I am based in the United Kingdom so just in case you have never heard of any of the soaps I'm about to mention - please bear with me.
I do not watch as much television as I used to before (yay!), but some of the recent storylines of soap operas that I have caught on TV or read on the net have caught my attention.
I will first of all talk about Eastenders - A Soap based on the eastern part of London located in Walford. The soap is about people mainly based in that area.
A storyline that I think is still ongoing is about a boy called Ben. Ben was physically abused by his dad's fiancee and his dad did not find out until the morning he was about to get married to his her. This happened about two years ago if I can remember correctly. The fiancee would place a hot spoon on Ben's arm thereby causing him to sustain burns.
Anyway fastforward to 2010, what is Ben doing? He started doing the same thing his father's ex-fiancee did to him to his sister. Ben and Louise his sister have the same dad, but different mothers. Ben only stopped the abuse when he was caught out by his dad.
The point I want to bring out here is that there a theory that some people who are abused go ahead and become abusers themselves if they are not given proper help and counselling. As far as I can see, I don't think Ben received any help after it was discovered that he was abused.
I think it was a good storyline because what happened to Ben is a reflection of what happens in the society, but at the same time it would have been nice to highlight the help that is available for people who suffer abuse.
Having said that, if I can remember correctly at the close of the soap, there used to be an announcement that if people were affected by the storyline, they could call a special hotline number.
Another storyline I want to highlight is also from Eastenders. It is about people with bipolar disorder. I believe the soap received an award for raising the awareness of this disorder. I learnt a lot about bipolar disorder when the storyline was on. I don't think I had heard of it before then. I also learnt that it could be heriditary and that certain events or situations could trigger it. And people could have it, display the symptoms but not know they had it. Another important thing I learnt is the importance of taking one's medication if one suffers from it.
I think most significantly was the way the they ensured that people should not regard it as a social stigma and that people with bipolar disorder were not to be regarded as "nut cases".
The last storyline I will highlight is one of Coronation Street - I believe it is one of the longest running soaps (if not the longest) in the country.
The storyline was based on a man called Joe who faced a mountain of debt and resorted to desperate measures. Joe took a loan from a loan shark who charged an arm and a leg and when Joe could not afford to pay back the loan, the loan shark kept on threatening him. Because of the harrassment and threats, Joe almost sold his newly wedded wife's property for peanuts, but this didn't go ahead because his plans were discovered.
Out of desperate measures, Joe decided to fake his own death and get his wife to claim the insurance. Though his wife did not agree with the plan, he still decided to ahead with it but all did not go to plan as he actually died in the process of faking his own death!
What I wanted to bring out here is the fact that debt is a real problem and it has affected a lot of people in so many ways. Just like Joe went to a loan shark, we hear of stories of people who have done that and at the end of the day, the loan shark recoups back an alarming amount which could leave the borrower in perpetual debt.
The storyline about debt was a true reflection of what happens in the society and therefore Coronation Street should be commended for a job well done.
Do soaps carry storylines that are unrealistic? Yes they do, but I won't delve into that today.