The Influence of British and Tamil Television Soap Opera upon British Tamil Women in England

  • Indrani Krishan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This study investigates how British Tamil women use and negotiate the characters in British (Coronation Street, EastEnders) and Tamil television soap operas (Roja, Nayagi) to construct identities and enhance their lifestyles. Focus groups and interviews were employed to gather data in three regional areas of England: Portsmouth, London, and Birmingham. Soap operas' popularity has not been without its critics. Some have argued that soap operas corrode the standards of womanhood, compromise cultural boundaries, and undermine the vision of contemporary lifestyles. British Tamil women, however, are by no means naïve and unthinking viewers who passively consume the portrayal of characters in soap operas. Instead, this study demonstrates that they engaged with the consumption process as capable and discerning viewers with sophisticated ‘watching competencies’ to deal with the characters of these soap operas in subtle and complex ways. This study identifies two critical paradigms to explore British Tamil women's dual cultural soap opera viewing: moral capability and participants as discerning viewers. This thesis argues that British Tamil women's identity, self-confidence, and social aspirations are all enhanced through the lens of their television soap opera viewing. Furthermore, this thesis reveals that the fictional characters' social and cultural aspects influence British Tamil women's shifts in attitudes towards family values, urban lifestyles, and perceptions of taboo topics like premarital sex, cohabitation, and homosexuality. The primary research for this PhD project demonstrates that British Tamil women today have more choices, freedom, and well-being through their television viewing experiences in personal life and gender equality. Drawing on audience studies, this research reflects the broader intellectual approaches of feminist, cultural studies, and Stuart Hall's "encoding and decoding", which stresses the polysemous nature of meaning and the fluid nature of the meaning-making activities by British Tamil women. This thesis's originality lies in the fact that British Tamil women's dual-cultural television viewing has never been studied in terms of how they increase the liberating aspects of their lives and relationship choices while still maintaining Tamil traditions and social norms.
Keywords: Soap opera, British Tamil women, culture
Date of Award19 Sept 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorLaurel Forster (Supervisor), Lincoln Geraghty (Supervisor) & Deborah Shaw (Supervisor)

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