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Title: An analysis of portrayals of human distress in soap opera narratives
Author: Kossiavelou, Zoe
Awarding Body: University of Leicester
Current Institution: University of Leicester
Date of Award: 1998
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This thesis has set out to explore the "symbolic world" of images of psychological problems and distress in soap operas in terms of their "cultural" definition in the soap opera community, their models causation, and their semiotic and narratives uses in the storylines. A sample of ten soap operas was recorded for a period of nine months in 1990 and it was analysed with a multi-facet methodology which comprised: a content analysis, a thematic analysis, a narrative analysis, and an interpretative analysis. The most common psychological problems in soap operas were: depressive symptoms (32%) dependence on substances and alcohol (15.2%), masked antisocial behaviour (15.3%), psychosis (11.5%), acute depression (10.7%) and suicidal thoughts (6.1%). The quantitative content analysis has not revealed any important "distortions" of social reality apart from the cases of psychosis and "masked" antisocial reactions. For the majority of cases of distress, their causes were sought into the personal and familial environment while the role of socio-economic factors was played down. The thematic analysis examined the cultural discourses that were not to articulate images of psychological problems in soap operas. A binary methodology of oppositional structures was utilised in order to model the dramatic tensions and decision dilemmas of soap opera characters. The most common cultural discourses which framed discussions about human distress were: women's vision of family life, teenage rebellion, adult deviance, morality, destiny, and neighbourliness. Portrayals of acute depression, for instance, highlighted the role of the community in providing support during personal crises while depressive symptoms pointed out the functional role of women's skills in detecting distress and seeking support. On the other hand, images of psychosis and antisocial reaction were articulated within the discourses of deviance and rule-braking behaviour. Narrative uses of distress, such as presenting false impressions of suicide, using distress as a cliff-hanger device, and giving rise to side-effects and follow-up stories, exemplified the complicated ways in which soap operas treated psychological problems.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available