Soap operas offer the ultimate form of escapism. Watching the reel lives of our fictional favorites provides a break from real life. Soaps allow us to set our worries aside and immerse ourselves in a world of billion-dollar business deals, sexy super spies, and true love. When the show ends, the fun truly begins. We form communities with other fans to share theories, read spoilers, create fan works, or debate storylines. Some of us even attend online or live events.

Escapism is awesome. However, it loses its charm when the thing you’re escaping from follows you into the place you’re escaping to. Black women who seek refuge from real-world misogynoir in soap operas can find themselves enduring it in the very spaces they sought solace.

Misogynoir, a term defined by Dr. Moya Bailey and expanded on by Trudy, aka TheTrudz, and the Crunk Feminist Collective, refers to the specific combination of misogyny, sexism, and anti-Black racism experienced by and directed towards Black women in pop culture, institutional environments, and social settings.

Some of you may feel uncomfortable now. But if merely acknowledging the existence of misogynoir elicits discomfort, imagine how it feels to experience it.

Imagine how it feels for a Black actress to learn her character will be begging for the life of a character who routinely made racist comments and committed microaggressions. Imagine how it feels for a Black actress to log onto her Twitter account, check her notifications, and discover she’s been sent monkey and banana emojis, compared to a gorilla, and called slurs by fans of her show. Imagine how it feels to be a Black woman and consistently encounter posts on a popular message board that freely and frequently employ coded language and dog whistles such as “aggressive,” “loud,” and “argumentative” when discussing Black female characters. Imagine how it feels to be a Black woman and go into the hashtag of your favorite soap and see accounts donning digital blackface for no other reason than to degrade a Black actress, the character she portrays, and antagonize her Black fans.

With that in mind, I hope those of you who feel uneasy understand why I am not catering to your comfort.

Photo Credit: (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

Western media and its associated fandoms tend to prioritize and elevate whiteness. Whiteness is considered the default norm and the perspective used to depict both “universal” experiences like coming of age, as well as unique experiences like coming out. The assumption is that the audience, including people of color (POC), will effortlessly relate to white characters and find them worthy of support, deserving of protection, or otherwise rootable. In contrast, characters of color in general, Black characters particularly, and Black female characters specifically often receive less care and consideration both onscreen and from audiences. Even if they are the main character or play a central role in the story, they are viewed as less sympathetic, relatable, or deserving of support and protection, even if they experience injury, trauma, terror, or death.

I understand accepting this might be challenging, and some of you may instinctively disagree. However, I will provide specific examples to illustrate how this occurs in respect to soaps, both onscreen and in fandom spaces:

1. Fully exploring the point of view and centering the feelings, motivations, and desires of white characters while disregarding or diminishing the role of a Black woman in the same story or their own story (e.g., Days of Our Lives making Jada Hunter’s decision to have an abortion all about Eric Brady’s disappointment, Nicole Walker’s feelings, and the implosion of their relationship while giving Jada minimal focus and dramatically reducing her airtime but keeping ‘Ericole’ front and center or General Hospital consistently sidelining Trina Robinson in her storylines and prioritizing the feelings, character development, and POV of others, including the racist who tormented her, over hers).

2. Minimizing the actions of or making allowances for the misdeeds or “mistakes” made by white characters while refusing to grant the same grace and understanding to Black women (e.g., General Hospital’s Curtis Ashford having no issues with walking out on both Jordan and Portia over their dishonesty, while being a staunch defender of Hayden and Nina, despite their numerous lies and manipulations).

Photo Credit: JPI

3. Advocating for or easily accepting the redemption of white villains or allowing them to escape severe punishment while simultaneously having Black female characters harshly punished or made to suffer for their wrongdoings, whether their character is villainous or not (e.g., Days of our Lives crafting a storyline where every white villain on the canvas, including a murderer, a rapist, and a domestic terrorist, were granted pardons and released from prison but Lani Price-Grant was left behind bars to serve her sentence or The Bold and the Beautiful having both Zoe and Flo initially suffer consequences for their parts in keeping Hope Logan separated from her daughter but Zoe’s story ending with her leaving town heartbroken and humiliated, while Flo’s has seemingly ended with her engagement to the love of her life, forgiveness from her newfound family, and a cushy position in the family business).

