Soap operas have been around for decades, beginning first on the radio before transitioning to television. The name was coined because they were sponsored by soap powder manufacturers. The definition itself includes the term melodramatic — emotional or situational exaggeration.
I can’t speak for generations preceding me, but I’m pretty sure I can say with assurance that soap operas are a point of irritation for most of the people in this generation. And when my friends and I have discussed this specific genre with our parents and elders, they have mostly agreed with us. So why are they so popular?
To answer this question, we have to first look at the target audience of this particular genre. When I researched this on Google, it said that the main viewers of soap operas are stay-at-home mothers. I can believe this to a certain extent, but I believed that there had to be more. So I dug deeper.
What I found shocked me. I should have seen it before, but I was tricked, just like everyone else in my generation. There are shows all over teen networks that are soap operas; “Degrassi” is particularly popular. This show has been running since 1987 beginning with “Degrassi: Junior High” and then moving into the now well-known “Degrassi: The Next Generation”. For 25 years now, teens have been watching, and for 25 years we have all been tricked into thinking it wasn’t a soap opera.
The show has love triangles, gangs, teen pregnancies, cheating relationships and so much more. Every episode is filled with melodramatic situations. This particular version of the genre is called “teen soap”.
So now that we know this genre attracts all age groups, what is it about these stories that draws us to them so vehemently? One easy answer for this is that the producers tend to choose attractive actors and actresses for the characters. Of course, the character’s attractiveness level can sometimes be linked to what kind of character they are supposed to be portraying. Sometimes a character is meant to be less attractive (so the audience is persuaded to either feel bad for the character or hate them).
Not only are the characters easy on the eyes, but these shows bring out the need for us to watch other people whose problems are much worse than ours. You’re having trouble writing an essay? Watch an episode about a girl who has to deal with being pregnant in the unforgiving hallways of high school. Did you get fired from work? Watch another man deal with the death of his beloved son. Sometimes we need to know that our problems could be worse than they are. It’s pure escapism, and these shows aid in that process.
One last thing that I’ve found to be a reason I particularly like to watch my “teen soaps” is the mystery. There is always something to figure out. Sometimes it’s obvious, and sometimes there is a sharp turn in the story that nobody expects. I like to play detective and see if what I think is going to happen plays out in the show.
For example, another teen soap is “Glee.” I am proud to say I am a “Gleek”. One reason for this is because there are always new twists and turns in the show. I love trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. I’m sure the same goes for fans of shows such as “One Tree Hill,” “All My Children,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “General Hospital,” etc.
Soap operas are a severely misunderstood genre. Granted, they can get a little ridiculous, but let’s be honest with ourselves: We love them.