Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Demise of the Soap Opera

The genre of the soap opera is facing an inevitable death. Soap operas that have run for decades are being cancelled. ABC recently announced the cancellation of All My Children and One Life to Live. Guiding Light, my favorite soap opera, was slashed in 2009. (Notice the date, it's important.) As the World Turns was killed by CBS last Fall. There are rumors that even General Hospital is about to be replaced with a Katie Couric show.

If you look at the time-frame of these massive cancellations of soap operas, you will see that they are very obviously linked to the economic crisis that hit this country in 2008. The crisis hit industries that have traditionally been dominated by men the hardest. As a result, men who can afford a full-time housewife have become few and far between. I blogged before about the fact that, paradoxically, this crisis might end up being a positive development in terms of women's rights. Historically, the greatest pushes towards women's liberation came during moments of crisis. World War I brought women into the workplace and led them to demand the right to vote even more insistently than before. The turbulent sixties in the US inspired the women's liberation movement to fight against the patriarchy and finally defeat it an many important aspects. The collapse of the Soviet Union made Soviet women discover the word feminism and generate an interest towards it.

As the demise of the soap genre demonstrates, women who can be sure of always being at home in the afternoon with little enough to do but watch soaps are disappearing. More and more women are finally getting outside of their kitchens and into the workforce. While one might want to dismiss the cancellation of the soaps as a trivial event, it is evidence of profound transformations that are taking place in our society. Žižek loves quoting Mao Zedong's words: "There is great chaos under heaven – the situation is excellent." As traumatic as this crisis have been, it has done a lot to push women towards freedom.


Leah Jane said...

Funny you should say this today, as someone I know was just talking about his granny's addiction to Turkish soaps (subtitled in Bosnian, her native tongue) she watches so many, one can't keep track.
I can still remember my own grandma snapping at me, "Quiet, child, my stories are on!"
She'd be utterly devastated if she were alive to hear about the demise of her "stories".

Clarissa said...

I only became interested in Hispanic Studies because I loved Latin American soap operas so much. So I really understand what your grandmother feels. :-)

In Russian-speaking countries soap operas are hugely popular. This is why they air in primetime and not during the day when everyone works.

Goose Girl said...

Oh, I love Mexican soaps as well. But they are a different genre. They actually run for a few months and they end. And the characters are much more passionate. Now that summer break had started I'm thinking of starting watching one on Televisa.

Clarissa said...

Latin American soap operas also vary profoundly from one country to another. Colombian, Brazilian and Mexican soap operas are as different as the cultures of their countries.

For Spanish speakers, here is a link to a site where they can download all telenovelas they want for free: http://clarissasbox.blogspot.com/2010/06/download-telenovelas-for-free.html

During the summer I plan to rewatch a telenovela called "Ka-Ina" which was my favorite back in Ukraine 15 years ago.

Tim said...

I would celebrate the downfall of this showtype if I wasn't so sure that people are going to invent something that is even more annoying.