Soap Operas and Social Change

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THE SOAP OPERA, that quintessentially American genre, has been a fixture of popular culture since the early days of radio. As such, the soaps have played an important role in reinforcing and to some extent in shaping American cultural mores and norms governing relationships within families, among friends, and especially between lovers and spouses.

         Soap operas have generally tried to reflect the social mores of American mainstream society over the years. However, starting in the 1970s, a number of the daytime dramas began trying to work “social relevance” into their storylines. Indeed it may be argued that the soaps have tended to run slightly ahead of the cultural curve in matters of sexuality in general and LGBT issues in particular. In the past four decades, the growing presence of LGBT characters has been a barometer of Americans’ increasing acceptance of this minority. From virtual invisibility in the early years to the current crop of gay and lesbian characters who are able to live their lives authentically and without shame, the growing visibility of LGBT lives on daytime TV has reflected an ongoing change in public attitudes over this generational time span.

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