Do soap opera fans deserve their reputation as lonely people, hopeless losers, or bored housewives? No, according to C. Lee Harrington and Denise D. Bielby. These authors - soap fans themselves - argue that soap fans are normal individuals who translate their soap watching into a broad range of public and private experience. People who cut across all categories of age, gender, race, ethnicity, income, education, and ideology incorporate a love of the soaps into their day-to-day leisure activities. Interviews with soap opera viewers, actors, writers, producers, directors, the daytime press, and fan club staff members reveal fascinating details about the inside world of fandom and the multitude of outlets for fan expression - clubs, newsletters, electronic bulletin boards, and public events. Numerous examples illustrate the pleasure fans derive from critiquing characters, speculating on plot twists, and swapping memorabilia. Examining the experiences that shape fan culture, Harrington and Bielby analyze the narrative structure and various aspects of the production of the soaps.
Their examination reveals that the 'meaning' of soaps is complex, individualized, and not simply a reflection of the narrative content of the stories. The authors show fans who actively contemplate what it means to be a fan, and who adjust their level of involvement accordingly. Author note: C. Lee Harrington is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Miami University in Ohio. Denise D. Bielby is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.