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Are soap operas a waste of time?

Street Sign

Above:  Coronation Street logo, a show popular in a number of countries.


Soap operas, love them or hate them, are an important part of the lives of millions, if not billions of people.  Every country has at least one or two to call their own.  America has Days Of Our Lives, New Zealand has Shortland Street, Afghanistan has the popular radio show, ‘New Home, New Life.’

A journalist for Canadian newspaper, The Globe And Mail, wrote a piece describing Coronation Street as “common or garden escapism”, saying “there is nothing there.”  But, having said that, perhaps there is not much there when you think about the value of watching football, or a movie?

Imagine a movie that continues, week after week – you can watch the same characters time and time again, in new material.  That sounds pretty good, am I right?  At least that would be good if the original movie was good in the first place.

I think what the Canadian journalist, John Doyle, was missing was that it takes a few days to begin to appreciate a soap opera.  You can’t just watch for five minutes and expect it to be anything other than confusing.  It does take a certain amount of dedication to enjoy a soap opera.

It is hard to overstate just how much of people’s expectations of normality derive from watching soap operas – if something happens on the soap opera, it makes us feel that it should be happening in real life too.  This can be comforting, when we are reassured that our own problems happen to the characters on TV too (and by extension, to many normal people);  and it can even be worrying, in a keeping-up-with-the-Jones sort of way.

Of course, television is a one-way transmission, so the people onscreen are most certainly not actually our friends.  But it is carefully planned so that all of the viewers’ questions are answered, and all of their indignant demands for justice are met with retribution for the guilty party so that when we hate a character for whatever crime, he will inevitably get punished.  In this way, there is no need for us to have any input into the show, because exactly what we want to happen will happen anyway.  It’s like the most perfect family member or friend, who is so impossibly perfect that you never need to say a single word to him, he does exactly what you want at all times.

So do soap operas have no value?  They soothe our souls and makes us happy.  They keep us in touch with (what the writers think is) reality.  Life is not all about working and making money.



Posted in Discussion, Opinions, Philosophical posts, Writings


  • Everybody likes an escape from their everyday lives, and soap operas allow them to escape into their favorite character’s lives. That has plenty of value to me.

  • I watch soap operas once a week, it’s not a daily affair. Watching t.v. everyday tends to keep me from doing the really important tasks.
    I think it’s best to listen to news daily and watch soap operas once a week, in order to maximize time.

  • I think soap operas have value as well. They are a form of entertainment like many other shows. I actually grew up watching a soap opera. My grandmother watched The Young and The Restless and I started enjoying it after some time had passed. Of course everyone has their own opinion, however I see no harm in watching them at all.

  • I love Coronation Street.I’m American my husband is british-we watch it religiously-our kids hate it-but we LOVE IT..lol

  • I find it interesting that my grandmother, who disapproves adultery, crime, blackmail, etc., finds these soaps so enthralling. She loves them! In her real life she wouldn’t want to associate with people involved in such things, but yet she can’t miss a day of her soaps. I believe for the older generations, the scandal is appealing because TV is the only place they indulge. Younger generations watch these things play out on social media (though not to the same extent) daily.

    • The Most Ordinary Man Ever

      November 12, 2015 at 4:12 am

      Soaps are also popular in prisons where everyone has a boring life, I have heard. People need the drama. Also I think that soap operas usually try to explain both sides of the evil person’s personality – we see the whole picture, so that when a character is nasty to another character, we can sympathise and understand. This helps us in real life to remember to be forgiving and understanding of people. Then we can look at our own lives and think, maybe that person who was nasty to us today, was in a similar situation to the character that we understand and like on the television… Thank you very much for your comment.

  • When I saw the title of your post, I chuckled. You see, ever since my childhood, my mum and I’ve been addicted to watching The Bold and The Beautiful, and my dad can’t stand it! He always whines about how the plot is unrealistic, and that it’s all about who romances whom. He doesn’t get it. To us, it was always about the current intrigue – will Sally Spectra sneak into Forrester Creations tower and steal their priceless fashion projects? Will Brooke or Taylor win Ridge’s heart? The many ridiculous scenes, like woman fighting with her daughter-in-law in a swimming pool only made the experience more fun! Not everything has to be realistic, sometimes it’s nice to watch something funny and engaging.
    I also agree about the importance of representation in soap operas, especially in regards to minorities, people suffering with rare or misunderstood diseases, etc. – helping people get over their prejudices is doing the God’s work.

  • no soap opera’s are not a waste of time this is because they build us in love reality which take place in life.

  • Soap opera is interesting, they are not a waste of time because they educate us and also add value to our life.

  • They are not a waste of time because they educate us and also add value to our life.

  • Eh…if you were to ask me, I think they are indeed a waste of time if trying to take them seriously. One’s own life is going to differ greatly from the soap opera in question, so why immerse yourself in it?

  • soaps are good to relate to especially if they are doing certain storylines on something that affects people in everyday life most of the time they dont relate to reality like example on eastenders no one seems to have a washing machine they go to the laundrete or they skip off to the pub in the middle of the day lol

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