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Where have all the mothers gone?: soap opera's replaying of the Oedipal story

Livingstone, Sonia ORCID: 0000-0002-3248-9862 and Liebes, Tamar (1995) Where have all the mothers gone?: soap opera's replaying of the Oedipal story. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 12 (2). pp. 155-175. ISSN 0739-3180

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Identification Number: 10.1080/15295039509366929


Despite recent arguments for the empowering, resistent or feminist content of the soap opera for women viewers, we argue that the dominant tendency is for the American daytime soap opera to represent a traditional conception of women's psychological development. We explore parallels between the soap opera and both fairy tales and therapy. Fairy tales and soaps use analogous permutations of characters and themes to socialize women to the oedipal paradigm. Therapy and soaps both articulate relations of (male) dominance and (female) dependence through the situation of contact and their thematic framing. We develop the connections between soap narratives and the commonly accepted, psychoanalytically informed view of women's psyche through the detailed analysis of a recurrent narrative element in soaps—that of the “bad”; and/or missing mother of young women heroines (in contrast with the mothering of sons) in The Young and The Restless. Our conclusions emphasize the repressive over the liberating aspects of the soap opera.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 1995 National Communication Association
Divisions: Media and Communications
Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2007
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 12:15

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