Wednesday 16 July 2014

Community as Context: EastEnders, Public Service and Neoliberal Ideology

As part of our secondary research we encountered an article, focusing on the soap opera of EastEnders and how, along with other soaps, it is viewed as a public service, addressing current affairs that informs the reader; this article linked this to neoliberalism.

The article touches upon various views on the British soap opera, questioning 21 viewers about their beliefs and thoughts on the programme. The interview was carried out by breaking the talk in to 6 parts, discussing their thoughts of the soap, concluding that EastEnders was informative however the melodramatic elements and need for entertainment portrayed the information as "distorted".

The article revealed that EastEnders is not "simply a cultural phenomenon" but is, in fact, a "site of neoliberal ideology through the concept of public service and cultural citizenship". It begins to challenge how EastEnders fills the role of representing society, however focuses on the matter that this is not achieved, due to the setting and narrative, which focuses on a small community rather than society as a whole.

One sector of society that isn't portrayed in the soap is the poor/ second class citizens which is apparent in the UK.

"It has not achieved truly hegemonic status in the UK, since it has failed to successfully colonise important sectors of popular culture and civil society more generally and, as Gramsci has argued, hegemony requires 'The ''accrediting'' of the cultural fact, of cultural activity, of a cultural front alongside the merely economic and political ones'."

We see the article address EastEnders as a form of public service, raising issues not just of private concern but also public, with a focus on 'everyday actions'. This considers that the soap opera focuses on informing audience members on current affairs and other issues that could affect them in everyday life, like EastEnders bringing in stereotypical narratives on cheating and alcoholism. The article states that we view EastEnders as a cultural resource, contributing not so much to the classic public sphere, also known as the popular public sphere. Soap operas also stimulate family discussion which may not otherwise be discussed, addressing controversial story lines which are becoming more and more apparent in the modern day. This links to the functions of escapism and social interaction involved in soap operas.

The interviews that SAGE conveyed alerted some trends in viewer beliefs, with audience members contemplating whether EastEnders is realistic or unrealistic, although we should note that there is no evidence that they experience this as being in any way an inevitable contradiction. Many feel that the programme is "exaggerated", "over the top" and in some cases "ridiculous and surreal", however, despite some viewers stating this opinion, there are many aspects that are realistic, particularly the apparent social issues that reflect contemporary affairs, giving a sense of realism.

Some viewers even related the programme to the news due to the fact its tackles “topical issues”, such as the involvement of drugs and other illegal substances involved in society.

"The connection that the participants see between soaps and the news point clearly to viewers' ability to exploit them as sources of information about their society which are 'more open than the news' "

We are then exposed to the question; is EastEnders considered a public service? Many of the participants involved with the article answered in a negative and hesitant manner, although they were not short to acknowledge that EastEnders raised important social issues; they felt that the fact of it being a soap opera put it beyond what they understood as public service, considering the likes of civil servicemen to fulfil this ideology. Some early evening programmes (including soap operas) may be viewed as public service due to the social role and importance they play in airing complex and controversial issues.

"No [laughing]...I should say 'maybe', but no, it doesn't- but in a way I can see that it could be for some people" [in relation to the question listed before]

[Alice and Kira]

No comments:

Post a Comment