Male Representation In Soap Operas Media Essay

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1st Jan 1970 Media Reference this

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The purpose of the following research paper is to present the Male Representation in Soap Operas and the understanding that the audience has of the male characters in this genre. In order to do so the first step was Literature Review, so I have read books and e-books which concerned the audience attitudes in television in general and the representation of masculinity in television. From each book have been selected carefully the chapters that were relevant with the topic, in order to create an idea in relation with the topic. Articles and periodicals had been read in relation to the topic. In this paper I have discussed three research methods. Two methodologies have been discussed hypothetically, questionnaires and intensive interview. As a pilot methodology I used focus groups, that I tested in real and provided findings for this paper. The findings from the focus groups were that the audience understands the two types of male characters and shows their preference in the traditional Man who represents power. They don’t prefer the sensitive man who isn’t in control. The audience prefers to see unrealistic situation of a social class they can never be a part of rather than watch the life of everyday people.

Introduction

Soap Opera was originally introduced in the American audience in the 1930’s in the radio. It was dramatized series. The name of it was given due to the sponsors and the commercial presented by detergent companies. It has been present in programs ever since, it has spread worldwide and followed a remarkable development of characters situations and relationships. We witness the development of male and female characters and their course throughout the decades.

The male representation in Soap Operas is very important as well as the development of society and the way men are involved. We notice at first the typical father in the 1950’s who gradually turns into a rich, successful smart businessman who is surrounded by pretty, kind and evil women and men. Also he becomes a sensitive man who isn’t afraid anymore to express fear, anger of love. The male role model changes according to the needs and demands of the society. This project will focus on how man is present in Soap Operas and how the audience follows their presence.

Literature Review

Rethinking the Media Audience

By Pertti Alasutari

In order to create an idea about how to approach my topic “Male Representation in Soap Operas”, I should begin with finding what actual audience is. In chapter 9 it is mentioned that four (4) criteria must be followed so as to characterize someone as an audience member, Firstly, the exposure of an individual or group of individuals to a particular message of any mass medium. Secondly, the writer considers the attention given to the message and if it is decoded. Thirdly, the ability of the group to retain the information and store for the future. Fourthly, Alasuutari mentions the shaping of the individual or group perceptions and beliefs concerning a subject. Another chapter which helped me to establish a thorough image about audience in Soap Operas is chapter 8. In chapter 8 John Tullach, mentions that even though the majority of Soap Operas follow the popular topics, there are other as well which follow less expected frames such as cultural topics. That’s how I realize that the audience could be broader and different of what I had in mind. So, I found the information I read very helpful as I understand that, not only women of all ages are the audience of Soap Operas but also men should be considered as viewers as well.

Serial Monogamy: Soap Opera, Lifespan and the Gender Politics of Fantasy

By Christine Scodari

This book provides me with many details about relationships among families, men, women, children, friendship. But especially in chapter 4 which gave me information about older woman, younger man relationship and the opposite, older man, younger woman. As we know from our own experience as television viewers mass media has created the image of the old rich man that has all the power, no matter how this power is portrayed (ex: beautiful young woman, expensive car, mansions…). Traditionally older rich men have young attractive women “authority, power, wealth-are framed as sexually appealing,” Scodari,(2004). On the other hand older women “over 40 simply do not appear as romantic leads”, Scodari,(2004). In other words Soap Operas are based on the standard theme of love but in variations having to do with age, status, money and appearance. So, we see the appearance of the young kind, poor man and the old rich, bad man, the two classic versions of Soap Opera male characters. Christine Scodari’s book successfully confirmed my observation through personal experience the standard characters of men in Soap Operas.

Screen Tastes, Soap Opera to satellite Dishes

By Charlotte Brunsdon

Having read Screen Tastes, Soap Opera to satellite Dishes by Charlotte Brunsdon I realized that Soap Operas are the reflection of our society. Soap Operas are not only an important part of television history but also the representation of the contemporary society. In other words at some point women become as important and influential as men. So, men are sometimes even behind women in jobs and even in families. Precisely in the sixth chapter through the series “Widows” that focuses on the influences men may have on women in order for them to be stronger and smarter. “The series also provokes questions about whether we can speak of masculinity and femininity in relation to practices of television viewing” Brunsdon,(1997). In other words even though Soap Operas are originally viewed by female audience only, eventually gain male viewers as well. That is even if men are not present the masculine model influence women and leads their way. We see then another side of male representation in Soap Operas. This book gave me good information about my topic. Even though it is written in 1997, the data provided can be used even today’s research.

