The soap opera form first developed on American radio in the 1920s, and expanded into television starting in the 1940s, and is normally shown during the daytime, hence the alternative name, daytime serial. The first concerted effort to air continuing drama occurred in 1946 with the serial Faraway Hill.
The term “soap opera” originated from the fact that when these serial dramas were aired on daytime radio, the commercials aired during the shows were largely aimed at housewives. Many of the products sold during these commercials were laundry and cleaning items. Broadcasters hoped to interest manufacturers of household cleaners, food products, and toiletries in the possibility of using daytime radio to reach their prime consumer market: women between the ages of eighteen and forty-nine.
The “soap” in soap opera alluded to their sponsorship by manufacturers of household cleaning products; while “opera” suggested an ironic incongruity between the domestic narrative concerns of the daytime serial and the most elevated of dramatic forms. Thus, we have the definition: a “soap opera” is a melodramatic story that airs commercials for soap products.
We have some other ways to define:
-Television soap operas are long-running serials concerned with everyday life.
-A soap opera is an ongoing, episodic work of fiction, usually broadcast on TV or radio.
II. HOW TO RECOGNIZE A SOAP OPERA?
1. Characteristics of soap operas
Soap operas take everyday, ordinary people in a particular place and the events of their lives and then exaggerate them to a degree where they are still believable, of course, more dramatic. Soap operas focus on problems encountered in work and marriage. However, repeated subjects make soap operas predictable.
In soap operas, relationships are more important than plots ( “who related to whom is more important than what happens when”).
Realism / Surrealism
A soap opera can be seen as “the reflection of reality”. However, soap operas never represent real life because many characters are idealized and the construction of reality is far more complex than what happens in a soap opera. Many viewers consider a soap opera “ the film of life” while others still wonder “whose life is it anyway?”.
Producers always try to make soap operas look more real. That’s why scenery and characters are designed very much like those in daily lives.
Producers often use the stereotypes of: “the perfect mother”, “the domineering father”, “the spinster”, “the villain”, “the gossip”, “the Cinderella”, “the rich & handsome man”, and lately, “the career woman”…
It is important to recognize that soap operas serve to affirm the primacy of the family not by presenting a perfect family, but by portraying a family in constant turmoil.
All soap operas are potentially endless. Two basic narrative types are:
1.”closed” soap operas: the narrative does eventually close. All problems must be solved at the end of the serial. This kind is more common in Latin America and Asian countries.
2.”open” soap operas: there is no end point. Plots run continuously, and lead into further developments after each episode. Producers never have the intention of “wrapping things up”, so they bring things to a dramatic cliffhanger at the end of each season. This explains why soap operas never begin and never end. Some have said that the “longer they run the more impossible it seems to imagine them ending.”. However, whenever the audience appear to be bored, a season finale will be produced to end the serial forever.
2. Soap operas compared with other genres
Common formats of TV series are: soap opera, sitcom, dramedy.
A sitcom or situation comedy is a genre of comedy performance originally devised for radio but today typically found on television.