Diving into Drama: An In-Depth Analysis of Soap Operas

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1. What is meant by ‘soap opera’? Why is Dallas an important example of the genre?

Description of Soap Opera

A soap opera refers to a serial drama on radio or television (TV) that evaluates the lives of several characters. It normally concentrates on the emotional relationships between the different characters up to the level of melodrama. Soap Opera is a term that emanated from such kinds of serial dramas that were generally sponsored by the producers of soap. Painted Dreams was the initial drama to be perceived as a soap opera. It made its debut on the Chicago radio station on 20th October 1930. The ancient radio serial dramas, for instance, Painted Dreams were mainly broadcasted in the radio stations during the daytime slots. It was broadcasted for 5 days per week when the majority of the radio listeners were considered to be the housewives. As a result, the main objective of the soap opera Painted Dreams was to target the female audiences.  Clara, Lu, and Em was the first soap opera to be broadcast nationally on radio stations. It aired on 27th January 1931 at 2230Hrs on the NBC Blue Network (Brasch 289).

According to Albert Moran, one of the unique features that qualify a TV program to be considered a soap opera is the forms of TV that operate with the continuous open narratives. Despite the fact that soap operas are referred to as telenovelas in the Spanish language, telenovelas usually have certain conflicts whose resolutions have to be found and eventually ends after airing daily on televisions for a period of 12 months. Nevertheless, in soap operas, the end of every episode occurs with the promise of a continuation of the storyline in the subsequent episodes. According to Robert Lloyd, a Los Angeles Times columnist, he wrote in 2012 that whereas soap operas are melodramatically eventful, they do have the luxury of space making them be more naturalistic. As a matter of fact, the form of soap operas requires long scenes. As a result, any conversation that makes approximately 22 episodes per season may normally dispense with some few dialogue lines. An individual might spend a lot of time with the less important characters in the soap opera (Li 329).

The storylines in a soap opera usually run concurrently, lead, and intersect into other developments. One episode of the soap opera will normally change between the numerous various concurrent threads of narrative that might usually affect and interlink each other or run independently to one another. Every episode in a soap opera might have some of the present storylines of the show. Nevertheless, not all the episodes in a soap opera usually have such storylines. Specifically, during the daytime serial dramas as well as other soap operas that are broadcasted every day of the week, there is a rotation of both the actors and the storylines hence there is the prospect that any particular actor or storyline might appear. Nevertheless, it does not exist in all of the essential episodes of soap operas broadcasted during the week. All the present storylines in soap operas do not end at once. For instance, after the end of a particular storyline, there are numerous other storyline threats at various development stages that still exist. The episodes in a soap opera normally end on other types of a cliffhanger. Similarly, the end of the season finale occurs in the same manner. Nevertheless, they can only be addressed after the return of broadcasting of the show from the beginning of each year (Li 330).

The evening soap operas are very likely to have the whole cast in every episode. They also represent all the present storylines in every episode in the film. The serial dramas and evening soap operas that usually run during some times of the year usually seem to bring things to the dramatic end of the whole season. The American daytime TV was described by the Times magazine in 1976 as the TV's richest market. This was mainly based on the level of fans who were loyal to the soap operas as well as the expansions of the many 30 minute series into the 60-minute broadcast so as to help optimize the revenues of the ads. The magazine explained that during that period, there were other several prime time series that lost a lot of money. On the other hand, the daytime serial dramas got a lot of profits compared to the costs of their production. During this period, the first soap stars such as Susan Seaforth Hayes and Bill Hayes of the soap opera Days of Our Lives were featured in the Times magazine cover. The two soap stars feature in the magazine cover were married and their real-life romance was broadcasted in the mainstream media and soap opera magazines (Li 330).

The emergence of soap opera has led to the evolutions in the movie industry. There are various examples of soap operas that continue to have the great impact in the industry.  One of the examples of soap operas is These Are My Children. It was the first daytime television soap opera that made debut in the U.S in 1949. This was despite the fact that there were other melodramas that had previously aired at night every week. Soap operas swiftly turned and became an essential feature in the daytime TV in the U.S during the start of the 1950s. Port Charles and Dark Shadows are also other examples of soap operas that featured the supernatural characters. Besides, they mainly dealt with the horror and fantasy storylines. The characters in the two soap operas Port Charles and Dark Shadows included mainly the angels, goblins, ghosts, witches as well as vampires. The Port Charles mainly employed the use of running story arcs for a period of thirteen weeks where the main arc events were played out and concluded within the thirteen-week period. This is despite the fact that there were other storylines that would continue over certain storyline arcs (Li 330).

The present daytime soap operas in the United States mainly abide by the initial format of the soap operas. The format and duration of the visual grammar as well as the storylines that the daytime serials in the U.S use usually differentiate them from the soap operas produced in other nations around the globe. According to statistical data, the Australian and UK soap operas which are normally aired in the evening exist in between the evening and daytime soap operas in the United States. Also, the Australian and UK serials are usually shot on the videotapes while the storylines and the cast are rotated throughout the various episodes in order to ensure that every member appears in other episodes. There is a faster movement of the Australian and UK soap operas through the storylines than the daytime serial dramas hence making them nearer to the evening soap operas in the United States (Li 328).

