Soap on a Trope: Love Romance? Try Daytime!

I’ve loved soaps and romance for as long as I can remember. Honestly, they go together like peanut butter and chocolate, strawberries and cream, Jeremy Renner and me…wait, where was I? Ahem. Yes. With only four daytime soap operas currently on air (sniffle!), it’s easier than ever to find the one that works for you. If you’re a fan of women’s fiction, romance novels and erotic romance, then here’s a handy-dandy cheat sheet to hook you up with an appropriate daytime drama!

NBC

-NBC

The Italian Billionaire’s Pregnant Mistress

If you devour category romances by the armful, then Days of our Lives is the show for you. Salem has both Harlequin Presents’ alphaholes and tycoons and honorable blue-collar heroes lifted straight from the pages of a Harlequin SuperRomance. And secret babies. ALL the secret babies.

-ABC

-ABC

A Shot in the Dark

Love pulse-pounding romantic suspense, dark and dangerous men, skullduggery and a flash of humor? Pair up with Port Charles, where General Hospital excels in both bullets and blade-sharp wit. Fans of J.M. Darhower or Karina Halle might love Sonny Corinthos.

Bill-and-Brooke

-CBS

Beautifully Broken

If steamy billionaire erotica is your bag, then you can’t go wrong with The Bold and the Beautiful, where Dollar Bill Spencer burns up the sheets with half the ladies of Los Angeles. This is also where you’ll find some angsty New Adult storylines akin to J. Lynn, Abbi Glines, etc.

-CBS

-CBS

Small Town, Big Business

Virgin River. Fool’s Gold. Genoa City. If you like a charming small town brimming with drama, The Young and the Restless is where it’s at. High school sweethearts still carry torches, boardrooms are as hot as bedrooms and Victor Newman makes Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life look like a saint.

Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL is in the midst of a big story involving Stephanie and the plight of the homeless community on L.A.’s Skid Row, and I’d like to discuss the pluses and minuses. I was actually thinking of doing it in print, but I have so much going on in my head that I don’t think it would all fit on one page. So buckle up (or bail out!) as I get myself in gear!

Conceptually and stylistically, B&B’s location scenes have been beautiful. The Angels Flight sequence last Wednesday, intercut with Stephanie, Brooke and Taylor all having flashbacks, was gorgeous. You really got the bittersweet sense that Stephanie was looking forward to ascending to another plane. And I love the following episodes being a callback to Stephanie’s time wandering the streets in 1991. I thought it was incredibly haunting and on point when she observed, “This is my town. I live 20 minutes away, yet it seems a thousand miles away. I promised I’d make a difference. Instead, when I see them, I turn away.” By the time “Lean on Me” cued up, I was sniffling. And the last shot of Friday’s air show, of Ann’s scarf floating off on the breeze, was breathtaking. (I was “off duty,” on vacation with extended family that day, and still watched. That’s how much I love this show!)

I think the idea of Stephanie deciding to fight her cancer so she can do some good is wonderful. It’s a great message to put out there: that those with privilege and power should give back to the less-fortunate. “What have I done with my life? What is my burden compared to theirs?” Stephanie mused. Those are questions more people should ask themselves! We live in a very materialistic world, where it’s all about lining up for the unveiling of the iPad and filling your Hummer’s gas tank. Punk kids from the Jersey Shore become rich and famous simply for being punk kids from the Jersey Shore while teachers get laid off and schools get shut down. So I like that B&B is shedding light on such an important, still relevant, topic. I remember when Phil Collins’ Grammy-winning “Another Day in Paradise” came out in 1989. I was 11 and it was my first real exposure to the issue of homelessness. I was floored by the power of the song and the message — as many others were. That our society and our government hasn’t really improved the homeless situation in this country since that song’s release, and since Stephanie’s initial journey, is a sad state of affairs. So, kudos to B&B for reminding us that there is still much to do.

Aaaand now for the more delicate and critical part of my entry. If you don’t want to read a lot of pontificating about racial dynamics, you can hit your ‘Back’ button now.

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Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

Is the Daytime Emmy Awards broadcast already upon us Gasp! That means it’s time for my 3rd Annual Mala’s Made-Up Awards. For those just tuning in to my blog, this is where I totally punk out of making Emmy predictions, because I have no ability to pick winners! Making up awards instead is much more up my alley! (Check Aug. 28, 2009, for last year’s, and June 20 for 2008’s!) 