Masculinity and Popular Television

By Rebecca Feasey

This particular book deals exclusively with the topic of this Research Paper “Male Representation in Soap Operas”. Rebecca Feasey author of this book examines the theme of masculinity in television. A lot of studies have been done on TV as the history of it and its pervasiveness present a lot of interest .Furthermore the practically unlimited number of programs makes the field of research practically endless. Also the easy access to the medium should be taken into consideration. Finally the existence of previous texts makes TV welcome by everyone.

Masculinity presented is rather “fixed, stable and unalterable” ,Feasey(2008). Men are formed by the cultural environment that makes their masculinity available to study. “Hegemonic masculinity”: this term is used in the book to define “white, heterosexual, competitive, individualist and aggressive men”, Feasey(2008) who are present everywhere. ‘This male is strong, successful, capable and authoritative”, Feasey(2008). Man represents power. This is the ideal image of men. A standard idea of man having dominance over woman. Therefore masculinity is a set of exterior and interior features followed by men in all aspects of their lives. In all Soap Operas men are presented “as friends, fathers, heroes and martyrs”, Feasey(2008). All types are set in social and sexual debates of the period.

Having read the second chapter of the book I noticed that hegemonic masculinity type and the dominant male role co-exist. There seems to be a representation of men in domestic drama and the status of men in the broader population.

In the history of Soap Opera we see the focus on family, relationships and friendships. This creates the following male characters: the sensitive new man, the decent husband, the hero and of course the villain. When the woman has problems with her husband, there comes the “Sensitive New Man” who will listen to her, give advice and be supportive. There is also the “Decent Husband” who will not cheat on his wife and he will be good and kind. Another type is the “Hero” who sees life in a romantic way that makes him attractive to women. Finally, there is the “Villain” how always souses troubles and manipulates men and women.

Another characteristic on male characters in Soap Operas is that men start expressing their feelings. They are no longer as hard as rocks but they start to express emotions to other men. They have intimate, deep conversations. According to a research conducted by psychopathologist Simon Baron- Cohen men have got pathological difference with women. We must mention that due to their brain’s inability to use the emotional activity in the right hemisphere men are at a disadvantage compared to women. Women have emotion in both hemispheres that’s why they are more emotional. Men are brought up to be hard and not showing feelings. So men expressing feelings and emotions and showing sensitivity are opposed to stereotypes existing so far and introduce a new type of man.

We see that there is no privacy for the Soap Opera characters as all conversations happen in a big range of places. So, everything can be witnessed by everyone so no secrets are kept in the long term.

Another conclusion I have made after reading this book is that men fear the presence of a stronger man who will question their authority and try to take over him and his belongings. What used to be seen as a way of keeping femininity could now easily show how men take over private sphere. This way the public and the personal field are somehow mixed.

Fatherhood and paternity are largely debated in Soap Operas. Fathers are important; they strive for their children wellbeing. They can even be single fathers so in total control of their upbringing. The paternity of children is often questioned in Soap Operas. This makes women having control over men as only they know the actual truth.

The first Soap Operas such as Dallas (1978-91) and Dynasty (1981-9) revolved around the central male protagonist who owned a business and tried to keep the balance between job, family, love and friends. The patriarchal American hero would often fail in order to regain more strength after suffering and adventures.

To summarize this book offers information about the “Male Representation in Soap Operas”. On one hand we see that a man having a “Hegemonic Masculinity” has power, wealth and brains but, on the other hand se we that men start to express their feelings and emotions. Masculinity and Popular Television by Rebecca Feasey, has been very useful as it provided me with a lot of figures about my topic. It also helped me make a clear image about how to conduct my methodology about designing the questions which will complete my project.

Academic Journal

Soap Operas men in the 90’s

By Carol Traynor Williams

This article focuses only on male representation in Soap Operas in the 90’s. Mainly mentioning General Hospital and the Bold and The Beautiful we see the presence of men in them and their interaction with women and other men.

It is clearly stated that men are manipulated by women in all aspects of life: their jobs, their families, their friendships. Men seem to be in control of things but there is always a woman pulling the strings. In The Bold and The Beautiful Ridge Forrester is loved by Brooke who is always influencing him and makes him agree with her by use of her femininity. Eric Forrester his father alike is influenced by Stephanie in all his decisions. Also is The Young and The Restless we see that men come from one woman to another, changing them without hesitation in order to have more money or more fame.

I have realized that Soap Opera writers who were asked about their inspiration concerning male characters they answered that the formation was based on women’s desire to be with a stronger, rather villain man who would sweep women off their feet and run away with.

This helped me a lot with my task as it gave me information about Soap Opera that was really famous in Greece in the past. I had a clear idea about male characters their thoughts, their incentives and I will use it in my focus group.

