We are living in strange times right now, but the one thing we can all agree on is that entertainment is providing the distraction we need from the doom and gloom dominating our lives. Soap operas keep us all together, delivering escapism at its finest. Now that most soaps have run out of new episodes – The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful and soon General Hospital, they have turned to their extensive back catalog of classic episodes to satiate the growing need for content. Revisiting episodes from the past got me thinking: what is your first soap memory?
Was it something shocking? Exciting? Or was it something tender and romantic?
My first soap memory was John (Drake Hogestyn) and Marlena (Deidre Hall) from NBC’s Days of our Lives. I remember sitting on the floor next to my mother’s chair as we watched Marlena and John (then thought to be Roman, as he was not yet revealed to be John Black) reunite on the pier in 1991. Roman had just asked Isabella Toscano (Staci Greason) to marry him, having believed for years that his beloved Marlena had died in a plane crash. It was dark. The fog was thick. He looked over, saw a woman in the mist, and went to turn away as Marlena shouted, “Roman!” The iconic shaking hand, the gasp, and finally the embrace. I was so happy that Roman finally knew his “Doc” was alive, and as much as I adored “IzzyB,” she had to exit stage left.
A few months later, I remember seeing the real Roman in a cell and hearing my mother gasp. I had no idea who Wayne Northrop was. I wasn’t old enough to remember his Roman. To me, Drake was Roman. I remember asking my mother why she had that reaction and she said, “Because that’s Roman!” It was my first experience with the original portrayer returning to play a character they originated. I had no idea what the show would do. My Roman had just had the love of his life come back into his life. My Roman had just broken Isabella’s heart. Who was this person coming back and claiming to be Roman? Needless to say, I was confused. (I was 6 or 7; give me a break!)
I have often wondered why that memory sticks out to me so much. Was it the electric chemistry between Deidre and Drake? The chemistry that never died between Deidre and Wayne? Remember, Roman was initially brought to town as a love interest for Marlena and we owe her for the Brady clan being in Salem to this day. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the story. The attempt to replicate this story has happened many times yielding success and disappointing results (sorry, General Hospital!).
There were no bad guys in this triangle. Roman was presumed dead and held captive. Marlena was made to think that John was her presumed dead husband. Poor John had no memories. Roman went through hell only to find out everyone he held near and dear thought an imposter was him. His parents loved John, his children, his wife. How do you move on?
Marlena had brought John back to town and told everyone he was her husband. How do you live with that kind of guilt? She brought him into her children’s lives, telling them he was their father. She told his siblings Bo, Kayla and Kim, and their parents Shawn and Caroline, that he was their blood. She took another man into her bed without hesitation or doubt. How do you explain that to your husband?
John’s situation was probably the worst of all. For years, he thought he had a place. He thought he had people who loved him, a wife, children. His entire identity, his sense of being and self was ripped away from him. How do you cope? Where does the love you held for these people go? Do you leave? Do you stay? What kind of life do you make for yourself?
This story had far-reaching consequences that set off a chain of events that are still felt on the canvas to this day. John and Marlena eventually had an affair and conceived Belle. Sami switched the paternity test and then kidnapped Belle and tried to sell her on the black market. John rescued Belle, only to have Stefano shame Marlena into admitting to her affair during the baby’s christening! The paternity truth was later revealed and Marlena and Roman broke up! Sami hated her mother and John for decades it seemed. John and Marlena eventually got back together after dealing with a crazy Kristen (who is now in love with John’s son, Brady!), only for John to be brainwashed by Hope (who thought she was Princess Gina) who shagged him on his honeymoon in Hawaii!
Oh, throw in a possession by the devil and an exorcism by Father Black somewhere in the middle of all that.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, you had Bo with Hope, Carly, Billie and then Hope again. Peter Reckell left the show, Robert Kelker-Kelly replaced him… Only to be axed for Peter to come back (Sound familiar?). Carly was buried alive by a crazy Vivian Alamain. Isabella died in John’s arms of the same cancer that took my father about six months after she died.
This show was the drumbeat of my childhood. No matter how bad my life got, I could tell myself I had never been buried alive, or about to marry the man I love only to find out that his presumed dead wife was back from the dead. I don’t know about you, but I don’t watch soaps for a moral compass or for tips on how to live a better life. I watch for triangles like John/Marlena/Roman and Hope/Bo/Billie. I watch for the drama, the passion, the evil twins and the villains that make me secretly root for them.
So, how have soaps shaped my life?I still can’t hear “The Muffin Man” without cringing, but that’s another soap, another life, Another World.
What is your first soap memory? Tell us in the comments!! #MyFirstSoapMemory