Photo by littleghoti. Used under a CC-BY-NC-2.0 licence.

17 Questions to Ask About Soap Operas and TV Series

[author-compact title=”About the Author”] These questions are based on those in Tony Watkins’s book Focus: The Art and Soul of Cinema (Damaris, 2007). They are intended to help you organise your thinking as you watch a soap opera, television series and such. As well as helping you in your own thinking about series like this, these questions also provide a useful framework for group discussions.

You can download a fuller list of questions as well as guidelines for leading discussions from www.tonywatkins.org/focus.

Response and place in society

  1. What do you think about the soap opera or television series? How does it make you feel?
  2. To what extent did it fit with your expectations, or did it subvert them in some ways?
  3. How popular is this soap opera or television series? How much influence does it seem to have in society?

How soap operas and television series communicate

  1. How well is the series made? Is artistic and technical excellence achieved by screenplay, direction, cinematography, acting, editing, special effects, soundtrack? What are the particular strengths and weaknesses?
  2. What is the genre? What are the typical conventions of this genre, and how are these conventions used in the soap opera(s) or television series in question? How are genre conventions reinforced or subverted?
  3. How is the narrative structured? What is the general plot – what happens (in summary)? What turning points (cliffhangers) do you find in the soap opera or television series (either in a particular episode or in the series as a whole)? How is resolution achieved?
  4. Does the world of the series work like the real world? If not, what are the differences?
  5. How is meaning created in the soap opera or television series? How does the film’s editing contribute to the meaning of the film?
  6. What are the key themes? How do the themes develop and become clear? How are the themes explored and emphasized? Are there any religious themes or connections? How is faith treated (if at all)?

What is it really saying?

  1. What is the dominant worldview? What is the view of reality, humanity, knowledge, right and wrong? How well does the worldview measure up? To what extent would you say the television series or soap opera reflects the reality as you see it?
  2. To what extent do you think the soap opera(s) or television series in question reflect and/or shape predominant values of society? How and why do you think so?

Truth, error and implications:

  1. What resonates with you? Why? What truth or insight, error or blindness do you find in the series?
  2. What aspects of the series are consistent or inconsistent with the Bible?
  3. Is the series sensitive to the difficulties, dilemmas and tensions of life?
  4. Is there any evidence of the longing for God (a longing for peace)?
  5. What substitutes for God does the series show?
  6. How might this episode/series affect viewers as they return to their everyday activity?
    Will it inspire more hope and faith, or more despair? Will it encourage viewers to have courage, or will it inflame their fears? Will it inspire responsibility or recklessness?

Photo credit: © littleghoti. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC-2.0) licence.

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