You must be intrigued why your favorite TV shows are called “Soap Operas”. The real question is, why “Soap” and not something else. This all started in the 1920s in America which the term still stuck till date.
This term came up at a simpler time when Jazz was at it’s paramount leading to “Jazz Age”; the Soviet Union had just been created; Wall Street Crash ended the era of riches and women in most countries won the right to vote.
In the “Roaring Twenties”, radios were extremely popular among people, making it the only portable form of entertainment (Television was still not invented). The radio was full with serials aimed towards housewives which aired during the day time. The radio owners thought that these serials took up the entire run time to have an engaging audience, making them no money. So, the radio networks decided that they needed to think of some ways to monetize rather than closing the unprofitable radio stations. They came up with the idea of getting companies to sponsor their episodes (yes that was the first instance of a radio advertisement.
No, these women were no Dumb Doras (Popular slang for foolish women in the 1920s) that they would be influenced by any kind of advertisement. So, the radio stations had to match the interests of these women to get a good response from their target audience and also increase their payout. This campaign was very successful and made these radio stations extremely profitable venture.
It may not come as a surprise to you, but most of the initial sponsors were actually soap manufacturers including Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, and Lever Brothers. Due to the fact that most of the sponsors on these radio episodes were soap manufacturers, that the media started calling these shows “Soap Operas”.
This term not just stayed on the radio, rather it now references to any kind of serial drama on television or radio which examines lives of its characters including emotional relationships and melodrama.
The famous term has certainly become infamous with the youth today!