4. A show’s fandom singling out and treating a Black female character as if she is the sole reason their white favorite isn’t getting ___ or audiences uncritically accepting stereotypical tropes that paint Black women in a negative light for the benefit of white characters (e.g., General Hospital fans advocating for more airtime for Kristina or Elizabeth by specifically asking that Portia or Jordan be written out as opposed to one of the MANY white characters on the show, or The Young and the Restless fans having no issues with Elena being characterized as a nagging, unsupportive, constantly critical bore who only wanted to take a nap to facilitate Nate and Victoria’s affair).

Photo Credit (ABC/Christine Bartolucci)

5. Understanding that love, romance, and passion are a huge part of what viewers tune in to see…until it’s time for a Black woman to experience those things. Then suddenly it’s, “Why can’t people just be friends” or “Not everyone needs to be in a relationship” or the pointedly specific non-specific complaints regarding “a lack of chemistry” from fans or the show putting a Black woman in a relationship but having it take part largely offscreen or rarely be featured (e.g., Days of our Lives putting Allie and Chanel together and then writing absolutely nothing for them until it was time for them to break up, General Hospital managing to find a love interest for everyone from a newly divorced Carly to the diabolical Dr. Obrecht while being unwilling to so much as chemistry test Jordan Ashford with a new man or The Bold and the Beautiful deciding to derail Paris and Zende’s relationship to reduce her to nothing more than an obstacle for Quinn and Carter).

I know that despite the examples I just gave, some of you are still in pushback mode. I can hear all the various reasons why I’m wrong. Let’s address these hypothetical points one by one.

“No one even likes Paris, and Diamond’s acting needs work!”

It must be understood that misogynoir does not depend on whether a character is beloved or if an actress is talented. Jackée Harry is a cultural icon. From her roles on ‘227’, ‘The Women of Brewster Place’, and ‘Sister, Sister’, to her guest appearances on ‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ and ‘Pose’, she has demonstrated talent that has kept her consistently employed and has resulted in multiple NAACP awards and an Emmy award. Despite the active and vocal fanbase for Paulina Price, the character she portrays on ‘Days of Our Lives’, and the evident talent and love for Jackée, microaggressions and misogynoir persist when Paulina becomes a topic of discussion.

“They never center Elizabeth in her stories either!”

As a dedicated fan of Elizabeth Webber since day one, I empathize and agree with these sentiments. However, it’s crucial to note that Elizabeth’s lack of focus in her stories isn’t related to her race. Conversely, Trina’s lack of centralization in her stories is directly linked to her being Black. While both characters are underserved, the underlying reasons for their treatment are distinct. Thus, while the outcomes may seem similar, it’s crucial to recognize that these situations are not equivalent.

“Janel is the better ship anyway!”

Your ship preference is irrelevant because, interestingly, they didn’t write for Janel either. Both ships had vocal, passionate, supportive fanbases, and both ships were abruptly discontinued. Ultimately, Chanel remains alone.

“All celebrities get sent hate.”

Indeed, stating the obvious – water is wet. Returning to the discussion, it is essential to emphasize that we are addressing the targeted harassment of an actress because she is Black, with no other justification. It is crucial to acknowledge that these situations are fundamentally distinct and cannot be equated.

“It’s not that deep, it’s just a soap.”

Like all media, soaps are both a mirror that reflects our current cultural attitudes and values and a tool that helps shape them. They do not exist in a vacuum, and, like all art, there is a political element to them. Respectfully, the issue is that profound.

“Oh, so now I’m racist if I don’t like___ or don’t ship ____.”

No one insists that you must be a fan of anyone or support any ship. Nobody is saying you’re not allowed to dislike any Black female characters or not be a fan of a specific Black actress. However, I am declaring emphatically that it reflects poorly on you if you hold Black actresses and their characters to standards that you never impose on your non-Black favorites, or if the common denominator in every ship you disapprove of includes a Black woman.

“Well, that’s just your opinion.”

This is not just my opinion. I asked other Black soap opera fans for their opinion on the prevalence of misogynoir in the genre and received permission to share their responses. The responses I received were insightful and brutally honest.

*Names have been changed to prevent harassment and answers have been edited for clarity.*

I feel like Black actresses/characters are not always given the opportunity to fully display their talent. They are not showcased as frequently and have to make do with the limited airtime they receive. On Y&R, Hilary was killed off (along with her unborn baby), and the former head writer, Mal Young, referred to it as a gift. While the misogynoir in the stories may not always be overt, there have been instances that have made me take a second look.

