Anikó Imre is Associate Professor and Chair of Critical Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Identity Games: Globalization and the Transformation of Media Cultures in the New Europe.
This chapter discusses late socialist Eastern European domestic drama serials or “soap operas.” These were developed in the late socialist atmosphere of political and economic thaw, which turned increased attention to women, consumerism, and the family as the microcosm of the socialist nation. Such serials were carefully planned to strike a desirable balance between demonstrating political conformity to socialist ideals and gently mocking the realities of those ideals. However, this residue of propaganda was balanced by social satire and humor. The conduits were almost invariably women, who were able to navigate both spheres with success. The main case studies are the Polish Czterdziestolatek (The forty-year-old, 1974–1978), the Hungarian A 78-as körzet (District 78, 1982) and the Czech Žena za pultem (Women behind the counter, 1977). The chapter also shows how these socialist domestic serials registered and facilitated the transition between two world systems. They married the gendered values of late socialism with postsocialist nationalism’s reinvestment in traditional femininity and bourgeois values, on the shared ground of demonizing feminism. The serials foreground both the gendered mechanism of the transition and the significance of postsocialist cultures as a crucial testing ground that should temper enthusiasm about the global benefits of postfeminism.