Soap Operas, which form the bulk of cultural programming, are truly representative of the rest of the Television media. A careful study of soap operas helps us understand media in general and media’s role as vehicles of ideological propaganda in particular (History Today, 2001, p.10). The soap operas serve as vehicles of ideology in two different ways. The more obvious way is through advertisements and sponsorship. Advertisements are essentially messages to the target audience as to what is good for them, what is it they should aspire for, what it that will gain them respect, etc., is. Of course, the process is not based on force but manipulation and exploitation. (Potter, 2006, p.70)
In a study conducted by Cynthia Frisby for the Journal of Advertising Research, the relationship between male psychology and consumption patterns were studied in the context of soap operas. The results show that every advertisement is an exercise in exploiting the male psychology. This fact in and of itself might not be anything new, but there is one aspect of advertisements that don’t find a place in public discourse. Psychology being a social science is inherently imperfect. And the basic theories are not universally applicable to everyone. In that case, there is “no one way of life” that is deemed psychologically healthy. But advertisements try to inculcate into the viewer ideas and beliefs about “the ideal life”. In other words, an objective belief system (ideology) is stated as the means of achieving a highly subjective experience (Frisby, 2002, p.58). It is possible that soaps and other cultural programming help maintain the existing social order by catering to the fantasies of the viewers. In other words, the soap operas might instruct women to the kind of power they are allowed to have. Such perspectives are seen in other target audience as well. Women’s dislike of the talk-show genre seems to imply that when faced with a bleak reality the viewers are put off and lose enthusiasm for the subject (Frisby, 2002, p.57).
While the general population of any country seems to take a centrist stand in their political beliefs, this is not always reflected in Television portrayals. The most prominent case is the right wing dominance of giant media houses in the United States. As a result their conservative political ideology gets portrayed in the programs they produce. While the United States is a prime example, many other markets fall under this category. The conservative owners of leading media houses want to “preach” their viewers what is good conduct and what is not. The way they do it is by “showing” what acceptable conduct is. While the moral merits of their beliefs are irrelevant to the essay, their role as the moral custodians of society is highly objectionable. The worrying aspect of this subtle coercion of values into the citizenry is that the viewers are not even aware of it, which makes them vulnerable to ideological indoctrination. (Marcus, 1997, p.348)
The portrayal of crime and violence in Television media is also subject to ideological manipulation. For example,
“Television crime dramas are part of the media presentation of crime and criminals, and they represent an element in the construction of reality about crime by the viewing public. A review of the portrayal of homicide in TV crime dramas is not completely consistent with the official data. An adequate explanation of cause, beyond the plot motive, is lacking in the dramatic portrayal of homicide. Viewing audiences are left with plot motives to explain homicides, and plot motives often legitimize crime fighting proposals and placement of responsibility consistent with an individually oriented explanatory ideology.” (Fabianic, 1997, 196)