Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Speculation Drives Soaps

Posted by Drake Kizer on March 8, 2017

Today’s readings were a continuation of our current section, “Understanding the U.S. Soap Opera.” Both pieces were written by Sam, and I have to say that reading articles by the person who teaches the class every day is certainly a different dynamic. Typically, we would read articles by authors that we don’t know, and so getting to ask the author of the texts we read questions is awesome. The piece I enjoyed the most was “Soap Operas and the History of Fan Discussion.”

The main point of “Soap Operas and the History of Fan Discussion” is to show how soap operas really lend themselves to discussion by their fanbases. The stories are told in a way that leaves audiences guessing what is next, while also getting them talking about whatever just happened. Thus, fans “build community through interpretation, speculation, and criticism” of their favorite soaps. Of course, all television shows are prone to be discussed and dissected by fans, but only soap operas allow viewers to “know each member [of the show’s universe] intimately.” Viewers see these characters so much, in fact, that they begin to feel like they know the characters personally.

The essay says that audiences know the characters and the actors who play them so well, they can “interpret the sincerity and motivations of characters by examining their facial expressions” and other body language with a high level of accuracy. It is the “speculation about what the characters will say or do next” that drives the discussions in many soap opera fandoms, and this constant conversation is part of what keeps viewers coming back to these shows. People want to see if their speculation was correct, and some fans are passionate enough to send letters to the producers of these shows if they did not like how something turned out. The article says that “[e]nough letters, telegrams, and phone calls can kill characters and story lines or turn a temporary part…into a long-term love affair”, which goes to show just how important fan interaction is to soap operas.


One Response to “Speculation Drives Soaps”

  1. nathanpowers22 said

    I think your statement that “all television shows are prone to be discussed and dissected by fans” is a huge generalization. While I agree that more and more television shows lend themselves to this sort of fan analysis (especially bingeable dramas), I don’t think all shows fit this description. There are clearly fan bases for reality (or “reality styled”) TV shows like those on the History Channel (e.g. the hugely successful Pawn Stars), but at the same time, there really isn’t any kind of fan discussion to speak of for that kind of content. I understand that this probably comes across as pretty nit-picky, but it really stood out to me when I read your post.

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