Deepest Condolences, Soap Fans

With absolutely no joking or sarcasm, I offer my deepest condolences to my co-blogger and all the other One Life to Live fans.

I can’t even come close to claiming I’m a soap fan in the traditional sense.  Outside of vague memories of my Mom watching All My Children, and Kristy keeping me entertained with well reasoned and supported arguments as to why one Joey Buchanan was the best, and retelling highlights of plots, I am all but soap ignorant.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t see where ABC’s misguided assumptions about achieving a bottom line have created a cultural travesty.  To replace something that’s endured for over 40 years with, well, reality tv, is abominable.

Oh, I get the business reasons.  It’s cheaper, yadda yadda yadda.  Believe me, I know.  I also know that business jack-asses rarely know as much as they think they know and statistics are easily manipulated.  Dollars and cents wise it may be cheaper to go to a reality show with lower production costs, even if the audience shrinks–at least in the short run.  Long run?  I’ve got my doubts.  Soaps are another victim in the ranks of creative programming (and by creative, I mean requiring writing and acting creativity, not just editing).

Even if I didn’t doubt the accuracy of the business decision, I’d still hate the over all cultural impact.  For one thing, it’s hard not to see the downfall of One Life to Live and All My Children has a kind of insult to women.  We’re the overwhelming portion of the viewership for soaps and have been from the start. And before that?  We were a listener-ship when these types of works were on the radio. For many of the soap fans I know, they started watching because older female relatives watched.  Kristy acknowledges her memories of her Mom watching soaps.  My Aunt (a PhD scientist) watched occasionally because my Grandma watches.  Another friend of mine watched because it was part of her summer stays with her Grandma who has passed on.  A girl in law school talked about watching with her Mom and Aunt to learn English when they came to the U.S.  Take away a multi-generational point of connection for so many women, and it’s hard not to have your feminist hackles rise a bit.

Additionally, while I never really dove into the genre, I’ve always been able to respect the unique way a soap is driven.  From a writing perspective, I’m in bloody awe. When you think that one of these series entails generating written scripts for Every. Single. Weekday. For. Decades.  Even if you have multiple writers, you have got to tip your hat to that–after all, sitcoms have whole teams of writers, too and they’re sure as shit not that prolific.  These writer are juggling an ensemble cast and at this point, over 30 years of back-story.  Creatively, that’s just fuckin’ impressive.  And for the actors?  Amazing.  I’m not going to claim that all soap actors are great (ZOMG, I have seen some seriously painful scenes in my channel surfing times), but when you pause to consider that these people are memorizing and performing a different script every week day of every week, year in and year out?  I can’t memorize a 6 item grocery list.  It took honest and painful effort to get myself off-book when I was playing a teensy little roll in Julius Caesar (Kristy’s fault) with maybe 5 lines, let alone entire scenes.  These people are acting machines!  In high school I got sent to a summer nerd camp for humanities and  arts.  One of the girls attending for drama was telling me how she really wanted to go into soaps.  She liked the idea of getting to play one role, but having new material every day and not spending a lot of time on that material.  She memorized quickly and liked to play the scene and move on to something else, so the world of soaps seemed to fit like nothing else.  Until then, I’d not really thought of the unique work this kind of programming offered for actors.  Now what will fill that creative-style void?

And the real shit of it is that through Kristy’s tweets and re-tweets about the end of the series, I was more intrigued than I’ve ever been before (even more than when Kristy was telling me about how someone had a sassy black woman in their head–honestly, how can you not have your interest piqued by that?).  A little activity like that on the part of the damn network would probably have resulted in drawing in more viewers like me and–with only minimal cost to capitalize on the power of social media–tipped that scale to a point where reality TV would be way less of a bargain that it is alleged to be.

But they didn’t, and now it’s just a sad day for a large fandom.  I’m truly sorry.

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