Recently, I’ve been thinking about how what we see and hear in the media shapes our real life. I wanted to apply this train of thought to travel and it naturally led to thinking about TV and the classic British soap operas that are available to us each evening.
Perhaps your inspiration to travel comes from family and friends or a natural wanderlust; for me it’s all about broadening my horizons and finding new experiences – making memories. See what you think about the soap opera connection – do you think it has power to affect travel and a country’s image when broadcast all over the world?
These days, the arts, music, and literature scene in Western countries gain so much recognition worldwide that people are gaining more and more interest in travelling as they see different countries and cultures represented in appealing ways. Immediately you might think of the relationship between the US and UK in ‘The Holiday’ but also, take soap operas, for instance.
Overall, they get creative and play within the lines of proud guilty pleasures, over-the-top storytelling and in many cases, impressive longevity. This type of programming has been broadcast into people’s homes since the 1930s; many consider a Chicago radio station show called ‘Painted Dreams’ as the first-ever daytime soap.
Fast-forward to today and we have the likes of the longest-running non-news programme in the United States ‘Guiding Light’, as well as the United Kingdom’s ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Coronation Street’, the latter which now has its own gaming version on Gala Bingo as well as off-air products like books and clothing for the real fans. In a way, these programmes not only create a distinct image for their country of origin, but also spark tourist interest through their depiction of everyday life in a set location. I remember after years of watching Buffy wanting to visit just about anywhere in America.
Real world effects?
According to a study on IGI Global which you can find for free here, the visual arts medium – TV, film, soap operas – are valuable instruments in attracting travellers, which in turn magnifies the economic effects felt by their different countries. Perhaps travel companies could look out for different opportunities to promote themselves to wider audiences?
The Guardian has even pointed out that ‘Coronation Street’, the oldest soap on British TV broke ground in the industry; but more than this, these kinds of shows greatly and positively influence a country’s image. Whilst they may be dramatic and completely fictional, they also offer insight for other countries and showcase key aspects of a different culture that other people may want to explore.
Maybe not dream destinations but a start
For travellers, like most of us, it’s important to at least have an inkling of our preferred destinations before we start making budget plans and booking a leaving party. Soap opera and TV images can sway our intentions and decisions in such a way that it makes up for the limited knowledge and vague information we have about a country, giving us the confidence to go. In other words, a more positive impression plays a vital role in our intention to actually book a flight and explore.
Indeed, what we think about a country before visiting isn’t actually that clear. We base it on Google, personal knowledge from friends, the world’s impression of a particular country and other visual representations. Soap operas, TV programmes in general, have a hand in forming a country’s appearance by depicting characters, locales, regional cuisine and even beliefs. It may be fictional, but at the end of the day, these shows represent a total image of a place formed through the mental and sentimental assessments of a country – they’re made in a country’s image.
Seeing is believing
From Western dramas such as ‘Guiding Light’ and ‘Coronation Street’, to Asian hit shows like ‘Descendants of the Sun’ and ‘My Love From the Star’, soap operas have a way of contributing and building their home nation’s image. Though this may seem intangible, somewhat imperceptible, as travellers, we still get a certain intrigue, a mysterious charm that makes us want to visit the country even more.
Whilst this has been a bit of a ramble, it boils down to if we see something enough, three to four times a week for loyal viewers, it’s going to have an impact and make us want to go there for ourselves and see the truth. I suppose you could even look at is as a type of explorers syndrome.
I’m never really short of places I want to travel but I do see looking back how I was influenced by media and TV and even that my expectations were based on fiction. My next trip is a ‘staycation’ to Bath, which served as the backdrop for The Duchess, Sherlock and Vanity Fair.
Have you ever visited somewhere you’ve seen heavily depicted on TV and it’s surpassed or fallen short of expectations? Let me know with a comment below.