Soap and Sensibility…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s Swiss cheese plant is the one without any holes.
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Hm, TV soap operas. I have never watched them…
When I was kid there used to be a daily ‘soap’ on the BBC radio (of course the term ‘soap opera’ didn’t come to the UK until later on); it was called The Archers, not a story of medieval bowmen having a good old time at Agincourt, but of a very dull country family called Archer, and their equally dull kith.
As a young lad I quickly spotted that the idea was that the thing was designed to go on and on for ever, with nothing very interesting ever happening in it. Me, I liked stories with good, satisfying, nicely constructed endings. But yes folks, you guessed it, The Archers is still running today – it is in its sixty-fourth year, and apparently still going strong… God help us!…
I think the original idea of soaps was that they depicted the lives of ‘ordinary people’, people just like you, and just like me, people who one can relate to, and learn to love, hate, despise, be irritated by, and perhaps feel some empathy with. But really the driving force behind soaps is rather like that behind business – the goal of business is to make money, and then more money, and the goal of the soap is to ensnare more and more viewers; in both these cases they will go to any length to achieve their goal; on the one hand to make people addicted to products, processed food, and sugary drinks that make them ill, and on the other, to regularly dish out all this  Pavlovian emotional prodding and titillation to grab people and hold them in front of their screens…
‘Why am I going on about all this?’ I hear you ask, in between your yawns.
Well, as you know, I do buy that awful TV listings magazine What’s On TV, which I snip up to make those mail art postcards that I regularly feature here; I don’t actually read the thing of course, it is always packed full of stuff about the current British soaps, but I have noticed that, whereas the old soaps used to dwell on minor issues and trials of ‘everyday life’, these new ones seem to have the characters fighting, or even slaughtering each other, every couple of weeks – it’s like bloody Hamlet!…
I can understand why this is; TV is a cutthroat business, the ratings are everything – the companies are trying to attract audiences by making the episodes more ‘exciting’ and ‘dramatic’ and provocative – and it looks like they are succeeding.
I wonder if kids growing up in homes where these things are watched get the idea that family problems and relationship misunderstandings are best sorted out with violence – or am I being a bit over pessimistic? Of course I am writing this as someone who doesn’t actually follow these things – I could be completely wrong, perhaps they are little gems of even-handed well crafted pieces of drama… Still, I’m certainly not going to watch any to find out…

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About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
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