NARRATIVE: The Soap Opera

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Alfa-Romeo (Type 750) Giulietta Sprint by Gruppo Bertone

The stories of our upbringings possess a degree of authenticity that is impossible to falsify. These stories are the little treasures that lay hidden in the back of our minds; their value being measured in the currency of sentimentality. I come from a family of people whose evening dinners never involved dining tables. Our evenings involved sitting around the television set – watching some kind of television show while eating the food that was prepared by our mother. The result of this was the creation of the religious habit of lying around in front of the television set; consuming tons of emotional and dramatic nonsense with advertisements in between. This religious habit has slowly turned into a family tradition. As a matter of fact, the best way to recognize a member of my family is by looking for reddened eyes with bags under them – the signature trait of any person who is addicted to staring at the television screen all day.

Television has played a significant role in my upbringing. It has resulted in the creation of the little stories that I treasure – stories that are sentimental in their nature; stories that lay hidden in the back of my mind. The fondest stories that I can remember derive their existence from the television shows that I used to watch as a child. These are the television shows that I have used to enhance all the little foibles that are responsible for what I believe makes me unique. These television shows made it possible for me to find an external equivalent with which to measure my personal ambition. These are the soap operas that have given me a template upon which to develop my social persona.

It is interesting to note that while the soap opera is extremely popular with South African audiences, performing arts and visual arts play little but a role in the daily lives of many. The majority of the South African population seems to lack an understanding of the significance of the arts in relation to the conscience of a society. Art is meant to mirror the behavior of the human population and create a parody of it; a canvas upon which the essence of the human condition can be painted and showcased to the rest of the world. This is how the foolishness of politicians becomes apparent to the masses. In addition, this is how the masses become aware of their conscious and unconscious perpetuation of prejudices in society. These reasons represent the shame in the undermining of the arts for the sake of engineering, mathematics, medicine, science and technology in South Africa. This undermining act denies the South African population the opportunity to have a filter with which the conscience of this society can be assessed – casting a shadow over our humanity.

The undermining of the significance of the arts in the country that I call home might have had a subconscious influence on my decision to study engineering. Perhaps this undermining act might also be a contributor to my struggle with the acts of being both empathetic and sympathetic in my social circles – a struggle that might have been alleviated by an awareness of the arts. Perhaps this undermining act is the reason why I believe that anyone studying engineering does become a machine when they should not be. I find this all ironic because the medium of the soap opera – a medium of performing arts – was inspired by a man whose name has attracted a lot of controversy. Some people call him prolific, others an artist while others simply hate the fact that they had to be taught about any of the things that he did purely because they hated school. Whatever the association with this man is, there is no denying that he has immortalized himself into the history books. I know this man by no other name besides William Shakespeare, and he rose to prominence in my mind when I first read Romeo and Juliet.

I am reminded of a story from my experiences in high school where I began to believe that with my knowledge of Shakespeare, I could be chivalrous enough to woo a girl who I was attracted in. Unfortunately, the girl of my romantic desires had her eyes set on someone from the athletics team, leaving me behind with my chivalry and the work of a playwright who has been dead for longer than the existence of my family tree. In retrospect, I am grateful that a relationship between that girl and myself never came to fruition. If a successful relationship did blossom out of our social interactions, who knows if I would have ever recognized the value of what remained from my understanding of Romeo and Juliet when it led to my discovery of the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Sprint?

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“If a successful relationship did blossom out of our social interactions, who knows if I would have ever recognized the value of what remained from my understanding of Romeo and Juliet when it led to my discovery of the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Sprint?”

Giulietta is a term that derives its inspiration from that Shakespearean play set in Verona, Italy. As a matter of fact, Giulietta is the Italian version of the word Juliet; a name that has christened one of many vehicles that have been built by Alfa-Romeo – vehicles that have succeeded in capturing my attention. Perhaps the fact that this car debuted in 1954 – an era that is completely different from mine – is the reason why I have been attracted to it. Unlike the digitized world I was born in, the car represents a degree of authenticity that parallels the authenticity of childhood stories. The car has managed to expose those little treasures that have remained hidden in the back of my mind; waiting for an external equivalent to be measured by. These are treasures that have derived their existence from a childhood of watching soap operas.

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