"Before I saw Neighbors, I didn’t know there was an Australia"
(Jerry Hall, The Clive James Show, UK, 31 December, 1989) T he soap opera genre
originated in American radio serials of the 1930s, and owes the name to the
sponsorship of some of these programs by major soap powder companies. Proctor
and Gamble and other soap companies were the most common sponsors, and soon the
genre of \'soap opera\' had been labeled. Like many television genres (e.g. news
and quiz shows), the soap opera is a genre originally drawn from radio rather
than film. Television soap operas are long-running serials traditionally based
on the close study of personal relationships within the everyday life of its
characters. Soaps are a consistent set of values based on personal
relationships, on women’s responsibility for the maintenance of these
relationships and the applicability of the family model to structures. In soap
operas at least one story line is carried over from one episode to the next.

Successful soaps may continue for many years: so new viewers have to be able to
join in at any stage in the serial. In serials, the passage of time also appears
to reflect \'real time\' for the viewers: in long-running soaps the characters age
as the viewers do. Christine Geraghty (1991, p. 11) notes that \'the longer they
run the more impossible it seems to imagine them ending.\' There are sometimes
allusions to major topical events in the world outside the programs. Soap operas
have attempted to articulate social change through issues of race, class and
sexuality. In dealing with what are often perceived to be awkward issues soap
operas make good stories along the emotional lines of the characters. Christine

Geraghty (1991, p. 147) ‘While it seeks to accommodate change, it tries to do
so on the basis of suppressing difference rather than acknowledging and
welcoming what it offers.’ Soap operas use the dramatisation of social issues
to generate a greater sense of realism for the viewer. Like the melodrama genre,
the soap opera genre shares such features as moral polarization, strong
emotions, female orientation, unlikely coincidences, and excess. Another related
genre is the literary romance, with which it shares features such as simplified
characters, female orientation and episodic narrative. However, soaps do not
share with these forms the happy ending or the idealized characters. Some media
theorists distinguish between styles of TV programs, which are broadly\'masculine\' or \'feminine\'. Those seen as typically masculine include
action/adventure programs, police shows and westerns; those seen as more\'feminine\' include soap operas and sitcoms. Action-adventures define men in
relation to power, authority, aggression and technology. Soap operas define
women in relation to a concern with the family. For example in Neighbours the
love triangle between Karl Kennedy, a married man and his secretary Sarah.

Viewers knew the secret of the affair however; it was not by Susan Kennedy, or
the Ramsey Street community. Therefore allowing the secret to maintain it’s
status and continue to be a valid plot thread. Although Karl has attempted to
institute some redressive action, by taking a holiday with his wife, the crisis
still exists. As there has been no redressive action directed towards Sarah the
crisis still exists in the minds of the viewer. This all to common love triangle
in soap operas suggests to the viewer about what is right and wrong in a
relationship. Suggesting that infidelity is wrong and that the family should
come first. Bean (1982:163) writes " by creating situations that violate
the ideal order of the family" the soap opera will communicate to its
audience about family life. Recurrent themes in soap opera include love,
courtship’s, secrets, marriages, divorces, deaths, scams and disappearances.

Gossip is a key feature in soaps (usually absent from other genres): in part it
acts as a commentary on the action. Geraghty notes that \'more frequently than
other TV genres, soaps feature women characters normally excluded by their age,
appearance or status\' (1991, p. 17). These themes are reoccurring and repetitive
and become the thread of each story. With each different character going through
all of these themes at one stage, the different stages of social drama get
repeated often. However, the themes can also be linked to one another to create
more drama for the audience. Such as in Neighbours, Joel and Sally are in the
beginning stage of their romance (courtship), however he also has strong
feelings for Libby (love) and Drew is the only one who knows about it (secret).

Television has become the "major socializing agent competing with family,
school, peers, community and church". (Kottak citing Comstock et al.,

1996:135). It