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European soap operas : the diversification of a genre

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Analysis of the most popular locally-made soap operas in each of five European countries reveals that the soap opera is not simply an imported American genre. The study of British, Scandinavian and European soaps, based on an ‘ethnographic’ approach to the social networks in the world of the soaps, shows that these countries have developed three distinctive sub-types of the genre: the Community soap, the Dynastic soap, and the Dyadic soap. For each of these sub-types, we analyze the gender and class context for narrative events as portrayed within the soaps. While the kinship structure in both the Dynastic (or Patriarchal) and the Community soaps constitutes a hegemonic, taken for granted framework for the programs, the Community soaps tend to be produced in the spirit of public service broadcasting and so are more likely to problematise gender issues in their conscious attempt to transmit social messages. The Dyadic form, which appears to be taking over in the 1990s harps on the modern and post-modern despair of too much freedom and too little trust. It operates in a destabilized environment, in which families have more or less disappeared, romantic dyads cannot be sustained, and women’s quest for enduring ties takes the form of seeking primordial, biological, ‘genuine', blood ties.

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