Importance of Dallas as an Example of the Genre

Dallas refers to a soap opera in the U.S that aired between 2nd April 1978 and 3rd May 1991 on CBS. It revolved mainly around the feuding and wealthy Texas family known as Ewings. Ewings was the owner of the Southfork’s cattle-ranching land as well as Ewing Oil Company. Initially, the Dallas concentrated on the marriage of Pamela Barnes and Bobby Ewing. The families of the two spouses were enemies of one another. Nevertheless, through the series, J.R. Ewing, an oil tycoon, eventually became the breakout character in the show whose dirty business and schemes turned to be the trademark of the drama. During the end of the show, there was just a single character that made the appearance of all the episodes (Len 53).  

The Dallas was considered as an important example of the genre due to the fact that it was famous for the cliffhangers it used such as the various episodes that were highly rated. It remained as one of the best and long lasting prime time television dramas that aired in the history of American televisions. As a result, it was listed in 2007 as one of the best television series of all time. In addition, it brooded other series such as Knots Landing in the year 1979 that had existed for 14 seasons in the television platforms. In the year 2010, there was an announcement by the TNT that it had made an order of the updated and new continuation of the Dallas. This led to its revival as well as a continuation of the Ewing family’s story that eventually aired for 3 seasons until 22nd September 2014 (Len 53).

Dallas is considered as an important example of the genre due to the fact that it is claimed that it assisted partially to accelerate the collapse of Romania’s Eastern Bloc country towards the end of Cold War. It was one of the Western series that were permitted in a Communist state. For instance, Dallas was permitted to be aired in Romania during the 1980s by President Nicolae Ceaușescu. Such permission was granted due to the belief that it was considered as the collapse of anti-capitalist since the Romanian citizens wished and searched for the comfortable lifestyle that was being watched in the drama. The lifestyle in the show was in contrast to the despotic situations that many Romanian citizens lived in their country. Dallas was not just a prime time television show however it was a cultural force that altered the atmosphere. It assisted to define the events of the 1980s as the famous era of greed that ushered another era where capitalism eventually cooled down. This was despite the fact that there was the manifold of the moral quandaries. Dallas gained much popularity in Romania and led to many people seeking to know the value of the soap in the lives of many citizens (Len 53).

The effects of Dallas on the global views of individuals remind human creatures that loving and hating are cultural perspectives that exist in the political and social environments. It was, therefore, essential to note that the globalized world has increased and there was no any cross-border with impunity that should exist in the modern world. Each country should value about the life of its citizens so as to prevent instances where people lose lives (Len 51).

The conclusion of the Dallas was done through the use of a conundrum. There were various reasons behind the conclusions. It was a perfect ending to the series due to the fact that it had tried to defeat any prospective challenge that might have emerged due to its long run in the prime time television.  All in all, there was the high prospect of transforming the majority of the grim moments of individuals into the melodramatic promises of revenge on the rivals. It could also help to open opportunities for the best characters in the show in order to triumph over the just relinquished nemeses. Nevertheless, it also recast the series into something essential to the long auditions for the attention of the Satan. As a matter of fact, Dallas was an essential series that could not have an ending that provided the fans base the best opportunity to revisit the best characters in the show. It played a vital role in transforming various societies that had slipped into autocracy and war. Rather than the audience of the show finding itself into the meta-commentary, there was the sensational world of soaps that continues to establish the various problems that people face in different societies. The show eventually ended by achieving the dreams of many of the favorite characters. It is considered as the essential example of the genre due to its ability to contribute to the restoration of peace in most of the affected countries during the cold world war (Len 81).

Eventually, Dallas was a drama that was victimized due to its own prosperity. After it established the desire for the amoral and sensational narratives that magnified and demonstrated the baser appetites of its audiences, Dallas did not succeed to compete fairly with the other rivals in the movie industry. For instance, the copycat dramas such as Falcon Crest and Dynasty did not have any problem with up the previous glamor and melodrama. As a result, it added its own spin in order to create titillation. The show was very classy and helped it to become something essential that could not be used to judge the moral values and intellectual abilities of the Dallas. In addition, the Dallas was essential due to the fact that it was an essential dynasty that could be used to express the values of the Reagan administration in the United States. Despite the fact that Dallas show was mainly about the desire for financial gain, the dynasty created was mainly about the various things that the money earned could purchase. Money was just a basic tool used in the Dallas in order to continue scoring. Therefore, towards the end of the show, there were other competitors in the market that helped to outdo Dallas hence making it one of the most important examples of the genre. It inspired the countries that had engaged in the war for many years to end the war and embrace peace so as to continue helping their citizens. Therefore, it was a vital genre of soap opera that continues to impact the lives of the modern audiences (Nemesvari 18).

Work Cited

 Brasch, Ilka. “‘Let me see her face when he kisses her, please’: Mediating Emotion and Locating the Melodramatic Mode in Stella Dallas.” Film-Philosophy, vol. 19, no. 1, 2015, pp. 289–303., doi:10.3366/film.2015.0016.

Len, Ang. “Dallas and the melodramatic imagination .” Watching Dallas, 1985, pp. 51–84. Methuen & Co.

Li, Li. “The Television Play, Melodramatic Imagination and Envisioning the ‘Harmonious Society’ in Post-1989 China.” Journal of Contemporary China, vol. 20, no. 69, June 2011, pp. 327–341., doi:10.1080/10670564.2011.541638.

Nemesvari, Richard. “Introduction: Thomas Hardy and the Melodramatic Imagination.” Thomas Hardy, Sensationalism, and the Melodramatic Mode, 2011, pp. 1–22., doi:10.1057/9780230118843_1.

September 25, 2023


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