Soap On A Rope
BURSTING THE SOAP BUBBLE
I want to end this with us, "the fans." You know, all of us who are blogging, posting to message boards, subscribe to ABC/CBS Soaps in Depth, run fan clubs, post cliché videos of our favorite couples to some incredibly sappy song on YouTube, or — this is important — are close enough friends with Carolyn Hinsey to have shadow columns. (Marcia from Arkansas, how did soaps ever manage to stumble along without your pearls of post-modernist snarky wisdom and pithy wordplay?) We who are also known as "the fans" have got it in our collective heads that we represent all fans everywhere at all times.
We seem to think that the vast majority of soap viewers are like those of us who hopscotch networks, are privy to every spoiler and upcoming plot twist, and follow every casting decision with the same intensity that the rest of the country paid to the recent Presidential election. We do acknowledge disagreements and factions among ourselves, but in our criticism of "the suits" we often speak as if we are of "one" voice. The execs should write what "the fans" want, specifics of which are often contradictory at the very best. Hello Skate, LuSam, Liason, CarJax (not to be confused with CarJackers) fans and your nemesi! I see you peeking! We also think that the soap world turns in a self-contained bubble, where soaps only compete against each other in their respective time slots without regard to any other program that airs against them or market-by-market scheduling consideration. Most interesting enough, we judge our soaps against twentieth century standards in a twenty-first century world.
We must disabuse ourselves of such insular thinking. No one who actually works in Soap Opera thinks that way no matter how much they play to the back of the theater about exclusive primacy of "character driven stories." Like any other sector of televised entertainment, the soap world spins at a faster pace with an ever increasing set of difficult calculations that executives, writers, actors, and even advertisers and affiliates must make that we "the fans" who make no spending decisions, who negotiate no contracts, who employ no crew, who deal with no union, who answer to no demographically obsessed advertiser, who license no show nor cut a single check have to worry about.
This is not to say that every soap fan needs to be well versed in the arcana of television programming, but there are a many who will say, "I don't care about all that stuff, I just want my soap to be good."
Fair enough, but I think it behooves fans as a whole to be more cognizant of these admittedly complicated issues than we have in the past if we are to be more effective advocates for the survival of Soap Opera as a genre and an art form.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, I think the supposed imminent death of soaps is greatly exaggerated.