The Bold and the Beautiful and Generations : a comparative ethnographic audience study of Zulu-speaking students living in residences on the University of Natal's Durban campus.
This thesis is an ethnographic study of the soap opera viewing patterns and interpretations of Zulu-speaking students living in residences on the Natal University's Durban campus who watch The Bold and the Beautiful (an American soap opera) and Generations (a South African soap opera). It presents an analysis of how the viewing practices of the students compare with the findings of soap opera audience studies conducted abroad. The students' motivations and reasons for watching both soap operas are investigated. The reason for choosing black students as subjects is that I wanted to determine how a soap opera (Generations) which is comprised largely of black cast members and designed with a young black audience in mind, is interpreted and impacts on the lives of said audience, when compared with an American soap opera (The Bold and the Beautiful) which has an almost exclusively white American cast, and is popular with young black viewers in spite of the fact that it appears on the surface to be unrelated to their everyday lives. Individual one-on-one interviews were conducted with 40 students, 20 male and 20 female. The interviews were analysed to gauge how the viewing behaviour of the students differs from, or is similar to, soap opera studies conducted elsewhere in the world. It emerged that the students watch in groups and not alone, and that watching Generations and The Bold and the Beautiful is a social activity, not motivated from loneliness or isolation. The ways in which the students relate to the characters and situations of both soap operas is also examined, in an attempt to establish the role that these two shows play in the creation of the students' identities. The students displayed a tendency to be more critical of Generations than of The Bold and the Beautiful in the sense that they compared it (unfavourably) in terms of quality of production, to its American counterpart, as well as in the sense that they analysed storylines in terms of their own lived experiences and were quick to criticise Generations when they felt that it did not conform to their notions of the reality of being a black South African. They accepted situations and characters on The Bold and the Beautiful far less critically, although they did voice objections to certain characters and situations which they felt were morally questionable in terms of their understanding of right and wrong. It also became apparent that there was a greater emotional involvement with the characters on The Bold and the Beautiful than with those on Generations. The students interpretations of (and level of involvement with) situations, characters and storylines are examined, as well as the ways in which they derive pleasure from both soaps and incorporate them into their own lives. In summary, this thesis examines the consumption of an American and a South African soap opera by a black South African audience .
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