Periodical

Hard Work Always Pays Off: Jobs, Families, and the Evolution of a TV Myth

By Mary Ann Watson

In this periodical article by Mary Ann Watson, there is information about male, representation in TV series since the 1950’s. The development of male characters through the decades, helped me in better understanding the presence of men in the Soap Operas. At first, the male character was the typical representative of the contemporary society as well. He was a father, who followed the motto “Hard Work Always Pays Off”. This meant that if a man worked hard, his efforts would have positive results for himself and his children. As decades passed, we see that the male stereotypes changed as women start having active roles and are not happy with only being mothers and housewives. The course of male characters justified the present of men in the Soap Operas in the 80’s and the 90’s. They have evolved from ordinary everyday men to rich, handsome, smart men who are ready for everything but are influenced at some level by a pretty, smart woman.

As this task focuses only on male representation in Soap Operas, this article was useful in order to see how male characters developed and so understand better the reason why writers present men in Soap Operas this way.

Web

Why Do Men Watch Soaps?

By John Beadle

John Beable in January 12, 2010 was the news columnist of www.Soaps.com . The title of his article attracted my attention in a way that after all the several book and articles that I read in order to build the basic knowledge for this topic, the same question was raised. Because in general, the Soap Opera focuses on and deals only with women. This is not entirely true and the representation of male characters in Soaps proves that they created their own history and their own development based on the changes of our society.

So, Beadle in his article sets the question of “Why do men watch Soaps?” and gives his explanations about the reasons. One reason why the men watch soaps is that at first they were trapped in this because their wives were viewers. He characterizes this process “slow”, in other words they didn’t even realize how this happened. Second, John Beable sets the “Myth” that only gay men watch Soap Operas. He doesn’t reject this Myth. He makes clear that not only gay people watch Soaps but straight men as well, with the small difference that straight men don’t admit it. Third, the writer of this article confirms that his mother was viewer of Soap Opera and points out that this “activity” of watching soaps was something normal. Finally, in the college they started watching unwillingly but eventually were introduced in the plot and need to know how it goes. This statement confirms also what Rebecca Feasey says in her book, Masculinity and Popular Television, that the majority of the male audience starts watching Soap Operas while they are in College.

This article was pleasant to read because it was in some point of view, a confession by a man who admitted openly watching Soaps as everyone else. The criteria for watching weren’t based on gender or other factors. It didn’t provide with new information about Soaps, but by the use of humor he expressed what urges men as well to watch Soaps.

Methodology

Questionnaire

The first research method that seemed appropriate for this topic was questionnaires, so it would be one of the two hypothetical methods. Soap Operas even in our days are surrounded by fame almost as it happened ten (10) years ago. One very typical example of fame and continuity is that The Bold and The Beautiful is a Soap Opera show that even today is broadcasted and has numerous viewers. Taking the opportunity of that , this Soap Opera was welcome by the Greek Television in the early 90’s.It became popular very quickly and soon everyone talked about Ridge and Caroline.

If carefully planned and prepared a questionnaire, it would be a good way to examine how the audience were understanding the representation of male characters through this particular Soap Opera. By using this method I would have the opportunity to capture the participants’ attitude towards the representation of man and more specific the focus would be of two main characters of The Bold and The Beautiful Ridge and Thorne.

This quantitative method of research and gathering information is a good opportunity to get answers about how the audience understands male characters from Soap Operas. The method of questionnaire is structured and conducted, it has numerous advantages and disadvantages. The cost of conducting a questionnaire as research method is significantly low and the process is straightforward if we compare it with other methods of research and in relation to the important information we can collect. Furthermore, this method gives to the researcher and the participant a geographical independence because the only equipment that is necessary for the completion of this research, are only paper, pens and the participant of course. Moreover, a lot of studies have been done beforehand. So I can easily acquire material to help me work with.

Opposing the advantages of this methodology, a questionnaire may have number of limitations. First of all and the most important disadvantage of the questionnaires is that, the independent variables cannot be controlled or manipulated. Second, the wrong use of word and questions by the researcher can make the content unclear to the participant with the result of not collecting the right answers. Closing one more disadvantage of survey methodology is the response of the participant to the researcher with fake data or fiction answers. This option can destroy the result of the survey by the time that the data that are gathered are not true and would be able to form different/ false findings of the research.

This is the questionnaire that I would give to the participants about the Representation of Male Characters in Soap Operas. The purpose of the questionnaire is the method of research and it was designed to identity if The Bold and The Beautiful viewers can identify the male representation.

Questionnaire

Please choose the answer that that corresponds to your viewpoints.

