Not all “soaps” are created equal: Toward a cross-cultural criticism of television serials

Gabriele Kreutzner, Ellen Elizabeth Seiter

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In a period marked by rapid political developments, the advent of the single European market, and the call for the establishment of a “common house of Europe” (Mikhail Gorbachev), questions of cultural identity have taken on an ever-more pressing significance. While media and communication processes are undoubtedly of major significance in the formation of such identities, David Morley and Kevin Robins have pointed out that deterministic models of communication are quite inadequate to explain how such identities are constructed and maintained or changed.1 In this chapter, we address the question of how particular forms of entertainment popular in the 1980s preconstituted cultural identities for their audiences. For the purposes of our micro-study, we will look at prime-time television serials deriving from two differing national and socio-cultural contexts. We will investigate a television serial which has been extremely popular with its national audience, namely Die Schwarzwaldklinik (1985-1990) of the public service German network ZDF.2 In comparison, we will discuss Dallas (CBS/Lorimar, 1978-1991) and Dynasty (ABC/Aaron Spelling/Fox-Cat, 1981-1990) as examples of nationally and internationally successful US television serials of the 1980s. Our decision to compare prime-time serials across cultures is motivated by their intimate relationship to melodrama as a popular tradition appealing particularly to female audiences, and to critical discussions about the television serial’s semantic and ideological openness. Our analysis is also motivated by the troubling observation that the question of gender has yet again been repressed in recent discussions of national identities and television’s role in their construction.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTo Be Continued...
Subtitle of host publicationSoap Operas Around the World
EditorsRobert C. Allen
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780203131855
ISBN (Print)9780415110068, 9780415110075
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 1994

Publication series



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