A notable example is how General Hospital’s Dr. Portia Robinson has been grappling with the consequences of her mistake/secret for over three months, which is a significant portion of a year. She has come close to losing her husband (who cheated on her), and her daughter, who holds great importance in her life, refuses to speak to her.

Non-Black characters have kept secrets and, when exposed, have barely faced any consequences. Black female characters sometimes lack meaningful character development unless it revolves around trauma, and even then, it may not be depicted on screen. Y&R introduced Naya’s cancer storyline for Amanda and Imani’s mother, which predominantly played out off-screen. Many fans remain dissatisfied with B&B completely eliminating its only Black family, The Avants.

Felisha Cooper, Obba Babatunde, Karla Mosley, Anna Marie Horsford, Reign Edwards “The Bold and the Beautiful” Set CBS Television City Los Angeles, Ca. 10/29/15 © sean smith/jpistudios.com

I feel like Black actresses/characters are caught in a lose-lose situation. If the character is morally upright, they cannot make even minor mistakes, and when they do, it often triggers an unnecessary backlash from the fandom. And when they are portrayed as flawless (making little to no mistakes), they are labeled as ‘boring’ or ‘annoying.’ Every action they take is scrutinized, often with negative judgment. If a Black female character is paired with a desirable male character, it is frequently dismissed as ‘more like a brother and sister’ or suggested that they should remain friends.

I have called out misogynoir in fandom spaces, not limited to soap opera fandom, and have faced resistance. People have accused me of ‘playing the race card’ because they refuse to acknowledge why their comments are offensive. My concerns have been trivialized and disregarded. Whenever I observe it, I will always speak up. I have yet to witness internalized misogynoir within soap fandom, but it is prevalent in other communities. Some individuals allow themselves to be used as props for others’ racist beliefs.


Without much thought, it’s evident that Black female characters lack complete development. Their stories often serve only to advance the plot of a white or white-adjacent character. The narratives surrounding Black female characters rarely receive thorough exploration. I began watching soaps when I was around 14 or 15, starting with General Hospital. I was drawn to Gia, but she never received the investment and development she deserved. Black female characters were treated as temporary fixtures, and their relationships were never taken seriously. If they were in an interracial pairing and got married, their relationship wasn’t portrayed with the same depth as their white counterparts. If they were married to another Black person, they received minimal focus in storylines or were abruptly written off.

I have witnessed racism from white fans directed towards Black female characters. I wouldn’t say it’s more prevalent now, but rather more visible. Days of our Lives’ Lani Price and GH’s Trina Robinson face the harshest criticisms. I believe Amanda Sinclair/Hilary Curtis on Y&R also encountered some. Trina and Lani are deemed “not good enough” for Eli and Spencer, with no valid justification given. And when those making these claims are pressed to name who they would prefer to see these men with, it’s usually someone white or non-Black who has committed similar or even worse actions than Trina or Lani. Yet, the treatment is different for non-Black characters.

Photo Credit: (ABC/Christine Bartolucci)

Suddenly, it’s argued that “not all characters have to be good; they can be morally ambiguous, or they’ve faced consequences for their actions.” This leniency is not extended to Black female characters. The show completely disregarded the troubling optics of Lani having to kneel before another woman of color for the sake of a racist storyline, and when we voiced our concerns, we were told to accept it if we wanted Lani to have a story.

I do notice that more fans came forward to defend Trina when she debuted, which is encouraging, but there is still an abundance of poor writing and characterization for Black female characters. It’s like taking one-quarter step forward and then stumbling eighty steps back.


I have witnessed misogynoir within fandom spaces, and I believe it reflects the attitudes presented in the show itself. When a show fails to create room for a diverse range of experiences for Black women and girls, it sets a particular tone. Let’s take General Hospital as an example. The two most prominent Black women characters on the show were introduced through paternity drama. While Trina receives significant attention for her popular pairing, her character development has been halted in favor of prioritizing the growth of her white male love interest.

