Is Power a Soap Opera?
Soap operas are serial dramas that explore the interwoven lives of their main characters. They often delve into complicated issues of gender and sexuality, but soaps also offer a sense of comfort in the familiar.
The genre was born out of radio programs and moved to television in the 1940s, a move that reflected changing conceptions of gender and femininity. Despite being initially viewed as a form of entertainment, soaps became a forum for political commentary and discussed social and cultural issues such as abortion and drug abuse.
While some soaps portrayed romance and fantasy, others focused on the everyday plight of working-class people. In the 1970s, soaps increasingly addressed issues of sexuality and crime. Some soaps shifted from nighttime to daytime, while others continued as prime-time evening shows.
Soaps were often praised as an important outlet for women’s voices, but the genre has also been condemned by feminists. They have been accused of rewriting stories about women and men to fit their own stereotypes, and for dehumanising the people who make up a soap’s world.
Although many soaps reflected the lives of working-class people, they were not limited to those in lower socioeconomic groups; the genre drew on the experiences of middle class citizens and immigrants.
It’s an important distinction. In addition to providing a venue for discussing difficult issues such as abortion and violence, soaps also presented a safe space for viewers to discuss their own issues and problems with a group of peers.
They were also a popular medium for discussions of racism and ethnicity, especially when soaps introduced racial minorities to an otherwise white audience.
Among the most famous soaps were As the World Turns (CBS, 1956-present) and Guiding Light (NBC, 1955-1987). The first soap to feature African Americans was Our Gal Sunday (DuMont, 1939-1947). Other African American soaps have since appeared in the United States, including Another World (NBC, 1964-1999), Backstage Wife (NBC, 1966-1997), and Hawkins Falls (NBC, 1951-1955).
As a result of these developments, soaps began to portray black men and women in more sympathetic roles than before. For example, Black Jack City (NBC, 1978-1987) explored the complexities of race and power in black urban communities.
The show’s creator, Irna Phillips, set the standard for soap opera storytelling by developing an ensemble cast with multiple viewpoints and addressing socioeconomic and racial issues. Her scripts also pushed the genre in new directions by exploring issues of violence, crime, and the role of the women in the drama.
While soaps have sometimes been criticized for being reductive and simplistic, they still have the ability to make us laugh or cry. They can also help us understand ourselves and our relationships with others.
Soaps have been described as a genre of “morality and ethics in fiction” by philosopher and cultural critic Brene Brown. They encourage us to think deeply about our actions and emotions, allowing us to become more authentic and wholehearted in our daily lives.
It’s not surprising that a fan-favorite show like power feels conflicted about its identity and how it wants to be seen. Its devoted fanbase has helped propel the series to a ratings juggernaut for Starz, but it’s not quite a critical darling.