Please specify your sex.

Male

Female

Please specify the age group that you belong.

18-25

26-35

36-45

45+

Did you watched any Soap Opera

Yes

No

If yes, which one?

The Bold and The Beautiful

General Hospital

Other

Did you watch it every day or occasionally?

Daily

Occasionally

Did you find the time the Soap Opera was aired convenient for you?

Convenient

I missed it sometimes

What did you like the most of these Soap Operas?

Plot

Characters

Actors/ Actresses

Did you usually watch the episodes alone or this company?

Alone

With company ( Family, friends )

Did you discuss the plot, the characters or any other aspect of the Soap Opera episodes with others?

Yes

No

Sometimes

With whom did you usually discuss it?

Family

Friends

How did you find the depiction of male characters?

Realistic

Unrealistic

Interesting

What characteristics of male characters attracted you most?

Appearance

Power

Brain

Sensitivity

How similar are Soap Operas male characters with person of real life?

Very

A little

At all

Did you like watching a sensitive side of men in Soap Opera?

Yes

No

How realistic was it to watch sensitive men in Soap Opera?

Very

Little

At all

Intensive Interviews

The case of the Male Representation in Soap Operas is an issue that has not received a lot of attention, because Soap Opera as a genre originally focuses on women audience who were the first audience through the history of TV. Because of that, male characters were originally supportive (secondary) characters on the plot and they were less memorable to the viewers. But this is not a fact because several Soap Operas based their success on their male characters, for example, Ridge for The Bold and The Beautiful who was the object of pleasure for the female audience. This example will lead the second hypothetical methodology into the Intensive Interviews.

I decided to use Intensive Interviews as the second methodology. One-on-one interviews would be able to provide “detailed background about the reasons respondents give specific answers.” (Wimmer and Dominick(2011)) . From this method the researcher can collect data from the interviewer that regard opinions, motivations, feelings and experiences. Also allows the observation of nonverbal responses and furthermore allows to the interviewer to form the questions based on the response of the interviewee. Of course this method has advantages and disadvantages.

Intensive interviews or in-depth interviews provide the advantage based on the “freedom” that provides to extract information form the participant about the specific topic and gain accurate answers of sensitive issues. Also the Body language, the tone of voice and gestures would give the advantage to the researcher to form the questions according to the feedback received from the participant. The disadvantages of Intensive interview are quite a few. Generalizability is one of the negative aspects. It has to do with nonrandom sample that is used from the researcher. Questions that do not follow a certain pattern can provide answers very differentiated than the question. Second, interviewer bias, is another disadvantage of this method. Because of the personal contact that the researcher has with the interviewer, they can come up with in a dialogue. In that case the researcher is very likely to share information and opinions with the interviewers and vice versa. In this case the answers of the intensive interview will not be accurate and would not be considered as correct data. Taking into account this risk, the researcher should be careful and avoid sharing information with the participants in order to control the interview. Finally, the researcher should keep the duration of the interview as short as possible in order to avoid having a tired participant who most probably will not answer honestly and will only want to end the interview.

The Actual Interview

After the participant and the interviewer shake hands and formally introduce their selves, in order to form a comfortable atmosphere, the questions which are designed based on the theory about Intensive interviews will go on:

You are familiar with the Soap Opera as a television genre?

Have you watched The Bold and The Beautiful?

Since you are familiar with this Soap Opera, can you tell me why you watched it?

Could you tell me what the plot of this Soap Opera was about?

Do you remember any male character? And why?

Could you describe Ridge and Thorne?

Cloud you say the main characteristics of those two characters?

What was their main difference?

Could you choose which one of those two characters was more representative male character in real life?

What makes you, remember those characters at the most?

Pilot

Focus Groups

The research method that will be discussed and be actually tested is Focus Groups. The reason is because by definition “The focus group, or group interviewing, is a research strategy for understanding people’s attitudes and behavior.” (Wimmer and Dominick,(2011)). I decide to apply this methodology in the pilot study of this Research paper because of the four (4) characteristics of this technique. First, the focus groups involve participants (people) and second those people share the same characteristics and interest to this particular Soap Opera topic. Third, focus groups give the opportunity of qualitative data collection. The data would be able to present an “image” about the better understanding of the topic and to reveal a greater collection of opinions about the specific topic of the focus group. Fourth characteristic is that the focus group gives a flexibility on the questions the majority of which are planned to be asked are predetermined but they can provided further questions to the participants in order to reach the goal of this research.

The Focus Groups methodology would be the pilot method of this Research paper but before we have to point out the advantages and disadvantages of this method.

