Letter excerpt with commentary
|I have a number of interests; numbered among them are reading, writing, music, shopping (AKA retail therapy, LOL!), soaps, and video games. Though I promise NOT to write anything about shopping (after all, what is there to say, really?!), the others are fair game.
Following is an extract from a letter written by myself to a soap columnist in 2003. Although many of the details have changed, the big picture remains the same today.
I would have to say that although being entertained is a vital part of why I watch the soaps, it’s not the most important reason that I do so. This leads me to Port Charles. Even though I absolutely adore this show, and have ever since its inception, I must say that the one element that’s always been lacking (as far as I’m concerned) is genuine, heartfelt emotion. Oh, sure, there have been times when the emotional stakes were high, and the payout was just wonderful (Christina’s birth, her mother Julie’s untimely demise, Kevin and Lucy’s dream wedding, among others). Most of the time, however, and particularly since the advent of the arc format, it seems as though PC has relied heavily on gimmicks and glitz. Mind you, said gimmicks have proven very entertaining (vampires, anyone? Gotta love ‘em, and I do!), but the bottom line is that (in the world of soaps, especially) action can never be a substitute for feeling.
Entertainment has its place, and is essential to the enjoyment of any form of drama, but when all is said and done, daytime drama is, and should continue to be, exactly that…drama. Another element that can definitely up the dramatic value of any soap is the presence of a well thought-out, intelligently written, and skillfully presented socially conscious storyline. There have been many of these through the years, some more successful than others---among the most noteworthy are OLTL’s exploration of homophobia, and Robin and Stone and the AIDS storyline on GH. The reason that these are so singularly effective when properly executed can be ascribed to the fact that emotions run high in regards to them. Love them or hate them, they are impossible to ignore. In addition to educating the viewing public, I also believe such stories serve as powerful emotional catalysts; so powerful, in fact, that many viewers have literally had their lives changed because of the impact such storylines can make.
Which brings me to my main reason for being a long-time soap viewer, and that is the emotional release that soaps, at their best, can provide. In no other genre is this same type of catharsis possible. The nature of soaps is that they continue---they’re ongoing, and so people come to know the various characters who inhabit the soaps as well as they do members of their own families. Because we have come to know these characters so well, we can relate to them in a very unique way. They portray all of life’s varying emotions in a larger than life manner; senses are heightened, dilemmas mind-boggling, and life and death situations are the order of the day. One criterion I always use to judge the quality of an individual soap opera episode is whether or not I’ve cried during it---or if not actually been moved to tears, then at least felt something; joy, anger, sorrow, outrage, etc. Laughter is also welcome---it’s not a necessity to be all dreary, all the time; a little levity goes a long ways towards enhancing the quality of any soap!
To sum up then, I would say that although entertainment is nice, and social relevance is an added bonus, the bottom line is how soaps make you feel. If boredom, irritation and frustration are the only emotions that viewing a particular soap evokes, then it’s time to quit watching it, and try another one. The wonderful thing about the genre is that there are almost as many different types of soaps as there are viewers, so something can be found to appeal to virtually everyone. (Although with the cancellation of PC, I’m very much afraid that the thinking person with an interest in the supernatural will have nowhere to turn, cos in my humble opinion Passions just can’t cut it!). In the end, it’s all about the emotion. As Kid Rock so aptly puts it:
“If it looks good,
you’ll see it
if it sounds good,
you’ll hear it
if it’s marketed right,
you’ll buy it
but…if it’s real,
you’ll feel it.”