Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Soap Opera News Cycles

I suppose there’s only so much room on a front page if you always have to leave space for pics of Natalie Holloway and Brad and Angelina stories, but is it possible that three things spun out of the news?  Is there a war in Iraq or do the insurgents call time out because of Katrina?  I did see something about the attempts at constitutional compromise failing.  If I understand it, they’re going to send it as is complete with clerical supervision and Sunni objections.  There was also that small matter of close to a thousand people dying in a stampede. What became of that nice man Karl Rove?  I heard that he was helping the White House find new ways to blame state and local officials, but wasn’t there some sort of investigation going on?  Finally, I know that Cindy Sheehan and friends boarded a bus to DC, but is there no more anti-war movement? Tracking Gold Star Families for Peace

I’ve never been much of a soap opera fan.  The daytime ones seemed to push cartoons off the air when I was a kid.  I didn’t care who shot JR, etc. though I did watch Dynasty and Beverly Hills 90210 for a while because I had family members who did.  My daughter won’t let me watch Degrassi with her.  Therefore, I can’t claim to be an expert on this, but the Regular Media has started covering news stories as if they were scripting a soap opera.  If something catches the public’s attention in a soap opera, all other story lines die or at least disappear in odd ways.  Sometimes it’s really maddening, like Bobby Ewing coming out of the shower and realizing it was all a dream or various boyfriends and girlfriends on 90210 fading away with their teen topical story lines.  I was always one of those viewers who would wonder what happened after some minor character did the 12 step program even if some major character was about to choose between Brandon and Dylan or if Alexis Carrington Colby was househunting during the hurricane with Dick Cheney.  

Right now, I see this pattern.  Something happens.  There’s a bunch of interest.  There are a few public opinion polls that usually tell you that the public is incredibly uninformed.  There are a lot of stories with a minimum of analysis or history.  There are more public opinion polls about whose fault it might be, that have little or nothing to do with the facts.  They report on various public figures making claims in their own interest.  There are no follow up questions.  Something more interesting comes along.  Story disappears.  You wind up in Iraq for two plus years talking about a constitution and you can’t find a single story that talks about the history of Iraq as a “creation” of post-World War I policy that may have had more than a little bit to do with access to oil.
In the case of Cindy Sheehan, did anyone ever seriously answer her question?  And btw, is there any point when we will be hearing from Patrick Fitzgerald? Even when they write soap operas, there’s someone who charts the characters’ storylines even if the character doesn’t make it back on screen.  Of course, they kill the character off, if the agent demands to renegotiate or wants Evian in the dressing room. In our version, news locates dirt then runs it through the spin cycle until some other stain catches our attention.

This is what I know, there’s been terrific followup on the whole Brad-Agelina-Jennifer-Orphan story.  I know where Brad and Angelina are living.  I know who Jennifer is dating.  I know the birth history of various non-American refugee children who will be asking their mother about the Billy Bob tattoo and that vial around her neck that seemed to have blood in it.  I can count on People and the Weekly World News to follow up for me.  Isn’t there like one reporter who can say do a Cindy in Louisiana helping hurricane victims story, a Judith Miller gets visited in prison by Paul Wolfowitz and Ahmed Chalabi for a party catered by Martha Stewart, or tell me what’s happening in that Iraqi village near the Syrian border now held by Al Qaeda?   Maybe People or US has a spare staffer from the Vince Vaughn beat.  Even though it made me feel morally superior for god knows what reason, I honestly would trade knowing about Condaleeza Rice’s shoe size in Ferragamos for some actual timelines etc. on Iraq or Plamegate. Is it really true that all of the Gulf's emergency equipment wound up in the wrong gulf?  

It occurs to me that Soap Operas were called that because their central purpose is to keep people watching so they could literally sell “soap” to Betty Friedan’s the problem that had no name housewives.  In that case, the number of people watching seems a perfectly valid measure.  When it comes to the news, shouldn’t the measure be the number of people paying attention and the number who could actually consider themselves informed based on what they get or are they now in the same business as the soap salesmen,putting it all through the spin cycle?


At 9/07/2005 11:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Degrassi? I never even heard of it. Usually -- or maybe not usually -- maybe I just don't know where the lacunae are? -- usually [maybe] I've heard the name even if I ain't in the know. But then, I mean, like what do they know about Kant?

What do you MEAN that Judith Miller got visited by Paul Wolfowitz and Chalabi to whom we owe the Iraq war where we're spending $200,000 per minute?? Is that some of your alternative history? Chalabi? Cheez, these folks are seriously brazen.

At 9/09/2005 10:41:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Degrassi is a Canadian teen soap opera shown here on Nickelodeon. It's very edgy, teen issue stuff, suicide, being overweight, love woes, crazy parents, etc.

the Judith Miller Martha STewart thing was alternate history, though I sometimes think about the way Judith Miller's WMD articles managed to alter history or at least throw it a big curveball.


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