In my personal experience within fandom, I have seen the voices of Black women silenced or ridiculed if they deviate from the mainstream opinion. It seems that “mainstream” GH Twitter only cares about protecting Trina, while the same level of nuance isn’t extended to Jordan, Portia, Stella, and others. Black women viewers have made a deliberate effort to uplift the Black women we see on our screens, but this responsibility should not rest solely on our shoulders.

Shows need to address race, emphasize the necessity of these stories, and stop catering to those who resist the idea of Black women being fully developed characters. To avoid being targeted and gaslit, I decided to distance myself from soap Twitter. Additionally, since my Twitter is also connected to my professional work, I can’t afford to have people look me up and see me involved in fandom conflicts, so I chose to stop tweeting about the show altogether.


I have been watching soaps since I was a little girl. I took a break during college around 2005 or 2006 and then returned in 2019. While I have always been involved in social media, I am sometimes taken aback by the fact that people say things online that they wouldn’t say to your face. However, I have become adept at muting and blocking individuals who exhibit hateful behavior.

It is disheartening when negative comments are made about an actress’s hair or appearance. Black women are often expected to conform to certain standards of beauty and behavior, and if they deviate from those expectations, they are called out for it. Black actresses have to fight for meaningful storylines, particularly lead roles. And if they appear on-screen for 2 or 3 days a week, there are often complaints online about their character being overexposed, even if they hadn’t been seen for weeks prior. Personally, I love seeing women who look like me represented on my screen. Our stories deserve to be told too.


My experience in the Sprina fandom has been a mix of positive and negative. I am grateful for everything we have achieved, but it is frustrating to think about why fans have to fight so hard to have this particular story told. All we want is for Trina and Spencer’s love story to be given attention. Trina is not afforded the same opportunities as others, especially her white female co-stars. I want Trina to have the same freedom of expression that Joss has and be allowed to assert herself against others, just like her best friend does. I don’t want her to be relegated to a mere talking character.


My journey in the soap world has been enlightening. In the Days fandom, whenever we discussed Black characters facing hate due to their Blackness, there was always someone who would bring up a white character receiving hate to dismiss our concerns. When Chanel was introduced, she often seemed like an afterthought in conversations. Tweets would mention Ciara, Allie, and Chanel, with Chanel being mentioned last, as if she was added to make it appear that they cared about her as much as her white peers. I’ve also noticed that fans of white characters are less bothered when a white character they love is paired with a Black man, but if it’s a white male character they adore paired with a Black woman, it becomes a big problem. They find ways to criticize her.

Photo Credit: JPI

Being part of the soap fandom made me reconsider how I approach tweeting about Black characters, especially when the fandom is predominantly non-Black. I observed how some Black fans would support white characters involved in rivalries with Black characters, even when their non-Black mutuals spoke about them disrespectfully. It was a major turn-off. Microaggressions were already enough to warrant a response, but seeing mutuals being racist as well? After witnessing that, there are Black characters and certain topics I avoid tweeting about because it only adds to the pile of hate that they already receive, and it opens the door for ignorant white fans to feel entitled to comment on her and make remarks about her hair or appearance.


I believe soap Twitter is on par with reality Twitter when it comes to their disdain for Black women. Soap Twitter doesn’t hide it, and I doubt it will improve. I also think that the writers and those in charge contribute to the perpetuation of misogynoir, particularly by white women. They don’t consistently write for Black women, and when they do, they often rely on negative tropes. When that happens, these white women can defend themselves by saying, “I’m not being misogynistic or racist towards Black women because this is what we saw, it was written, and it wasn’t overtly racist (to me).”

I also think those in charge enable the mistreatment of Black actresses by fandoms because they don’t step up to defend them. Even some of their co-stars seem to endorse the harassment and abuse by not supporting them. In my experience, the fandom where I have seen the most internalized misogynoir and misogyny in general within the soap world is DAYS. Just look at the aftermath of Lani shooting TR and how it was handled. Look at Jada and the way her abortion story was portrayed.

With Trina on GH, I believe it’s more subtle due to her age. Discussions about her are often filled with comments like, “They should try Spencer and Joss,” as if Trina doesn’t deserve a love interest who genuinely wants her. Racist individuals respond to Trina and Spencer’s relationship by saying, “Oh, he can’t possibly like her,” which is also prevalent in reality TV, which can be considered a form of soap opera. I have faced pushback when I’ve spoken up, with people telling me, “Don’t make it about race.” However, I have mostly stayed silent to avoid harassment and also because I don’t want to argue with people who refuse to acknowledge what is clearly present.


