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Susan Lucci played the role of Erica Kane, one the world's most iconic soap opera characters, for more than 40 years. [Photo courtesy Greg Hernandez]

The end of 'All My Children' and other soap operas will be rough on fans, U of M pop culture expert says

September 19, 2011

This Friday, the last episode of “All My Children” will air after a more than 40-year run as one of the nation’s most-watched soap operas. Much has been written lately about the death of the once powerful daytime soap opera brand, but what does this mean for longtime viewers? A University of Minnesota pop culture and media studies expert who can provide insight is:

Edward Schiappa, professor, Department of Communication Studies, College of Liberal Arts

“The end of soaps is rough on its fans,” Schiappa says. “We make the same sorts of judgments about ‘people’ or characters we know only through mass media that we do with people we meet in person. This makes sense because our brains evolved thousands of years before TV, film and radio.” The academic term for this is “parasocial interaction.”

Schiappa says one of the results is that when we “lose” a long-time character, we grieve and feel a sense of loss just as we do when someone we know personally is lost.  

Schiappa is the department chair and teaches graduate courses on contemporary rhetorical theory, critical communication studies, rhetorical criticism and popular culture criticism. He has written a book on pop culture analysis, “Beyond Representational Correctness: Rethinking Criticism of Popular Media.”

To interview Schiappa, contact Jeff Falk at (612) 626-1720 or

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