SoapSuds and Other Afterthoughts
Farewell to a era
by, 09-17-2010 at 01:56 PM (723 Views)
Each loss in life is unique. Two years ago my father died and I wished I could as well. My father was my friend, wise counsel, and the one person in my entire life who always had my back. Even when I was in trouble or he was angry at me, I always knew he would never leave me or stop loving me. That's a tough act to follow.
Losing him left a huge void. I love my mother and siblings, but our relationships are different so the void cannot be filled. Thus, I must adapt.
Today is the last day of As the World Turns. I find myself feeling another void. Ridiculous, right? After all it's not a parent or even a human being, it's a show. Wrong.
My family was military. I got to spend summers at home with my grandparents for much of my youth but other than that, the only constant in my life were the people who lived in our house. My grandmother, when I was five, introduced me to the world of soap operas.
She would watch all of the ones on CBS, remembering when some of them were on the radio, and told me all about the characters. She was housebound due to illness, so for her - these people were an extended family and a glimpse into the outside world beyond her home. I resonated with that and while I could not find purchase in all the shows, I did find elements in a few that I loved. ATWT, GL, and B&B for a short while (until sex ate the writing) were my favorites.
They were shows about families and the dynamics therein. There were villains - who you sometimes came to love and understand - and true evil - who you rooted against with fervor. There were the nice girls - who you kind of hated for their too perfect selves - and the average janes - who reminded you of yourself and you loved. All the people and connections in between, be it via love or business, were part of the canvas of a life.
In the United States, the small town vibe of knowing everyone and being a community that works together in all things is actually not as common as television makes it appear. Too often we lose one another to the daily grind of work and living. We drift apart and, in my opinion, it tears into the fabric of our humanity.
Soap operas give back a little of that sense of touch and connection to us. Be they daytime or primetime, you could "come home" to friends that never moved away and were always doing something fascinating. You could have strong opinions on the way they lived their life without offending anyone. There was a constant variable that no matter where you went was always there.
Think it's too deep for a television show? Perhaps as more people live more full lives outside the home and with social networking, the need for the soap opera in lives has diminished. I don't know if I believe that, however.
When you watch the news, read the paper, and walk past homeless or depravity on the streets - no matter how full your life is, you're affected. It's difficult, especially in a declined economy, to find people who are generally happy and contented. It feels like everyone is struggling. We look to comedy shows and reality shows, but sometimes the humor is too sharp and the reality is too fictional to grasp.
Which brings me back to the void. The loss of GL for me was one of history. A bond with my grandmother and her commentary on that "Reva Shayne". It was a loss of families and characters I grew up with and loved (or hated). It came at a time when I was grieving keenly and yet I was ok with that loss, that farewell because I had my beloved ATWT.
The show with people who were more real than fictional. Everyone was flawed. Everyone had friends and enemies. Everyone had family issues. But somehow, despite that - despite their losses, they found love, joy and prosperity. What a nice kind of hope that gives? Especially in tough times, right?
When ATWT was announced to be going away, I knew in a logical sense that the writing had taken many wrong turns. Not even considering production values and cost of producing a soap opera, because inventiveness could have resolved these issues to my mind, just the many warped backstories was making Oakdale a tough place to write for anymore. People were stuck in a loop and imaginations were no longer soaring. In an emotional sense, however, I was devastated. There should always be hope in Oakdale. Anything can be fixed, it's a soap! New writing blood, new storylines, and homage to history could revive the town. However, it wasn't meant to be.
So much like the loss of my father, I am stunned by the loss of ATWT. I will not look for a show in that time slot to fill the void, nor will I expect any other new shows to grab my attention.
I can't replace my Dad. Nothing can replace the sense of community and family ATWT and GL gave me. I will simply have to grieve and adapt. I do admit, however, that much like in my faith I believe one day I'll see my Dad again...I have a tiny flare of hope that one day I'll see a trend less towards the self-centered, aloof lifestyles of today back towards the community and family of yesterday.
And maybe, just maybe - a couple characters from my past will find themselves in a familiar place again... if not, then at least I have the hope.
To all the performers, the legacy of Doug Marland, and everyone who has been by my side for the 30 years I've been viewing - I wish you all the best. Thank you for being my constant and "Good Night."