Hidden Persuasions in Soap Operas: Damaged Heroines and Negative Consumer Effects
International Journal of Advertising, 26 (1), 9-26 (Lead article) (2007)
29 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2015
Date Written: 2007
The purpose of our study is to investigate the negative influence of textual images of damaged women characters in soap operas on the female consumers who constitute the majority of viewers. We begin with an analysis of the television soap genre in terms of print and radio antecedents to examine the specific attributes that make it a marketable item designed to appeal to women audiences. In a cross-sectional study of long-time viewers of four soap operas, we investigate negative consumer influences identified in prior research indicating that long exposure to negative role models is detrimental to personal life satisfaction, realistic assessment of what the world is like and achievement of reasonable goals. These influences are considered negative in that viewers who seek emotional satisfaction in parasocial attachments to characters accept images of passively subordinate women characters in attractive settings as ‘real’. Findings indicate the presence of negative response themes such as distorted views of television reality as the norm, aspiration to the possessions and lives seen on screen, disappointment at the viewers’ own lives in comparison, and substitution of soap relationships for real-world interactions. Additional research directions on soaps as a source of hidden persuasion are suggested on the part of advertising academics, practitioners and public policy makers.
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