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emotional realism

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A representational quality in a narrative that is felt to be ‘true-to-life’ by audiences in terms of the enactment of recognizable subjective experiences. The cultural theorist Ien Ang (b.1954) suggests that for some viewers, watching a soap opera involves this kind of psychological realism, perhaps in part because long-running serials give viewers a chance to develop a form of parasocial relationship with the characters (see parasocial interaction), of whom we are often offered close-up shots focusing on their facial expressions. For Ang, emotional realism depends on connotation more than denotation. Even if at the level of content the treatment is unrealistic, what is recognized as real is truth to feeling. For many viewers of the glamorous, melodramatic, and (many would say) unrealistic US soap opera Dallas (1978–91), this was a tragic structure of feeling, evoking the idea that happiness is precarious. See also classic realist text; realism; social realism.

Subjects: Media studies

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