Why I Think Soapies Are Corrupting Our Society

2014-12-13 09:47

Growing up, television for me was always about adventure. It was about going as realistic as you possibly can to make me believe or connect with the story, or the VISION even. You hire aeroplanes and book airports if you have to, in order to convince me these guys are real international spies about to cause serious damage.

On the contrary, soapies were always shot indoors, at some great film studios, and this I greatly resented. I suppose one would have at least tolerated the tasteless life-draining storyline if they had thrown in a real life canvas in the background. But no, everything was all done indoors and the whole experience was suffocating to put it mildly.

So as a youngster, I always had reserved feelings against soapies, which I wasn’t aware of at the time. I remember lounging quite on a regular basis with my girl cousins in my teens, trying to figure out a soapie called Days Of Our Lives. In the United States, where this unusual method of storytelling originates, soapies are normally called ‘Day Times’. To understand why, one needs to appreciate the social structure of the USA back in the 1960’s, when soapies first showed up.

Purpose Of A Soapie

Soapies were practically created for the American middle class housewife, to keep her company while her yuppie husband was out slaving for corporate capital. When soapies first gained popularity in South Africa, they were watched by women almost exclusively. But with deeper analysis, and it takes a lot I must add, one realises a soapie is not necessarily about telling a story that stretches longer than some people live for. There is perhaps also something to note about the structure and the content at hand.

What message was the first soapie creator trying to convey to the American woman? What was the projected outcome in the proposal to the network? A common soapie easily lures the female viewer into a dangerous desire and lust for luxury, with its elaborately decorated settings and lavish characters. She is thus drowned in a bevy of lustfully handsome and beautiful actors, which could affect her physical social perception, depending on her discretion.

She is also exposed to unrealistic or exaggerated proportions of infidelity and fornication, which could lead a less analytical viewer to doubt and suspicion in general. The house wife is also exposed to these powerful but evil men and women (Dynasties), who get away with anything from murder to fraud to deceit. A typical soapie basically renders the justice system useless, whether by intention or by coincidence. Almost every character is normally discredited and/or vilified to unnatural limits, to the utter amazement of the audience.

Perverted Plot

A soapie plot is perhaps the most perverted and unjust manner of storytelling ever devised or seen. All laws of storytelling are basically broken when a soapie is written, which in itself qualifies it some kind of a psychological crime label. I simply am clueless over what particular criminal charge one can lay against soapie writers in the court of law for this crime against reality and creativity.

Even pitiful Hollywood dramas and movies do not deprave the traditional message of storytelling, because their stories always have a ‘happy ending’. The bad guys always get caught in the end, and the good guys get the best rewards. This has been the tradition throughout history, whether in Holy Writings, Folk Tales, or contemporary plays of the day. But soap writers have changed all this considerably, because in their world there is basically no distinction between right and wrong, and essentially no consequence based on our ‘acts’ or behaviour.

Soap characters are deliberately made to get away with the most horrible of deeds, and are then endeared to viewers as if nothing wrong ever happened. This can be dangerous as it may desensitize or paralyze viewers’ attitudes and reaction to wrong doing in society or their own personal lives. Before we were confronted with the reality of above the law personalities like some politicians, tycoons and artists, soapies had already anaesthetized us down to accepting and making peace with such absurdity through their propagandist scripting.

I’m quite sure that soapie writers themselves will not be able to relate to you the message behind their irregular story lines even if you threatened to boycott their project. Well, for a story to have a message it will need to have a beginning and an end generally, something which networks and many viewers don’t seem to worry over. In soapies, the characters and the story seem trapped in a senseless loop of malice and drama, without improvement or moral progress.

Copy And Paste

But the fact that SABC television dedicates so much time to soapie content is rather distressing I might say. Even for South African producers to literally ‘copy and paste’ this corrupt technique from the States so blatantly speaks volumes about our sovereignty and ingenuity as a nation and as creative people. It’s like you copy someone so much that you also copy their mistakes.

That said, I wish to add that I do not have anything against all the lovely ladies (and gents, apparently) who enjoy and indulge in these provocative soapies so religiously. After all, it’s only entertainment, and no one takes whatever they watch to heart (sic), even if they’re glued to this vibe for roughly 3 hours of every single day, for all the days of their lives.

I also have a great respect for the brilliant actors who portray their somewhat psychotic characters so convincingly. I respect the tireless dedication of the production houses, which take on these immensely long term projects and always deliver their drama packed tapes on time for broadcasting.

I have to stress that my concern is not necessarily the soapie’s indoor settings or its quality of production. My problem is the pervasive and manipulative scheme of script writing involved and its intent and impact in society. In this scenario, the story is not a reflection of truth, but a distortion and possibly also a negative influence thereof. That’s just my opinion anyway. ©

(Visit And Follow My Blog on Twitter: @JustSmartRage)

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