” or confuse reality with fiction.  Rather, they enjoy speculating and gossiping, just like everyone else online, about what their favorite stars are doing and thinking and who they are sleeping with.  That kind of speculation provides a great deal of pleasure to millions of people today, just as soaps did to millions of people in the past, with the sharp distinction that today, because of the 24-hour paparazzi cycle, audiences that enjoy this type of gossip don’t “need” fictional soaps because reality provides all the drama they need.  Look at how effective reality shows have become at dramatizing and narrativizing real people’s real lives.  We no longer need soaps for melodrama.  Reality provides that to an increasing degree.

6. How do you feel about members of the fan culture that write fan fiction, both of soap characters and the actors?

Great.  I love fan fiction and have written a lot of fan fiction in my life.  I regard fan fiction as a way for audience members to be creative and active with regards to their favorite media texts rather than receptive and passive all the time.  Since most fanfic authors are women, I think it’s very empowering for female media audience members to know about, and take part in, a genre of cultural production that is made by women for women, even when the source texts for most fanfics are authored/produced by men.

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Signing off… :(

Posted by jyoung1363 on May 6, 2011

Well, technically, this blog will still be here (I’m assuming so, anyway) after this class is over, so there isn’t really a goodbye…but I’m going to go ahead and give a good-bye/reflection post for the class.S

It’s been a great semester with everyone!  One of the great things about college that I’ve discovered in my short time here is the openness and sense of community input that most classes tend to have, and ours went above and beyond in that regard!  🙂   It was amazing to be able to have a conversation-oriented understanding of what we were studying instead of the standard written lecture.  And I think that actually watching TV and posting blogs as part of our grade helped us to be more on the same page with being entertained yet having a specific focus (so as not just to be watching TV with no purpose) for discussion.

Sam, despite the hectic-ness of arranging interviews with people in the soap industry, I really enjoyed being able to get an insider–or 3–‘s perspective on the hows, whats, issues, rewards, etc, of soap operas.  All 3 of the folks I spoke to were warm and helpful and there is no way I would have had another opportunity like this.

Guys–ladies–Dr. Mom (haha, kisses to you!), it has been a pleasure to spend 2 days a week together talking about everything, from Buffy to Spiderman to current events and megastar meltdowns.  If only my others classes could cause so much excitement!  I wish everyone luck with the rest of their schooling, or, for some lucky devils, a wonderful post-school career and hope to hear from you all soon in regards to a rendezvous!  Cheers!

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Tom Casiello

Posted by jyoung1363 on May 6, 2011

My interview with Tom Casiello (who we discussed in class a bit, especially with his recent MAJOR career change from the soap opera industry to writing for wrestling storylines) went very smoothly–if only I could think of more exciting questions, though!  Since I wasn’t able to present the interview with the class, I’m going to go ahead and include a few of the Q&A’s here…

“Q:  How do you feel about the idea that DOOL is known for A) its super couples and B) its outrageous 90s plots?
DOOL just took the Luke/Laura formula from GH, and kicked it up a few notches by having a whole show of couples like this. They also were incredibly smart from a branding/marketing perspective, by giving each couple their own pop song, as well as iconic images. (Steve/Kayla married on the boat, Bo/Hope in New Orleans, Roman/Marlena on the beach, etc.)  It was an incredibly smart business move. As for the plots of the 90’s, they definitely helped bring DOOL to #2 in the ratings, but in the long run, it did great harm to the show. Fans were constantly looking to the show to out-do what it previously did before… which is why you end up with plotlines like Virtual Eden. It’s an unfortunate line there’s no turning back from… if you don’t keep outdoing yourself, the fans you gained during the possession storyline will walk away… but if you DO keep trying to outdo yourself, then the stories get crazier and crazier until you’ve lost all respect and dignity as a television institution.
Q:  Have you had much of a chance to share any similarities between your time with soaps and your time with the wrestling industry?
I’ve only been at WWE for a week… but the layout and workday is very similar in terms of laying out that week’s episode. The big difference is that wrestling is live… so there’s no 12-week delay in getting audience reaction from the time we write it, to the time it airs. You get an IMMEDIATE fan response, so it’s much easier to change storylines if they’re not working. However, working in live television creates a LOT more issues during production. MUCH more pressure and stress, but also much more rewarding. No magic of editing to save you, so to speak.
Q:  On a sadder note, how do you feel about the news that ABC’s One Life to Live and All My Children are being cancelled?  Do you feel that this news is an indication of things to come?
Those of us behind the scenes have been hearing about ABC’s plans since last fall, so we had time to prepare ourselves mentally/emotionally. I definitely feel like the writing is on the wall at this point… but I also feel like television is cyclical. The remaining four shows are most definitely running on borrowed time based on ratings and budgets at the moment… but I do believe that after 5-10 years of talk/judge/game shows on in daytime, somebody will find a way to bring the serial drama back. I don’t think it will be as antiquated in terms of storyline choices, but something more current, under a different production model. But having said that, everybody seems to have a different idea of what the future will hold… and none of us really know how this will play out.”