Most Entertaining Show: B&B and DAYS.
Best Surprise Couple: ATWT’s Barbara and Henry, B&B’s Stephen and Pam, and DAYS’ Victor and Maggie.
Best Couple That The Show Reaaaally Wants Us To Like: GH’s Dante and Lulu.
Best New Character: ATWT’s Reid Oliver (like I was going to say anything else?).
Best New Character Played By a Soap Vet: Dahlia Salem as GH’s Claire.
Best Recast:Marcy Rylan as Y&R’s nuAbby.
Guest Appearance I Will Never Get Tired Of: Snoop Dogg being on OLTL.
You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby: GH’s Ethan. Yes, I actually like him now. Don’t die of shock!
I Think I’m a Clone Now: ATWT’s Gabriel and AMC’s Damon. Seriously, they’re the same character…with the same hair!
Best Love Scene: OLTL’s Kyle and Fish’s New Year’s Eve fireworks!
Most Trauma-inducing Love Scene: B&B’s Oliver and Brooke.
Most Memorable Line of the Year: B&B’s Stephanie and, “Say hello to Beth for me!”
Biggest Jerkface: OLTL’s Ford.
The Miranda Montgomery Cutest Baby Award: DAYS’ Sydney.
Biggest Waste of Potential: OLTL’s Schuyler being made Roxy’s son and then being shipped off canvas!
Best Realization of Potential:Lexi Ainsworth as GH’s Kristina. She has really come into her own.
Most Froth-inducing Storyline: GH’s Sonny shooting an unarmed Dante in the chest, GH’s Michael getting maybe-or-maybe-not-raped in prison.
Best Social Issue Storyline: B&B’s Sandy/Aggie’s rape reveal.
The Paging-Clone-Reva WTH?! Award: ATWT’s Mick Dante.
I Would Watch It On a Loop: OLTL’s Kyle or Fish holding baby Sierra Mist.
Most Missed Veteran: AMC’s David Canary (Adam).
The Chester-the-Molester Skeevy Pairing Award: OLTL’s Langston and Ford.
The Dorian Gray Portrait-in-the-Attic Award: GH’s Jonathan Jackson (Lucky).
The I Want To Give Brody Lovett An Award Award: OLTL’s Brody.
Best Use of History: ATWT’s Bob and Kim’s non-iversary/remarriage, DAYS’ Alice’s death arc and all the family returns during it.
Worst Rewrite of History: ATWT’s Lily, Lucinda and Sierra keeping Craig’s illegitimate son, Gabriel, from him.
Best Death: B&B’s Ann. It was Betty White, dude. Come on.
Worst Death: AS THE WORLD TURNS. Duh.
Best Return: ATWT’s Simon coming back to comfort Katie. (Come baaaaaack, Simon!)
Most Unsurprising Return: Y&R’s Adam.
Worst Return: OLTL’s Mitch Laurence.
Biggest Unsolved Mysteries: Why no one runs into OLTL’s Kyle or Fish at Llanview’s hospital or police station, where ATWT’s Jade has disappeared to and why B&B’s Brooke doesn’t know Ridge’s body intimately after all this time.

originally posted on soapoperaweekly.com

You bring the chips, I’ll bring the subtext.

As readers and viewers we all bring our own experience, our own interpretation, to any given text. When I watch something and subsequently talk about it, I think it’s fairly clear that I have a major gender/race/sexuality filter. It is almost impossible for me to divorce myself from analyzing those elements in a book or a movie.

So even before seeing Avatar, my perimeter alarms about a Great White Hope saving a native people have gone off. (This article explains it better than I ever could.) Someone who’s not predisposed to seeing hinky race issues at every turn is probably happy to just go in and enjoy James Cameron‘s stunning achievements with CGI and marvel at the hotness of Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana. But I have a serious hair-trigger when it comes to these things, to the point where things that may pass the average Joe by will set me off. Like today’s episode of B&B.

It’s my favorite show. At this point, anyone who listens to me talk about soaps knows it’s my favorite show. But even with Aaron D. Spears, Texas Battle and Dan Martin in the cast, B&B’s sensibility is very old school and privileged. I spoke in a WEEKLY blog entry about a stereotypical desi cabbie. Well, in today’s episode, we had a stereotypical East Asian nail tech doing Bill’s manicure…followed by an accented, Latin Forrester underling praising Eric for being back at the helm. I face-palmed so hard I think I left a mark. I mean, yay for adding some diversity, but including it in such a clueless manner was painful.

