In the episode examined, there were no less than 42 scene changes. Although there were only 4 different storylines happening, the Director chose to stimulate audience interest in the plots by keeping each scene short – in fact over the 27 minutes of viewing time that is an average scene time of only 40 seconds each. However, in the 7 minutes spent on each storyline, how did the writers choose to represent the so called ordinary, average people they are supposed to be writing about?
Forget the day to day plot developments in this and every other soap opera on television and consider instead the representations of people and culture and the ideologies expressed by the producers within the programme. How realistic is their interpretation of community in Britain today? Are the individual characters a fair representation of you and me, your parents, your friends, your neighbours? and Do the writers give a fair view on society’s attitudes to race, class and gender? There is little doubt that they write, on one hand, for the ratings. Plots need sensationalism through emotional issues, family and friends relationships and trendy issues of the day. But.. On the other hand, do they have a sub plot?
Are writers subversively indoctrinating audiences with their own political and ideological ideas? * Quote: .. Soap…. as emphasizing traditional associations between women and emotions is a significant link to the notion that soap operas are primarily a woman’s genre [Geraghty 2000] Christine Geraghty is a highly regarded academic writer and author of books on women’s issues and feminism, and she wrote recently: “Soap, if seen as emphasizing traditional associations between women and emotions is a significant link to the notion that soap operas are primarily a woman’s genre” Quote: ..how viewers use those texts for feminist ends to satisfy unconscious drives toward female power [Nochimson]
Look also at the ideas expressed by another author on feminism, Martha Nochimson of Berkeley University. As she puts it – “feminist recuperations of soap opera have most recently relied upon explications of how viewers use those texts for feminist ends to satisfy unconscious drives toward female power” 2 I shall demonstrate that Eastenders, as representing popular soap opera in Britain today, not only fits in with the views of Geraghty and Nochimson but that the sub plot of soap scripts has a much deeper ideological agenda.
It is in fact anti male. Each scene is littered with disparaging remarks to men or about men, each portrays men as, at best, second class human beings and at worst, as bad, untrustworthy, aggressive and in need of a woman to sort out their problems. Women, on the other hand are infailingly shown as good, kind, loving and trustworthy but nonetheless dominant centres of community and family life. The sub plots may well be no more than the exploitation of appealing to womens’ emotional reactions on issues of love, romance and family but it may also be considerably more sinister.
Look at how men are represented in this episode for example: Still: Jim washing bins First: that Men should do all the dirty jobs as and when instructed by a woman – and in this first still image Dot has just told her partner Jim to “go and wash out the Bins” and he is shown outside with his rubber-gloved hand down inside the muck at the bottom of the bins Still 2: Spencer and Mop Here, Spencer is shown also with yellow rubber gloves, having just washed out the ladies and gents toilets and floors Still 3: Jim pours the tea Here, Jim has been sent to bring and pour the tea for Dot and the visiting vicar and Secondly: Men are bad, aggressive and untrustworthy Still 4:
Barry shouting Here Barry shouts aggressively and pushes his angry face into Pat’s 3 Still 5: Phil kicking door Here, Phil is seen kicking and thumping his fist on the door of Laura’s landlord whom she had just described as “such a pig and a nasty piece of work” and who Phil then offered to go round and “have a word with” and 3. Thirdly: Men know nothing about family issues, children and caring Still 6: Paul panics with baby Here, Paul, a black single father is seen struggling to feed his baby and then panicking when it gets hick-ups Still 7:
Pat in tears Here, we see the upset face of Pat crying because she has been verbally abused by Barry who is shown as blaming her for his father’s death and threatening to “burn her like a witch” and “do whatever it takes to get rid of her” Quote: .. Hegemonic Masculinity.. the representation of a new view of manhood to accommodate women’s interests, desires and pleasures.. [Hank 1999]
Now, all this positive discrimination against men has not gone unnoticed or indeed unfelt by the male population. Robert Hanke is a prolific writer and studier of the representation of feminism and masculinity on television and he refers to the feminist aim as “Hegemonic Masculinity” He says that “the process of Hegemonic Masculinity may therefore entail the representation of a new view of manhood to accommodate women’s interests, desires and pleasures.. ” [Hank 1999] Of the 42 scenes in this episode of Eastenders at least, not one scene portrayed men in anything other than as one of these feminist stereotypes.