In the current stage of television, soap operas tend to demonstrate topical issues that may be presented “coincidentally” at a similar time that the affair is being discussed in the news. Some may think that life has more drama than any EastEnders or Dallas; fall out with politicians, politician destroying and creating laws, laws being broken and exposed, exposed affairs of gay marriage, divorces, widowing, and the list goes on and on and on…
But when these issues congregate together in a soap opera with a few disagreeing mothers, jealous sisters and a murderous-next-door-neighbor, things start to get a lot more exciting. Especially if you have an audience that feel very strongly about the matter, most likely is that if they have seen the current affair on the news, they would have discussed it, thought about it, debated the matter and then come to a indisputable agreement on their opinion.
However, some audience members have a good insight to the new structure and tactic of soap operas. They say that soap operas are more successful at raising certain public issues that the news, this could be from maybe the stories are more intriguing and deliver is in smaller portion than it one big “blow”. One person working with a production says “they were looking for some help in understanding why they had lost over a quarter of a million views of their soap”. Unfortunately, using these public issues could be dangerous as if you deliver it the wrong way or just the wrong story, then the public may see the programme in a total different light.
An example of the use of current affairs is the 2013 Lauren Branning alcoholic story. A few months before the story, there was a break out in the news that 36% of teenagers reaching the legal age of 18 are already. The process of Laurens alcoholism started when she underage drank at a party and since then it has been a slow and steady process, but when she could buy the alcohol, it sent her off the rails. This luckily did not cause a stir in the public’s eye because they were aware that such ruthless acts were being performed by such young people. “We have to make it painful to watch because this issue affects people in real life – it actually hurts,” “A lot of people have said that it’s really upsetting to watch Lauren go through this, but I think it’s worth it. You have to go all out, especially on a show like EastEnders.” says Jacqueline Jossa. The night we discovered she was being sent to rehab, the BBC received over 800,000 phone calls to the helpline asking for guidance on their or other people’s alcoholism.
Over all, the relevancy of current news being implanted into soaps can raise awareness, allow the audience to not feel so isolated or alone and make the story-line much more interesting to the viewers. Could congregating one week’s worth of current affairs make the entire country watch? Could we raise awareness easily? The production team are the ones in charge of that fate.