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MIT Creates Class About Soap Operas 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the stranger-than-fiction dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Wikipedia apparently wasn't enough. There had to be a course on the much needed subject of soap operas at MIT. Here's the Course Description: "The television landscape has changed drastically in the past few years; nowhere is this more prevalent than in the American daytime serial drama, one of the oldest forms of television content. This class examines the history of these "soap operas" and their audiences by focusing on the production, consumption, and media texts of soaps. The class will include discussions of what makes soap operas a unique form, the history of the genre, current experimentation with transmedia storytelling, the online fan community, and comparisons between daytime dramas and primetime serials from 24 to Friday Night Lights, through a study of Procter & Gamble's As the World Turns."" All I really need to know I learned from my evil twin, who fathered my unborn child, who has a extremely rare disease that only one of my many CIA contacts, who is also sleeping with my wife, can cure.
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MIT Creates Class About Soap Operas

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  • Soap Operas are among the most damaging and destructive influences in our society today. I have witnessed first hand the pain and suffering they can wreak upon the people who watch them and those close to them. An unending visual diet of petty pickering, gross injustices, squabbling, two bit storylines and overblown melodrama can wear down the common sense of even the most stoic individual, turning them into a capricious, cantankerous, shrew with violent mood swings who starts flaming arguments at the slightest provocation.

    I can say with surety that no child of mine will ever, ever be allowed to watch a soap opera of any kind. I would rather they were smoking crack. At least their are clinics for that.

    • by Aladrin (926209)

      Would you go so far as to say it has affected your grammar just being around one of these addicts?

      "At least their are clinics for that."

    • by dragonard (261270)

      "Remind me to write a piece declaring that 90% of all neuroses can be traced to the act of wallowing in other people's problems" -- Jubal Harshaw, _Stranger in a Strange Land_

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      Or as I tell my wife, "Hey, if you wanted to listen to a disfunctional family with people arguing all the time, you could just have a conversation with me!"
    • by 4D6963 (933028)
      Are their also clinics for grammatical deficiency? ;-)
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yes, there is. Their called schools. He should of gone to one. He probly did, but didn't care less when he was their, so he didn't learn nothing.
  • Nothing really new. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Lo these many years ago, as wet behind the ears undergrad at Rice University (Go Owls!) I took a similar class - the Western Movie as a Genre. Western as in cowboys. Saw a lot of John Wayne movies.

    Great stuff. Loads of fun. Annoyed the daylights out of me when my roommate did his end of semester paper at 2am before it was due at 9am, and got a better grade.

    Really though, this kind of class is really a sort of literature. Lots of people watch soap operas, probably more than watch western movies on a daily b

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Really though, this kind of class is really a sort of literature. Lots of people watch soap operas, probably more than watch western movies on a daily basis. Seems to me any genre of literature bears study.

      I'd agree that any genre of literature is as worth of study as any other genre of literature. But I never could figure out what the point of studying literature was in the first place. It's fiction, how do I learn from stuff that never happened?

      • by dangitman (862676)

        But I never could figure out what the point of studying literature was in the first place. It's fiction, how do I learn from stuff that never happened?

        Are you being serious?

        The study of literature illuminates the society and culture that produced it. Take the soap operas - there is a reason those are made. Understanding them deepens our understanding of the world we live in.

        Also, very little fiction is completely fictional. Almost all of it is based on real-world facts in some way. Look at Shakespeare. His fiction engages many political and historical topics, such as the War of the Roses and the fall of Julius Caesar. not only do you get an education of t

        • by Hatta (162192)

          Take the soap operas - there is a reason those are made. Understanding them deepens our understanding of the world we live in.

          I'm not sure why I'd want to know anything a Soap Opera has to tell me about this culture. There are too many gossipy housewives who need something better to do? I got it. I'm not clear what a deeper analysis would tell me.

          Also, very little fiction is completely fictional. Almost all of it is based on real-world facts in some way. Look at Shakespeare. His fiction engages many poli

          • by dangitman (862676)
            Oh well. Clearly you are intellectually incurious. There's not much I can do about that.
            • by Hatta (162192)

              Oh, not at all. I just prefer to be stimulated by fact instead of fiction. I am curious about things that actually happen, not things made up by some guy.

              • by dangitman (862676)

                Right. So you're intellectually incurious. otherwise you wouldn't dismiss entire swathes of human experience and expression.

                I can't imagine what your days must be like - how are your conversations and personal relationships - do you ever have a discussion that includes opinion rather than simply fact? Do you ever speculate? Do you ever discuss a movie or book with someone?

                This whole "oh, it's just something made up by some guy" attitude of yours is kind of weird and scary.

                • by Hatta (162192)

                  Of course I do. Fun is fun, and I like fun just like anyone. I can see the value of literature as entertainment. I just don't see the point of studying it academically.

    • My freshman English seminar at Dartmouth was about Soap Operas. 1991.

      (no, I didn't have a choice in the matter)

      It turns out Soap Operas are about women as victims and men who treat them badly. That's what I learned in the class.

      My final paper was on this analysis. I got "well reasoned, excellent writing, wrong, C-".

      Turns out the prof was a feminist and a soap opera fan. (God, I hate completely subjective grading.)

