The target audience for the origin of the genre Soap Operas was started by sexism in the 1930’s. Daytime dramas were aired on Radio targeted directly at the housewives of America. Though throughout time the audience evolved and more men started to take notice, however I believe society still connotes femininity with Soap Opera’s. Soaps have always had a high emotional content; this feature alone generates more female interest then male because of the true stereotype of emotional women. This is still evident in the most current soaps still using emotions as a centre of their storylines.
In EastEnders in the last 4months there has been passionate love affairs, emotional reunions and a wedding. These dramas are associated with women and emotions e. g. tears at a wedding, falling in love. This shows that soaps attempt to ‘pull on the heart strings’ of their audience, and with this a judgement and fondness of a character is developed and so develops the addiction to the story/characters. An example of this would be the recent Alfie/Kat love affair. Alfie has always been represented as a man everyone would get along with.
A funny, charming good-looking man – something that stereotypically, all women attempt to find. The female audience become fond of him for his character and the fact that they long for someone like him. EastEnders has used the fact that most woman long for these personality traits to make a popular character that they can fixate on, so therefore the character was created knowing the majority of the audience are female. The female characters in Soap Opera’s aren’t particularly aimed at male fantasies; there are only a scarce few in EastEnders who could be classed as beautiful women.
I think the general lack of female ‘eye-candy’ for male audiences show that Soap Opera producers know generally older women will feel jealous of a glamorous woman’s young good looks (e. g. Melanie, Sam Butcher). Alternatively Hollyoaks supply an almost endless amount of generic blonde, toned, pretty girls for their audience. I think the difference with this lies within target audiences. EastEnders wouldn’t want to upset their main target audience (20 -40yr old women), however Hollyoaks young audience (14 – 21yr old teenagers) means females would feel admiration for the girls and their male audience would also enjoy the females.
Soap Opera’s are catering for more male viewers by including storylines that borrow from popular masculine films (think Lock Stock, Reservoir Dogs). The gangster genre has been featured heavily in EastEnders throughout the last 5years, mainly starring the Mitchell brothers. The duo create a masculine bond that most males can empathise with, either they would have shared the same loyalty to a best mate or a brother. This can touch an emotion in a male in an unobvious way.
Whilst women would probably fear and despise wife-beater drunk Phil Mitchell, a male could understand his loyalty to his brother and fondness for a beer. Characters employ feelings with people and can introduce new attitudes to audiences. It’s important to notice that Kat Slater is one of the most popular Soap characters of recent times. This is because Kat breaks the mould – she is a loud, dominant character who demands attention and respect. These rare qualities make most women accept Kat as a fair representative of their gender, and perhaps even a leader.
Like Alfie, EastEnders moulded her to lure viewers by her being unlike anything in Soaps at the moment. Her popularity empowers women to be more confident like her and they can understand her better and still long to be like her. So women keep watching her and anticipating her next move so they can learn from Kat’s mistakes. The constant appearance of strong wielded women in Soaps (such as Pat Butcher, Rita from Coronation St) also enforces their primary connection with a female audience. Women who don’t give up and always fight on, like Kat, give encouragement.
Females audiences judge characters and the storylines can comfort women who have been through similar situations and shows them that there is always someone worse off, even if it they are fictional. The main content structure is also very feminine. Soap’s really rely on a basis gossip and scandal to make a storyline. They take place in small settings where everybody knows each other making it ‘very cosy’, and the storylines are generally very domestic. These are very feminine features that also add to Soap Opera’s being trivialized by society as a woman’s genre.
It’s easier for woman to predict the outcomes of domestically focused storyline because they may have experienced the same situation or more likely to have read about a love affair then a male. But Soaps are polysemic, offering different meanings to each viewer (e. g. as how the male interprets Phil Mitchell different to the female). This makes it’s too vague to say that Soaps are just a female genre. However, stereotypically women are renowned for their fascination of gossip and scandal, and as soaps try to reflect realism, surely the basis of them being gossip and scandal shows that they are truly trying to depict a typical woman’s world.