Gendered Identity In Soap Operas

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This essay discusses the role television soap operas have in generating discussion about the issues of gendered identity and sexuality. It is based on the study conducted by Chris Baker and Julie Andre, who argue that because soap operas draw huge audiences and centre on the sphere of interpersonal relationships and sexual identity, the talk generated from them will reflect such aspects (Andre and Barker 21). The discussions generated from the study show examples of working through, gender differences, and add evidence to the ‘active audience’ concept discussed in early media audience studies and research, as opposed to research that proposes a ‘media effects’ orientated argument. To ensure honest opinions were provided, the research methodology was developed with the aim of producing natural, non mediated results. Research was conducted by voluntary 14-15 year old school pupils, who were given a tape recorder and asked to have a discussion on soap operas and relationships at a time of their choosing. The recruitment took place through schools, involving 20 groups of self-selected young people of varying ethnicities. The conversations were carried out predominantly at lunch time, in private. The aim of this approach was to stimulate natural, everyday conversation to gain insight into the perceptions of young people, unmediated by adults and reducing the “interviewer effect” of adult presence (Andre and Barker 22). Participants expressed their ideas and perceptions on gendered identity in relation to the British soap opera East Enders, and Australian soap opera Neighbours (Andre and Barker 24). Characters were used to stimulate debate on which traits and characteristics participants perceived as socially acceptable. Participan... ... middle of paper ... ...when people treat people differently” (Andre and Barker 28). Males tended to express homosexuality with more hostility and negative terms; “that’s out of order. Who wants to see that?” (Andre and Barker 29) Suggesting homosexuality is something they believe should not be expressed through television. Male participants also appeared unconvincing in their hostility towards being homophobic, with one speaker stating “I’m not against, I’m not scared of them, you meet people who are really scared of them, but I don’t want to kill them and everything” (Andre and Barker 29). This may instead underline his insecurities about sexuality. Male conversations were also significantly shorter in comparison with females, and boys showed more excitement on ‘action’ or ‘serious issues’ such as drugs and football, while girls sustained longer conversations on issues of relationships.

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