  • Sounds like Fun (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Detritus (11846) on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:07PM (#26610659) Homepage
    I'd be interested in how the American soap operas compare to their counterparts in other countries. From what I've read, telenovelas are very popular in Latin America. When I lived in Hawaii, a local TV station used to play a Samurai soap opera series from Japan.
    • by eleuthero (812560)
      Telenovelas tend to be "more" or "less" than American soap operas--more sex, more color, less clothes, less plot... that is a fairly biased opinion, but I have seen some and do speak Spanish.
    • Could be worse, at least they're not watching soaps from the Philippines. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to any Pinoy channel on cable/dish networks, it's nothing but 24/7 soap operas (and as a bonus, usually in English instead of Tagalog!)
      • They seem to be available on Youtube. When I was working IT in college my last supervisor would watch these soaps on youtube between calls.
  • Space Operas (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:08PM (#26610669)

    Will they include Space Operas like Firefly, too? As much as I love that show, I have to admit there's a ton of drama there.

    And how about Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog?

    Kyle XY?

    I guess the question is: Where do you draw the line? Is it only about ridiculous shows that are on around 2pm? Or does it include all shows that are heavy on drama, especially far-fetched drama.

    Before anyone defends Firefly from the 'soap opera' label: River. Seriously, what is up with her 'abilities'? The gun scene where she closes her eyes and shoots 2 people dead at once... Seriously!

    • What is science fiction but the study of humanity? In that regard, good science fiction can't help but be dramatic. Does that make it a soap opera? Hardly. Soap operas are their own special, campy, beast.

      Oh, and she killed them with math, what's wrong with that?

  • Finally! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:16PM (#26610807)
    An MIT class that my wife could actually get a passing grade in!
    • by D Ninja (825055)

      Your wife might get the passing grad, but my ex-girlfriend wrote the freaken book.

  • I never *got* American soaps. They're far too escapist for me - basically just watching the rich and powerful play around and get in to trouble. Corrie and EastEnders (UK soaps) sure have their share of that a bit, but they're basically showing "working class" people most of the time. And the people tend to look more "average". Not everyone in UK soaps is a model - many look like 'regular' folk. I do say they all have perfect teeth tho. :/ All American soaps I've taken a look at (admittedly few in rec
    • by Zerth (26112)

      And the people tend to look more "average". Not everyone in UK soaps is a model - many look like 'regular' folk.

      .

      For the same reason video game characters tend to be skewed towards looking like models(or pornstar/weightlifter). If you are going to be staring at someone's ass for a few hours a day, every day, wouldn't you rather they be attractive? Continue that thought until it is ridiculous.

      Brit soaps are more like... US ensemble cast/not single family sitcoms than soaps.

      I wouldn't be suprised if, say, Fr

  • Class? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:08PM (#26611611)
    Will they publish the list of methods and public properties?
  • One of the best professors I had a MIT was Thorburn, who taught a class in narrative. Some of the homework was going into his office and watching episodes of Harry O on a big new BetaMax (this was in 76-77). We spent a lot of time talking about TV and how the artist makes art within the boundaries of the medium, be it stage, movie, small screen, flat oil painting, sculpture, etc. I wrote a long paper about the differences between the musical scores of the movies Jaws and The Horror of Party Beach.

  • the soap opera medium is slowly dying [msn.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:04PM (#26612709)

    I was actually one of the six or so students taking the class. This class probably won't be offered again, and actually happened this time last year - it's only just got round to being put on OpenCourseWare.

    You should check out our class blog at http://mitsoaps.wordpress.com/ - it's not active anymore, but it'll give you a better feel for what we're doing. To answer the question about where you draw the line - the answer is you don't. Obviously we have the US 'soaps', but something like Friday Night Lights is as much as soap as As The World Turns. Furthermore, the US may only show daily soaps during daytime, but plenty of countries (such as the UK) have soaps in prime-time and bringing in top 5 ratings.

    Soap opera really boils down to episodic character based story. This means the genre really encompasses an awful lot of TV. It's basically any show which you watch for character development across time rather than a formulaic drama. A good test of whether a TV program is 'soap opera' or not is the syndication rule - if you can present episodes in a random order and the audience will still understand the majority of your program, it's leaning away from soaps.

    Once you actually *watch* daytime soaps (and until I took this class, I hadn't), you realise there's actually not much difference at all between soaps and their prime-time counterparts. The fans are much the same, the shows elicit the same reactions and emotions - the only real difference is the sheer volume, suspect acting, and low-budgets.

  • Theory of RelativeTV (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NetSettler (460623) * <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:30PM (#26613183) Homepage Journal

    Hmmm. Maybe they'll have me come lecture about my not-terribly-famous Theory of RelativeTV [anotherwayout.com].

  • Pretty much every film and literature department in the country has rotating classes about different genres. Why is this significant?

    Oh! Sorry! I forgot, MIT isn't allowed to do anything but build robots and win Nobel prizes. If anyone at MIT attempts to do something humanities-related, it's hilarious.
    • by paiute (550198)

      If you are majoring in science or engineering at MIT, you must declare and finish what they call a humanities "concentration". Not quite a minor, but close.

  • Another shocking twist! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bend_Her [wikipedia.org]
  • So, I see it's all going as planned to plunge slashdot to its intellectual nadir in order to satisfy the corporate overlords.

    Sweet mercy, what is the fucking problem? Oh noes!! Elite academic institution offers a film/tv/media studies course! How can this be happening??? Oh wait, this sort of thing has been perfectly normal for decades? Who knew? Apparently not the geniuses at slashdot.

  • Am I late for the funeral?

    <Gasp!!> Calculon!!

  • by HungWeiLo (250320) on Monday January 26, 2009 @06:36PM (#26615049)
    In 1992, a Hong Kong soap opera The Greed of Man [wikipedia.org] caused a 10+% drop in the Hang Seng Index. Ever since, the stock market there drops whenever the star of that soap is in anything on TV, completing that probably self-fulfilling prophecy.

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