Religious issues can be indirectly dealt with in soap operas, but they are often not covered because they are too sensitive and may offend some viewers. The majority of the population including 6 million children (4-14years) watch, one of the many soap operas that are broadcasted on the terrestrial channels. Soaps dramatise real life with a tendency to normalise rare events, bringing a great source of entertainment and raising many discussions. As with any programme the channel owner is only interesting in getting high ratings and the most viewers, so soaps have to ‘heighten reality’, or they would get boring.
Many people feel that issues are only raised to boost ratings. As soaps have so many viewers, they influence and have effect on a number of people. Soap writers are criticised in every way and are often considered responsible for making youngsters grow up to fast, as it has been proven that people often copy those in soaps, for example when someone committed suicide in a soap opera, the number of suicides that week went up. But, the writers argue that they have to show bad in order to show good. They have to show ‘the journey’ of learning wrong in order to do right.
Many viewers feel the government should dictate story lines to tackle issue of concern, but the BBC objects to this as they say there is the danger of propaganda. A ‘phone in’ on the ‘Heaven and Earth show’ though proved that 90% of viewers saw soaps as positive as they are generally good on personal relationship issues and the majority of 16-18year olds learnt about issues such as HIV from them. They considered soaps to be more responsible and progressive in they way they handle issues than in ‘teen magazines’.
Also they considered soaps to be a ‘moral universe’, as they do provide support lines and back up when it is needed. The other 10% of viewers considered soaps to negative as they don’t cover general issues and they miss out areas of social life that need to be covered, like cultural issues. The problems raised are often condensed into one small community, giving a cynical view of reality. In ‘Eastenders’ broadcasted on BBC 1, they dealt with the key religious issue of euthanasia. Ethel was a woman in her eighties who was had terminal ill cancer.
She was in a lot of pain and going in and out of conscious. Dot a Christian, had been Ethel’s friend for years, always treating her as her own flesh and blood. Now in Ethel’s last days Dot was nursing Ethel at home refusing to put her in a hospice as she feels it only right she cares for Ethel. Dot is extremely worn out, and over work. She catches Ethel collecting up the morphine tablets the doctor has given her, and takes them away from her. Ethel is crafty and manipulative and pleads for dignity to try and make Dot give her the tablets.
In the end after much thought and debate with herself, Dot gives Ethel the tablets and Ethel dies peacefully in her slept. After Ethel death Dot is in a deep state of depression, full of remorse and has pangs of guilt as she has gone against her religion. She quotes the Bible ‘there is no peace saith the Lord for the wicked’ as it has a deep root in her psyche. Dot begins to wonder Ethel was capable of making up her own mind and whether she has murdered Ethel. Dot is unable to accept any help from others as she believes it her problem to sort out, and she feels she has committed a cardinal sin.
Dot, as a Christian, wants to be punished for her actions and felt compelled to go to the police station. She feels that if she is punished and remorseful for her sins God would forgive her. The liberal priest tells Dot that there is room in heaven, for those who seek forgiveness, but Dot as a traditional Christian thinks that both her an Ethel will be punished as Christianity teaching says euthanasia is wrong. This story line raised much discussion for religious believers.
Many people felt it wasn’t right for Eastenders to portray a sincere and devout Christian as being unbalanced as ‘Religion creates a psychological imbalanced in believers’. Others felt that Eastenders dealt with the situation sensitively and that they showed the two beliefs Christian have on euthanasia well. Some viewers even thought that when you are dying ‘right and wrong don’t come into it’, but I don’t think this is a fair comment as you still a human who has feeling and morals, and your action can still effect and hurt others.
I personally don’t think what Dot did or euthanasia is right, as I believe, as a Christian that life is given by God and only God can take life away. It is the duty of Christians to improve and preserve life. I believe that a miracle could have happened and that mistakes can easily be made. But, even though I believe this I think it would be hard in Dot’s situation seeing someone you greatly love in such pain, and not to be able to help him or her. Other may think what Dot did was right and euthanasia is right as it is a swift end to suffering and the person has the right to die with dignity.