Soap operas are continuously watched throughout Britain. Recent studies reveal that one in five Britain’s couldn’t name the prime minister of England, but when asked to name a character out of Eastenders they were able to produce names with ease. This shows us that for most of us soap operas are a key element in our everyday life. As well as the popular Eastenders, Coronation Street is a favourite with soap lovers and is Eastenders greatest rival.
Although these soaps intend to represent reality, is the way reality interpreted correct? Stereotypes are becoming an issue and are shown in a large quantity on television, in much the negative perspective of ethnics. The lack of ethnic representation in soap operas has been somewhat of a consistent problem. To overcome this a ten percent rule has been introduced by, the control of television programs for England. This rule enforces that ten percent of guest characters had to be ethnic minorities.
In light of this rule we saw the arrival of many ethnic characters. Nita was introduced to the square approximately one year ago: A single mother who found a job at the “local newsagents. ” And fell in love with Robbie the local floor sweeper. The denotations of this could simply be that she is an Indian girl working at a local shop. The connotations would be that it is typical for an Indian to be behind the counter of a local shop/corner shop. Recent storylines have also had an effect on the way she has been represented.
The relationship between herself and Robbie has connotations that an Indian girl could not do better than the local cleaner. This relationship has shown Nita in a very negative light. The reason for this is because she is committing herself into a relation with a poor financial status, poor future and poor future job prospects for both herself and Robbie. Paul from Eastenders is another popular representation. Paul was introduced to Eastenders quite a while back and since then has brought with him a variety of stereotypes.
Paul has been associated with: robbery, heavy drinking and excessive smoking and at the same time is the character in the family who has been presented with the greatest burden: His baby Eleanor. Paul from day one has been a gangster. He has been involved with dodgy deals such as selling jewellery (April episode 03. ) that Pat gave him. Recently we witnessed Paul using his daughter’s pram as a selling aid in order to sell clothes illegally and earn a bit of extra cash.
This connotes the fact that there is a black character selling clothes rather than clothes just being sold by a random person, again another negative representation. From Coronation Street we have another popular stereotype in the form of Dev the Asian corner shop owner. The stereotype of is shown a commonly in many programmes, even in such a programme as Coronation Street where the ethnic representation is very minute but yet they chose to represent the Asian corner shop owner. The question is, why is this stereotype commonly used and what do the audience perceive from it?
Perhaps this stereotype has bee used on the basis that many Asians do own corner-shops and therefore it would be a representation based on general fact. Recent studies carried out by a poll on the internet reveal that out of every ten viewers three believe that Asians are shown as corner-shop owners in order to degrade their reputation. Jason’s mixed race dad, Tony, is another stereotype shown in Coronation Street. Tony is portrayed as a stereotypical black adult. He has divorced his wife (Eileen) a long time ago and since then spends most of his time with girls, drinking and smoking.
The aspect focused in this stereotype is that the black character is happily divorced and doesn’t care how his children are but would rather spend his time with women and alcohol. Recent storylines (dating 15th- 18th) showed him getting into serious arguments with Eileen. This storyline showed a cruel side of his character as he took Jason from Eileen in spite of the fact that he didn’t want him there, but only wanted to see Eileen’s hear broken and she was truly left devastated. This creates a negative portrayal as we see the black character doing so many spiteful acts and we feel anger towards him.
This storyline has achieved a mentality with many viewers that many blacks are violet and/or aggressive. According to an English board of soaps control survey that concluded April 03, 45 percent of viewers hated Tony because of the vulgar role he played and 55 percent of the viewers that this sort of representation was extremely in-accurate. Stereotypes are to a certain degree incorrect: They highlight a specific aspect and exploit this. For example; a fictitious character ‘Mr Patel,” would be the owner of a corner shop on your average soap.
Although statistically a minority of Hindus with this particular surname can be found working at a corner shop, but this is only a minority and therefore why is such a small statistic being used as the basis of such a big stereotype. Some people see stereotypes to be one of those “things” that pick on minorities and perhaps exploit them. Stereotypes could be used in a positive light. For example how a lot of well qualified jobs are passed down to ethnics, a lot of doctors are Indians but, instead stereotypes often degrade and demoralize a group or society.
A lot of ethnic societies have not been represented by soap operas. In Eastenders there has been so far no Pakistani’s and no Punjabi’s. The one exception would be that of the Sikh man who very rarely can be seen walking around in the background. There are many reasons the lack of oriental representation. In the whole of Britain there are only 0. 3 percent Orientals. The population of Pakistani’s comes to a total of 2. 7 percent. Yet out of both soaps there is only one appearance and that is of “Asif. ” in Eastenders.
A reason given by a spokesperson for the BBC was, there are no storylines that they have been able to produce that would suit a Muslim family. The way in which I interpret this is: It was a lame excuse explaining the lack of Pakistani’s and there must be a single storyline that they can come up with that would fulfil the factor of Muslim representation. However it is evident that some ethnic groups are not represented because of: lack of that particular ethnic society in the specific area, in order for a new character to come in other characters would have to be suspended from the show.
Therefore we also have too look at it from the perspective of the producers who have to put in a lot of time and effort to make a single episode and twisting storyline plots is another task that the script writers have too look forward to as well as keeping the viewers interest in the program. The way we look at some representations may make us feel negatively about them, but they are only there because a mass statistic influences their nature in soaps.
For example a soap such as Eastenders is more likely to include a range of ethnics as the spread of multicultural people is very high. Therefore Eastenders is more likely to use ethnics than a soap such as, Emmerdale where the community has a lot less ethnic minorities. I think stereotypical representations are unfair as they only highlight an element of the chosen society to display and more often than less it is a negative portrayal of an ethnic minority. Producers should display ethnics with a broader view in mind and more positive speculations.