Why Waste Time Watching Soap Operas?
The soap opera is truly an America phenomenon.
Each and every weekday, millions of people from all over the world tune in
to their favorite soap to follow the trials and tribulations of their favorite
characters. Lives are portrayed with passion, courage, love; stories are told
with a flair for the outrageous, or even a hint of danger. One soap opera
even went so far as to use the devil and Satan as one of its storylines!
Soap operas have been on television since 1952, with the debut of what was a radio show "Guiding Light". This is the longest running continuous soap on TV. The term “soap opera” is deceiving, for it is not about soap, nor is it an opera! It is called this because soap companies were big sponsors of the radio shows back in the 1930s, when soaps like Guiding Light were being aired. The opera part comes from the fact that operas tell a story, just as the soaps do. What makes a soap opera unique is that the story never ends, that is why soaps like GL can be on the air (either radio or TV) for more than 50 years!
Soap characters are like every day people, but then again, they are really very fictional. Soap people never seem to age, or they age very rapidly, as in the case of children being children one day and teenagers the next!! Characters are always perfectly dressed, with perfect hair, perfect clothes, and perfect jobs, where the money never runs out, and babysitting is always available on a moment’s notice, so that if the hero needs to save the day, he or she can!
Characteristics of a Soap Opera
Soaps are popular among all gender lines, any
demographic group or region, all over the world. However, their main focus
years ago was the “housewife”, and stories were geared toward
the market of women aged 18-49. Although this has changed a lot over the last
50 years, many stories are directed at the romantic, dangerous side, the kind
of stories that bring the viewer in and make them want to watch, day after
Soap stories are usually in the form of an “arc”, a long-term story that plays out over a few months, and then leads to another “arc” to keep the story going. Different types of soaps, whether it be daytime or nighttime use this arc to keep the viewers interested, however, a daytime soap can usually go into more detail. Evening soaps are typically only once a week, for an hour per show, which means that an arc could not delve as deeply into storyline as a daily show does.
The Popular Soaps
Among the most popular soaps in American culture are "Days of Our Lives", "The Young and the Restless", "All My Children" and "Guiding Light". Many soaps have come and gone such as "Generations", "Ryan’s Hope", "Edge of Night", "Another World", and "Search for Tomorrow". The soaps remain popular because they have a strong following, a devoted fan base that keeps them on the air. Although the myth is that soap operas are made for housewives and working class women, the demographics of viewers reveal that people of all economic levels, men and women, enjoy a good narrative story that never ends!
Famous Soap Opera Personalities
Many famous people are associated with soap operas,
not just actors and actresses but behind the scenes like writers and producers.
Among the famous actors are big name stars in soapdom like Susan Lucci ("All
My Children"), Deirdre Hall ("Days of Our Lives") and Anthony
Geary ("General Hospital"). There are some famous soap writers,
such as Irma Phillips, an icon in soap opera history. She wrote some major
soap opera legends such as "Guiding Light", back in the 1930’s,
and then "As the World Turns" in 1956. Subsequently, she and co-creator
Ted Corday wrote "Days of Our Lives" in 1965. The reins for Days
were handed down to son Ken Corday when father Ted passed away.
Another soap opera icon was Agnes Nixon. She originally worked under Irma Phillips, but then branched out with her own ideas, creating other soap legends "One Life to Live" (1968) and "All My Children" (1970). Of course many people have become famous subsequent to portraying characters on soap operas, such as Kevin Bacon, Meg Ryan, Brad Pitt and Marisa Tomei.
Soap operas have evolved over the many years, from radio to half hour TV shows, to one-hour daytime and nighttime storylines that last for months or even years at a time. Soaps have been the jumping board for social issues, health issues, even political issues. Actors and actresses have gotten their start on soaps and moved on to bigger (sometimes better) projects, and writers and producers have found a home on the different networks that broadcast them. Although soaps have had a tough time competing in an ever-increasing television market, they are here to stay; loyal fans will never give them up without a fight!
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