C3RI Lunchtime Research Seminar - Soap opera anniversaries as media events with Dr Ruth Deller
Speaker: Dr Ruth Deller
Title: Soap opera anniversaries as media events
2015 has seen three soap operas celebrate major anniversaries: EastEnders’ 30th, Neighbours 30th and Hollyoaks 20th. Recent years have also seen milestone anniversaries for Coronation Street and Emmerdale, whilst soap-like drama Casualty is currently gearing up for its 30th anniversary in 2016.
In this presentation, I analyse the way soap operas turn anniversaries into ‘media events’. Drawing on Matt Hills’ analysis of Doctor Who anniversaries (2013/2015), Jonathan Gray’s discussion of promotional paratexts (2010), Amy Holdsworth’s analysis of media and nostalgia (2011) and Dayan and Katz’s notion of media events (1994), I discuss the way these soaps - which are often overlooked in contemporary discussions and analyses of media, in favour of newer genres – have attempted to reposition themselves in public consciousness by making their anniversaries ‘event television’ through a combination of social media ‘play’ (Deller 2014), nostalgic remembering and creative use of cross-media and cross-soap promotions.
By presenting these events as sites for celebration and engagement beyond just the regular viewership, soap producers and broadcasters attempt to create sites of ‘maximum liveness’ (Bourdon 2000). This is particularly in the case of live episodes, usually featuring key reveals, character deaths and plot twists. These were heavily promoted as being sites of engagement beyond the text through ‘second screen’ viewing and commentary on Twitter, Instagram and other social media – key reveals and fluffed lines all thus become part of the appeal of the live event and, particularly, performances of audiencehood, through recirculation of humorous comments and memes (Deller 2011; Harrington 2013; Bell and Deller 2016). In this way, the soap operas seek to not only to mark the passage of a key period of time, but to position them, once more, as the things that ‘everybody’s talking about’.