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Soap Opera Approaching the Real World

Posted by jtg3 on May 6, 2011

Reading the Newcomb piece about comparing soap opera “reality” to reality makes me wish I could hear him read it aloud. Reading it to myself I picture a sarcastic voice reading it aloud. Everything he says on here is pretty much stating the obvious, especially when it comes to the overly-dramatic storylines, the cheesy and somehow effective organ music, etc.

Newcomb goes on to talk about soap fans who start to live their lives like a soap opera. Sadly, I know people like this. I find it interesting and also not surprising that soap fans prefer the melodrama over relevant issues such as the smoking episode of Bold and the Beautiful, or episodes about the homeless or disease, etc. Some people just like watching ridiculous melodrama.

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Posted by nickgilyard on May 6, 2011

In my last post I mention how my roommate didnt like that he story lines were such a strech. I think that this is something that really turns some viewers off to soaps! Also I feel there has been a change in stroylines and have found my own grandparents saying ” they would have never put htat on TV back in my day.” This has ultimatley lead to a sense of desensitization in pop culture.

I think advertisers are playing a huge part in this! Writers need to learn that weird/different is not always better. and some old viewers want to see the since of familarity that hey are comfrotable with. Also I think that new viewers are looking to see what they think soaps are about and when they get weird storylines they are immediatley turned off.

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Well My Friend Thinks…

Posted by nickgilyard on May 6, 2011

After Spending someone of my virtually non existant free time watching a couple of different soaps I have formulated many different thoughts on all of them. Overall while I thought they were all the same I can see exactly how much they differ. Most notably is the character differences and how they tell there stories. SEX moves these plots in completly new directions.

Since I watched most of these episodes in my dorm my roommate ( & best friend) was forced to watch a couple with me. He really couldnt understand why people watch them mostly because he felt really confused by the story ( proof that its hard for soaps to obtain new viewers because you cant get a full appreciation for a show in one episode).Even I Was A Little lost  with all the recent events on Y&R. Currently, Victoria Newman’s husband bought a baby for $10,000,000. Kevin’s deranged wife took his hostage but had a brain aneurysm during it.<—- Alot to comporhend!

But he did find the whole stranded-on-an-island, eat-strange-fruit, start-hallucinating storyline that was recently wrapped up on B&B…just plain werid! he was not aware that soap do really strange things to extend/change their plots. He was really underthe impression that their were suppsoe to mirror american life so in a sense a tad mroe realistic.

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Women Viewership on The Decline for B&B

Posted by nickgilyard on May 6, 2011


We know that the target audience for most soaps is what they consider the YOung Female Audience. All the advertisements with probably the exception of Hoover are geared towards them. But recently they have hit an all time low of that specific viewer grop. the shows previous low: 519,000 (February 21-25, 2011) and their new low is 503,000 (-106,000/-155,000) * <—-A HUGE DIFFERENCE. 😦 Which could esaliy spell DEFEAT for its future.

The question on everyones mind I’m sure is WHY? I for one would think that the cancellation of other shows would lead to their viewers picking up a different soap…. seeign that this is a trend that i have seen in my friends with prime-time shows. But perhaps by stoping wathching soaps all togehter viewers feel like they are taking a stand against the cancellation of their favorite show. But that could also have (and proabably will) have an adverse effect.

Do you think this is bad news for B&B?  How do you think the show will respond?

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Robert C Allen

Posted by nickgilyard on May 6, 2011

ITs been a while since we disscussed Robert C Allen piece in class but I recently disscussed it with chris. His view on broadcasters, writers, and advertiser are all essentially doing the same thing in terms of marketing to their target audience. So they are attempting to make the shows more appealing to them. And from what we;ve disscussed its clear the advertisers drive this. mentality. I think in doing so they are facilating the decline in viewership.

The writeres are always tackling social issues but i think that by attacking them from a point of view that their target audience will appreciate vs the actual audience puts them at a huge disadvantage. This also probably alianates more viewers. The audience “Young-Adult Female” is cleary not the audience that soaps have and it is still really unclear as to why they wont just work with the audience that they do have .

Do you think advertisers will adjust their tactics in light of recent cancellations?  Do you think soaps will attempt a new form of story telling to maybe attract more viewers?

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Oprah couldnt do it but maybe Netflix can?

Posted by nickgilyard on May 6, 2011

WIth the cancelation of major soaps being so recent different avenues of saving them are being explored. One possability would be shows being avalabile on online networks. With a growing number of people using sites like Hulu and Netflix this seems like a great way for soaps to stay alive. This way the soaps would be paid for by the viewers who want to watch them.

Possibly this may allow for a better account of exactly who is watching these soaps and how often they are watching them. But one major question with this would be would this new venue allow for the revival of cancelled soaps? I think it maybe a little costly depending on how long it would take this change to take effect. Also it would be hard to convience creators that there is still a market for thsoe off air shows.

The idea of online networks like NetFlix and Hulu picking up daytime serials and making them available for their program members. Is it smart? Is it an option for soaps that have already gone off-air? Do you think the revenue it brings in from membership fees (and in Hulu’s case, extra ad $) will be outweighed by production costs?

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