There are five (5) advantages. The first is that the Focus Groups allows the collection of “preliminary information about the topic or a phenomenon” (Wimmer and Dominick,(2011)). The preliminary information could be used in the pilot study in order to have the formation of the idea that would lead the research in clearer results and might be used for future researches. Second advantage of this method is that a focus group can be conducted very fast. Third, is the cost of a focus group which is very attractive for the researchers and the participants. Fourth, the flexibility in the questions is one big advantage. The follow-up question which would be created by the moderator to the participants gives the opportunity to focus on the important points that come up from the conversation. Also the researcher can provide to the participants before the focus Group, to complete a written questionnaire that covers the material of the focus group. Final advantage is the dynamics that a group can offer, because the questions would be formed based on the people’s spontaneous answers in a sense that the data collected would be more complete and less inhabited than the data that individual interviews can provide.

On the other hand, the disadvantages are a few. First the group leader, one of the participant who would take the role of the leader in the group in a sense that he/she would try to attract the attention and monopolize the conversation. Also this participant would try to force his/her opinion to the other participants. If the researcher faces a situation like that, he should be able to control this kind of situation by motivating the other participant to express their opinion. Second, groups of 4-6 persons is not recommended for gathering quantitative data, because the aim of the focus group is to collect qualitative data such as “why?” and “how?”. Third, the researcher who would monitor the focus group should be skilful in order to identify and puss the participants with further questions for further information. Fourth, is the weakness which small groups have that there are no representative population samples. Fifth, the researcher in order to take the data from the focus group so as to examine and document it is recommended to use technological equipment such as recording equipments( tape recorders, video camera). Those might distract participants’ attention and make them not act normally in the group. Finally, if the participants of the group are allowed to lose or be confused on the topic, then the data would not be useful.

The procedure

In order to pilot focus group for my research about Male representation in soap operas I have to follow a number of methodological steps of preparation in the conduction of focus group. 1) I have to define the precise topic of the research, 2) I have to choose samples that represent my topic in the best possible way, 3) I have to determine the number of the group necessary, 4) I have to prepare the mechanism ( the room that the research would take place, the video wall and other required equipments), 5) I have to prepare the materials for the research, such as video clips to be shown, photographs, recording machines and the questions that would lead the groups based on the materials. 6) I have to conduct the session, 7) after the end of the focus group I will have to go though the answers and the findings and conduct the results.

Material

The material that will be presented to the participants of the focus group would be from the Soap Opera The Bold and The Beautiful. The series was showing on Greek television and during the 90’s it had a great success and many loyal viewers. In the materials there will be two (2) photos of the male characters Ridge Forrester (Ronn Moss) and Thorne Forrester (Wilson Harmon). The characters are chosen because of their being lead characters in this Soap Opera for more than 16 years. More precisely Ronn Moss has been the protagonist since 1987until even today, and Wilson Harmon has been a protagonist since 1996 until today as well. Also they are chosen because of their different characters. The first is a representative example of the “Man” with power, money and the second is the example of the “New Man”, the sensitive, the supportive male character in the soap opera. The material will be only photos because of the participants of the focus group which I will explain further down.

The Group

The group is designed specifically about this specific Soap Opera. It consists of women who are engaged with the topic and will provide with information about those two characters and how they understand the masculinity of their characters. All those 6 women belong on the age group of 30-45. All of the participants were watching these Soap Opera during the 90’s as college students.

The Questions

The questions that I asked the participants in order to make the conversion are the following:

Did you watch Soap Operas?

Do you remember The Bold and The Beautiful?

What was all about? (in terms of plot)

Can you identify this man?

Which was the character that he played?

Could you characterize him in one word?

What did you like on him?

Please notice that those questions were only in order to motivate the conversation and show to the participants what I want them to recall from their memories and discuss about. There is the possibility of not using all of them.

Findings

The findings of the focus group were at the very first point very clear, without the researcher trying to categorize the two characters into “power” and “sensitive”. The group expressed very clearly their favor about the Man of power instead of the New man. As Rebecca Feasey points out in her book those characteristics given to male characters are usually represented in Soap Operas and they serve women. So, in the findings the focus group confirmed that there are two types of characters in soap operas and the classic Man still attracts women. Women like to see a man in control who can take care of every situation.

Conclusion

 Male Representation in Soap Operas  was a topic very close to me, as it has interest and provides informational background. It was an ideal topic for my fist contact with actual research. Based on curiosity at the beginning, of why men are not a popular research topic, especially since  the world is created by them, for them. This research experience came to change this stereotypical idea. During the whole process of this research, from the day that I started thinking about the topic, the literature review which created another dimension about television in general, what it was in the 30’s an

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