Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why losing All My Children and One Life makes me a sad panda

Okay, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Really, Sophia? Soaps?" Well, I love soaps. I'll proudly admit it. Here's why.

  1. I was raised on them. My mother used to have them on while she painted. I'd watch them sometimes with her.
  2. When I moved to Paris as a teenager, the soap Santa Barbara had made it across the Atlantic and was one of the few American tv shows. I loved it, and I discovered one of my favorite actors on it: Robin Wright. Oh, also, A. Martinez.
  3. I love the way soaps work. I love their internal logic (if a character gets pregnant, the paternity WILL be in question at some point, regardless of any other consideration, and there's an 85% chance the baby born will be separated from its rightful--not necessarily biological--parents within an hour of its birth--this goes up 1% with each passing hour) and their consistent morality. I'm not saying they're highly moral, just that their morality is consistent. You have characters you can always count on to be good, characters you can always count on to be evil, and characters who move in a more gray area--but there are clear cues as to which hat they are wearing in any given storyline.
  4. I love the extraordinary weirdness they get away with. Plastic surgery: not only is it possible to completely pass for someone else, but all the people who have known and loved the original will be fooled, even after the imposter makes monstrously huge mistakes. And don't get me started on the surprise family relations--only in Victorian classics do people turn out to be related coincidentally as often. And some soaps took this to an extreme. Ever heard of Passions? They had storylines with animated dolls, trips to hell, and witches.
  5. I love that they are on every day of the week and are seemingly endless. It's consistent and reassuring. So I've had a crap day at work? I can turn on my soap and watch the characters make horrible decisions with their lives and feel like, yes, I, at least, am not about to sleep with my sister's new boyfriend because we got stuck in an abandoned mine shaft together.
  6. I love that they take a topic and try to educate their audience with it--to me, watching a soap is a way of gauging what people are thinking about things going on in the world. Which brings me to the next reason:
  7. Soaps can be cutting edge. No, seriously. They can! Anyone who is interested in how gays are represented in the media has probably heard of All My Children. They had the first lesbian kiss on daytime television. They also had a whole storyline around a transgendered character. One Life to Live had a storyline about a male gay couple struggling to adopt a child. This is very cool stuff, people, and it's reaching out into the homes of average Americans. An exciting new show about food is not going to do that.
So I am sad to see AMC and OLTL go. I realize there's no sense in fighting it--people who fight the inevitable baffle me. But what I'm going to hope is that ABC will lose lots and lots of money with this decision. And when, as a result, they realize what a stupid thing they've done, they'll either bring back these two shows or start new ones. Because while soaps may rightfully be known as low brow, they are also immensely valuable.

Do you agree? Or do you think of soaps as trash, and think, "Good riddance"?


  1. Oh, my, Sophia. This is the first I've heard of all this. Yikes. I was a SB fan and I still love Kelly, er --- I mean Robin Wright and A (Cruz). It was a sad day when that soap ended. Mason and Mary: why did they ever break up?

  2. I KNOW!!! How sexy was their storyline? I loved Mason. He was the best.

  3. i appreciate genre. which you celebrate. the nuances are invisible to the uninitiated.

  4. I stopped watching soaps a few years ago, but I am sad to see them go, too. I can match times in my life when I turned to soaps to distract me or maybe, like you said, feel better about my life. Either way, they're comforting. What will Susan Lucci do?

  5. Perry, you're absolutely right.

    Lori, I know! I actually haven't watched much in the last six months. We don't have the tv hooked up--we just use it for DVDs. But I'm still really going to miss these shows. Every so often I would watch an episode on the web, just to check in. :(