I have witnessed misogynoir, although I haven’t always used that term to describe it. I can recognize the behavior, though. The disparity in how fans treat Black women and their characters is as blatant as a brick to the face.

For instance, Hilary Curtis was deemed the worst person on Earth, while a character like Mariah Copeland, who had a similar introduction, was quickly forgiven because of the actress who portrayed her and her connections. Lani Price has been accused of things that directly contradict the show’s narrative, like her “lying” to Eli about what she witnessed when she caught Gabi and JJ together, as if it was normal for Gabi to put on JJ’s t-shirt and get into bed with him. Recently, some viewers were convinced that Jada Hunter lied about terminating her pregnancy on Days, despite no evidence within the storyline pointing in that direction. On the other hand, Nicole, who has conspired to commit murder and engaged in various crimes, even manipulating Jada into having an abortion, is perceived as “misguided” or “misunderstood” and given the benefit of the doubt.

Photo Credit: JPI

I believe misogynoir limits the types of stories writers are willing to tell with Black characters. And even when a story is told, there is often little to no consideration given to the character being Black. The narratives are frequently cut short because the writers cannot envision going beyond the original plot and exploring the depth of the character. A Black woman can’t be the focal point of any story, so they don’t bother treating her as a fully developed person.

It also affects casting decisions, with some characters becoming more ethnically ambiguous or lighter in complexion when recast, like Destiny Evans on OLTL or Simone Russell on Passions. Misogynoir literally dictates the types of Black women we are even allowed to see on screen. Tabyana Ali as Trina Robinson is significant for multiple reasons, including her appearance and how the show has positioned her to potentially drive the story. By the time I speak up about something, I have reached the point of not caring who agrees or disagrees. And I think people just block me right away, but that could be because I’m a man.


Misogynoir is not just my opinion or an exaggeration; it exists in both real life and reel life and causes real harm. Misogynoir is evident in General Hospital when Portia’s character transitions from being a protective mother to a meddlesome mom by engaging with a racist character who jeopardized her daughter’s life and freedom. Moreover, it is reflected in the way their interactions are written, which protects Esme while leaving Portia vulnerable and unsupported.

Misogynoir is seen in Bold and Beautiful fans’ responses, such as using derogatory comments like “slut alert” and perpetuating harmful stereotypes when discussing Paris and speculating about a potential RJ/Paris pairing. These comments diminish Paris’s character, despite her having had only two relationships on the show, one of which she intended to pursue marriage.

Misogynoir is witnessed in The Young and The Restless, where Mishael Morgan is treated as an afterthought, disregarding her significant, historic Emmy win.

Misogynoir is when Black women are silenced, harassed, gaslit, or accused of being “the real racists” by fellow fans when we speak out against the anti-Black harassment, abuse, and racism faced by our favorite actresses and the characters they portray.

Misogynoir is observing fans, soap press, and co-stars uniting to protect and defend white actresses from online hate or inappropriate comments, while not providing the same level of support when it’s Black actresses in need of protection.

If you are active in any soap fandom and witness misogynoir, push back against it as strongly as you challenge the denial of its existence. When Black women critique a story for perpetuating misogynoir, don’t be too quick to dismiss their valid concerns or condescendingly remind everyone that “it’s just a soap.”

If you are a moderator on a message board and notice dog whistles (such as loud, uppity, aggressive) being used when discussing Black women, issue warnings, enforce bans, or shut down problematic threads.

If you come across a racist meme or post targeting a Black actress or her character while scrolling social media, report it. If you see your Facebook friends or Twitter mutuals being disrespectful towards a Black actress’s appearance or abilities, call them out or engage in a constructive conversation, but don’t simply let it slide.

Escapism is a pleasure that everyone should be able to enjoy. The fandom communities we have created around the soaps we love should be spaces where Black women, both real and fictional, are celebrated and appreciated rather than denigrated and put on the defensive. Black women are not asking for special treatment; we are simply asking for equal and fair treatment. We are asking for the opportunity to escape too.

Dylan St. Jaymes
Dylan St. James is an author, blogger and semi-professional wig snatcher. She is a former writer for Love in Panels and is presently a co-host on the Soapdish: Salem Style Podcast.

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