Could soap operas "save the world"? It sounds like a contrarian "click
me" headline, but Boston Globe writer Drake Bennett
makes a strong case, discussing soaps' transformative powers, particularly in
developing countries. These powers, he argues, can be used for good.
team of economists credits Brazilian TV "novelas" for helping to
dramatically lower a fertility rate that in 1960 was above six births
per woman. Others have found that in India--where soaps dominate the
airwaves--villages where people watch more TV give more
responsibilities and rights to women and girls. Researchers in Rwanda
have found that radio soap operas there can help defuse the country’s
dangerous ethnic tensions. Turkish soap operas have set off a public
debate about women's roles in the Middle East. And research in the
United States has found that health tips tucked into soaps have greater
sticking power than with just about any other mode of transmission.
on by these findings, "researchers and public health and international
aid organizations are looking at how to design soaps that might more
effectively spread information and change attitudes about everything
from tribal tensions to HIV to petty corruption." Could soaps halt the
spread of AIDS in Africa or discourage tropical deforestation? Could
they contribute to the debate on the burqa? Of course, at some point the didactic value might run up against the salacious appeal. As Bennett says, "It remains to be seen how healthy soap operas can be made before they lose their hold on viewers ... Even when soaps are doing good, they need to feel a little bad."
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