After reading Jade Miller's Ugly Betty goes global: Global networks of localized content in the telenovela industry, I was inspired to write about the role that soap operas play in edutainment. Below is an excerpt from my essay on edutainment "soapies" in South Africa:
The essence of edutainment rests in the art of subtly transferring messages of social or commercial importance to audiences that tune out to other communication tactics. By harnessing this platform, organizations like Soul City have discovered that their edutainment productions are successful in promoting social mobilization amongst citizens of South Africa dealing with HIV/AIDS, political corruption, relationships, sexuality, bullying, abuse, corporal punishment and disabilities.The Soul City Institute utilizes edutainment soap operas to help audiences understand best practices for handling a broad range of social issues including HIV/AIDS which continues to plague the lives of South Africans.
Two of Soul City’s most popular series discuss the subject of domestic violence and safe sex. Within the series on domestic violence for example, female actors often portray characters that deal with verbal and physical abuse from their male partners. Throughout South Africa, it is widely accepted that domestic violence is a cultural norm because it provides a way for husbands to discipline their wives. By tackling such a culturally entrenched idea through edutainment, Soul City sought to empower women to speak out against abuse and ultimately obliterate the practice overall. This example of mobilization through edutainment relates to Albert Badura’s social learning theory because it encourages individuals to reject old behaviors and ideas in exchange for new ones. Although the popularity of Soul City’s productions suggests its messages are being received, the direct link of behavior change to edutainment is difficult to measure. In many instances, the social effects of the programs are not immediate and only influence incremental behavior change overtime.