SoapsWEB creator Steve Frame speaks on the way soaps have changed in the newest column on TVSourceMagazine.com
Steve Frame is the creator and Administrator of SoapsWEB (Soap Opera Adoration & Preservation Society WEB). SoapsWeb is dedicated to preserving the history of the soap opera from its beginnings on radio to today. It is also dedicated to preserving the dignity of the soap opera genre through the preservation of the names that made sacrifices and worked to establish the genre so long ago. If you are interested in the genre and reading about it, you will find much to entertain you. Please visit at http://s15.zetaboards.com/SoapsWeb/index/.
Steve’s knowledge of and passion for the soap genre is one of great admiration and we are thrilled he will be providing TVS with his editorials. Enjoy!
As some of you know, I am one of the oldies. My earliest remembrances of soaps go back to at least 1970 when I would sit at the foot of my grandmother and mother and watch soaps. The earliest soaps I have memories of watching with them are especially As The World Turns, Days of Our Lives, Another World, General Hospital and The Edge of Night which was my grandfather’s favorite. And I would watch All My Children with my Dad.
You could call me a soap nerd all through grammar and high school. When other kids were in love with movie stars and pop singers, my idols and glamour girls and guys were soap stars like Susan Seaforth and George Reinholt and Jacqueline Courtney. No one was more gorgeous or more handsome or sexy to me. At school it didn’t become popular to watch soaps until the Luke & Laura years. Those who watched them before that kept it secret or we were made fun of.
In 38 years of watching soaps, I have seen a lot of changes both on the soaps and outside of the soaps. I will mention a few of those here and give some of my thoughts.
First, when I started watching soaps fans rooted for the hero and the heroine. These were the days when Superman was king and Lex Luther was interesting but you didn’t root for him to win. Every soap had a good girl and a good guy who at times were flawed a little, and the show centered on them and their struggle. While the bad guys and the bad girls were popular too, their popularity didn’t exceed the hero’s. And whenever either a good person or a bad person did something evil it all worked out in the end because they paid in some way.
Bob Hughes had an affair with his sister-in-law. He and Kim were good people and they did love one another. As a result of their affair their child was killed. It was similar to what happened to King David in the Bible when he lusted after Bathsheba and as a result of their adultery David lost his beloved son, Jonathan and had to suffer.
That leads into the second thing that has changed on soaps. Today no one suffers or pays for their crime. I think part of that has lead to the more flawed or bad characters being more popular today and the hero/heroine being deemed weak and no longer lasting on a show. Or maybe it is just the outcome of our changing world that we no longer admire those that try to walk the straight and narrow. We admire those that are sneaky and conniving. We worship them and put them on a pedestal. Today on soaps everybody gets by with everything.
When Bill Horton raped his sister-in-law, Laura, on Days of Our Lives in the 1960’s, they suffered for years before they could get together. They loved one another but they had to suffer and pay for their mistakes before fans accepted them together; same for Julie on the same show who committed adultery with Doug Williams. Bill and Laura waited almost 10 years before they could marry while Doug & Julie took 6 years before they made it to the altar.
Today on the same show within a year EJ raped Sami and ended up married to her with fans forgiving him before he showed any real sign of redemption at all.
Another big thing that I have noticed is that when I started watching there didn’t seem to be this concept of couples who were “destined to be together”. Very few couples ever fully stayed together. The main matriarch and patriarch of the show usually did, but very few couples or supercouples ever stayed together forever. Many popular couples experienced death and fans allowed them to move on. Many went through divorces and went on to find other loves. Today it seems that with this new super couple regime that there is only one true love for an individual and fans don’t allow for growth. Strange in a world with a very high divorce rate that soaps are supposed to portray happy marriages and couples that are destined to be together. For me I like realism mixed with my fantasy.
Those couples were a great part of the show but more importantly their characters were the show. Steve and Alice were a couple on Another World for 9 years before Steve was killed off. They were actually together or married for maybe a whole 2 to 3 years of that time. The rest they were apart – struggling and fighting the odds to be together.
Another thing is that soaps used to be about the characters. Many times fans didn’t even know the names of the actors portraying the characters. I am fully aware that actors deserve their due and I know that it is something that one of my faves, George Reinholt, fought for his whole soap career. But I do think that when the soap actors got popular and well known that it ended up hurting soaps.
Today soaps are not associated with the characters but more with actors. And roles are too. We have these new Internet terms of fake (so and so) or faux (so and so) and real (so and so). It used to be the character was who it was with whatever face it had. When Nicholas Benedict took over for Richard Hatch on All My Children – Phil Brent was still Phil Brent – not the faux Phillip Brent. Susan Harney was still Alice Matthews even though her predecessor Jacqueline Courtney was more popular. Bennye Getteys was still Susan Martin on Days even though Denise Alexander was more popular.
Fans were more forgiving and more accepting. Today they are not and sadly the networks enforce these beliefs when they run advertisements like ABC did announcing in December that the real Greenlee was coming home in 2008.
I guess the biggest change that I have seen is in fans as a whole. It used to be that fans were fans of the whole show. Sure we had our faves that we loved more than others, but overall we loved the whole show. Today fans are so caught up in particular actors and couples that they push the agenda of their fave often times at the expense of the show as a whole.
There are so many other things I could mention that have changed such as the loss of very minor characters that were mainstays throughout the history of the show, the loss of non-speaking characters who were just as real as the characters on the show, the loss of multi-generational stories on the shows, the new emphasis on certain viewers as being more important than all viewers, the loss of actors in favor of models, the loss of great scenes between grandparents and grandchildren when grandparents really looked and acted like grandparents, and the loss of many main families or tent-pole families on the soaps. Perhaps in later editorials, I will talk more about some of these.
I will always love the soap opera genre, but when I get nostalgic and remember the soaps I grew up on it makes me sad to see the genre as it is today. If the genre dies, there will be so many reasons that it happens. We as fans will want to blame the executives, the writers, etc. for it, but we have played just as much a role in it as they have.
Until next time,