“the whole point of the genre is the long-time accrual of meanings and experiences”

Television scholar Jason Mittel has an interesting discussion of how scholars discussing complex narratives like Lost tend to leave out any mention of soap operas, although soap operas obviously have a great many formal similarities with Lost. In his post, Jason makes a comment about soap operas that might equally be said of blogs:

I believe, as Robert Allen has argued in his classic work Speaking of Soap Operas, that people who donít watch soaps with some regularity cannot really understand the form, as the whole point of the genre is the long-time accrual of meanings and experiences, not the individual narrative segments of episodes.

I think – and many others have said this in various ways – that blogs have that same emphasis on long-time accrual of meanings. There’s something about following a blog for a long time that’s really important to one’s understanding of a particular post. Maybe I should read about soap operas to see how Robert Allen describes this for that genre.

Jason Mittel also lists two crucial differences between soaps and complex narratives like Lost:

  • Soap operas are broadcast continuously, whereas Lost and its ilk are broadcast in 13-24 episode seasons, after which you have a long break before the next season.
  • Radio and television soaps assume an audience that may be distracted by other tasks (children, housework, phone calls) and might miss episodes, so there’s redundancy built in. Lost and others assume their audiences will be deeply concentrating and can access any missed episodes or watch sequences again. Sometimes you need to watch sequences with freeze frame – or see someone else who’s written this up on the web – in order to grasp a plot event.

So I’m thinking that blogs – (and web serials like Lonelygirl15?) – are closer to the audience and attention expectations of soaps than of complex television narratives like Lost. Is that a useful analogy, though? The content of blogs is generally far from that in soaps, and the narrative arc of blogs, when they have one, is completely different.

30. July 2007 by Jill
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