Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but why do soaps, soap actors and soap viewers all get such a bad rap? Sometimes, I feel like everywhere I turn, all I see is scorn for the genre. Sports fans are lauded for their loyalty, for having pricey season tickets, lucky chairs and lucky hats. The cast of the SOPRANOS, the showrunners for LOST…they all get kudos for being SO talented. But soap operas are the redheaded stepchildren of media. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gotten the “ew!” look from people when I mention where I work, or, worse, the “oh, that’s too BAD!” look. Like soaps are something to be ashamed of. Baseball fangeekiness is acceptable; sci-fi fangeeking means you’re probably a brainy nerd, but soaps…? GASP! Heck, furries probably look down on soap fans. (If you don’t already know, don’t ask.)

People assume that soaps are just 40 minute filler between pitches for stay-at-home-moms to buy paper towels and toys… that soaps are unimaginative and created by people who couldn’t get “real jobs” in Hollywood. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Look at the CGI used during the Metro Court hostage crisis on GENERAL HOSPITAL and the choreography of all those action sequences. That was freakin’ awesome. Watch Cassie’s death arc on YOUNG AND RESTLESS. Talk about some of the most exquisitely painful and authentic writing and acting! I would rather watch GUIDING LIGHT’s Kim Zimmer doing Reva’s “Slut of Springfield” speech on repeat than ever watch Nicolas Cage’s Oscar-nominated performance in LEAVING LAS VEGAS again. I’m a total sucker for Jack and Carly’s 10-year saga on AS THE WORLD TURNS, whereas that loved-by-women-the-world-over hit, The Notebook, made me laugh my butt off. And for all the “soap actors suck” snobbery, Julianne Moore, Brad Pitt, Meg Ryan, and Demi Moore are just a few people who got their start amidst the suds. For all those SUPERNATURAL and SMALLVILLE fangirls who think Jensen Ackles and Justin Hartley are sooo hotttt…where do you think they came from?

One of the things that I always see soap detractors saying is that you can quit watching a soap for years, come back, and nothing has changed. O RLY? I’m sorry, but saying GENERAL HOSPITAL under Gloria Monty is exactly like GH under Jill Farren Phelps would be like saying there’s no difference between a Woody Allen film and a Michael Bay explode-a-thon because they’re both movies. The oldest soap on air is 71 years old… I’m thinking it has changed in all that time. (Okay, anybody watching GL this year knows that firsthand!) Soaps have definitely adapted to the times, have absolutely played with storytelling conventions and taken chances and pioneered storylines that primetime TV would take years to come up with. Soaps have tackled interracial relationships, abortion, gay rights, the AIDS crisis and autism. They’ve mined society’s darkest issues, like rape, and turned them inside out. (Something I don’t necessarily agree with, but there you have it.) Soaps are not amateurish, fluffy, idiot fodder. (Hey, I know you’re all thinking about PASSIONS, but you have to admit that its wholehearted embracing of camp is admirable.)

And let’s not forget the most important part! Anyone who works for one of the magazines or one of the shows knows full well that you can’t fool a hardcore soap fan. They’re smart, and woebetide anyone who forgets one of Erica’s husbands on AMC or who kills someone off publicly and brings them back to life (yes, B&B, I mean Taylor and I’m looking at you). People who watch soaps come from all walks of life, all educational levels, all genders and all sexual orientations. They aren’t just housewives (Hi, Mom!)…and, really, where does anyone get off using the “just housewives” tag anyway? Housewives are not chopped liver! My mom ran a household and raised two kids, and she is way sharper than anybody I’ve met in a New York bar claiming to have an MBA. Of course, the MBA would probably sneer at hearing I work for Weekly, while my mom was the first person I called when I met GH’s Tristan Rogers (Robert) back in 2005.

So why all the haters? Why is watching a soap something we need to whisper and blush about? Personally, I’m proud to be a soap opera viewer, and proud to work in the soap opera industry. If that makes me a redheaded stepchild, so be it. Just call me Ginger!

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