The soap opera goes all X Factor.I discovered today that the popular UK TV soap opera, EastEnders, will actually change one of its storylines in response to a barrage of complaints from viewers. The storyline in question referred to the cot death of a baby whose mother attempts to switch for a healthy one. The scenario caused outrage amongst parents, support groups and campaigners; over 10,000 complaints have been received to date.
I know all this from reading this morning´s Spanish press. El Pais relates who various scenes have had to be reshot to accommodate the replacement storyline, including footage which was actually diffused during the New Year edition.
or whether it represents the first stage of X Factor-style scripting where viewers elect their preferred plotlines.
What I find more alarming is the fact that people still consider soap operas to be somehow a genuine reflection or comment on real life. They are no such thing; nor they should not be. They are pure escapism. While the lives portrayed in Dallas or Dynasty were based on unlimited luxury and beauty, EastEnders seems to thrive on precisely the opposite: misery and squalor.
I must confess that my impression of the latter is defined purely by the two Christmas edition specials to which I´m subjected once a year when I visit my family in the UK (each producing a body count comparable to Zulu or Full Metal Jacket; I´m referring to the Christmas specials not my family, although Christmas can be tense!).
This “soap opera as a reflection of true life” perspective and the protests around EastEnders´ cot death storyline, suggest that people are actually using such programmes as a form of education, to inform themselves about current affairs and generate or influence a particular point of view.
Such as situation would be as alarming as it is absurd, bringing to mind one episode of the cartoon series the Simpsons. On receiving news that Bart has been caught shop lifting, Homer laments his son´s lack of respect for law and order; “Why do you think I took you to all those Police Academy movies? For fun? Well, I didn’t hear anybody laughing. Did you!?”.