And let’s not get into the casual misogyny on soaps across the board. I twitch so much over the portrayal of women as stupid, submissive-to-a-man, pieces of cardboard that I could probably be on seizure control medication.

I can’t help it. It’s how I view things. Nothing will make me throw a book across the room faster than casual racefail or homophobia…and they’re often instances that the author probably didn’t even realize were epic fails. Ditto for showrunners. I don’t think most people think about it that hard, but I think about this stuff all the time.

Of course, interpreting text with one’s particular goggles on can also be fun. Let’s not forget that. I mean, they don’t call GH’s Jason and Sonny the Brokeback Mobsters for nothin’ (and with the introduction of James Franco as Jason’s biggest fan, Franco, subtext has become text. He might as well have an “I heart Jason” tattoo.).

Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

As much as I adore B&B with every fiber of my being, it annoyed me a little this week to see Ann (the fabulous Betty White) get dropped off at Paradise Cove by a South Asian cabbie. 

I know what you’re thinking: “Mala, shouldn’t you be happy there was a brown person on the show? And one who had lines, at that?” Okay, yes. It’s nice. But it’s also really frustrating because B&B’s idea of proper representation for a person of color is…as a cab driver? That’s the natural assumption? Let me clarify: This is like when Marcus showed up at the Forrester mansion last year and Eric thought he was a waiter. It’s relegating characters of color to a socioeconomic status “befitting” their race or ethnicity. Like, “of COURSE a Bangladeshi/Indian guy is going to be Ann’s taxi driver.” 

Look, I live in New York. I will not deny that every other cab I get into is driven by someone from my parents’ homeland, but there are also other jobs that South Asians fill. We’re journalists, doctors, students, Dunkin Donuts’ cashiers, shoe salesmen, etc. We’re in every walk of life. When you have B&B’s whitewashed Los Angeles, where up until Justin and Marcus joined the show every contract character was Caucasian, it’s a different story. There is no other minority representation on the show. And theonly South Asian character with actual lines being such a stereotype definitely tripped my perimeter alarms. 

Here’s the thing: Those of us in the viewing audience don’t just notice people like ourselves onscreen, we long for it. If I can get this keyed up about a dayplayer cabbie, imagine how I might react to a Mumbai businessman jetting in and sweeping Steffy off her feet or Dr. Caspary consulting with an Indian physician about the fruit of Sandy and Bridget’s wombs?

originally posted on soapoperaweekly.com

Out of the Fishbowl and into the sea

One Life to Live, as I’ve probably praised before, is doing a great job of integrating its characters. There’s no black character bubble, no Latin character oasis, and no gay character island. Sure, characters of color or the same sexual orientation have scenes with each other, but that’s not all we see. As every week passes, more people get connected to each other and set up to be in each other’s storylines. Greg’s pain over botching Shaun’s surgery has a direct impact on Matthew, Bo and Nora. And it’s extra complicated because Rachel is Nora’s daughter and Destiny is Matthew’s best friend. John, Fish and Kyle interacted this week within the confines of the Jessica/Brody/Jared/Natalie stalker arc. And Dorian’s mayoral bid will only further pull Kyle, Nick and Fish into OLTL’s bigger arcs. Good.

Isolating characters, forgetting that they have a place on the canvas is a whole, is a kiss of death. Uninterrupted couple time or no interlopers is the fastest track to No Storyville on a soap. I mean, as much as it pains me that The Bold and the Beautiful‘s Owen and Jackie are having issues, the fact that Whip and Steffy provide conflict for them is a good thing. It gives them more to do than just have racy romps and make googly eyes. People don’t exist in a vacuum, and the more you see characters in each other’s business, the better it is for not only the characters involved, but for the overall story and the health of the show.

Calgon take me away…to daytime.

Today was a great day of soap. Of quintessential soap. Beginning with the end of Guiding Light, moving on to The Bold and the Beautiful, and then capping off with great stuff on One Life to Live.

I started the day sobbing, saying farewell to a show that I’ve watched for twenty years. Some people had problems with this final week, and I have nitpicks myself (no mentions of SEVERAL key Coopers and Spauldings who are off canvas?!), but overall, it was the kind of goodbye that most longtime soap fans dream of. Happy endings all around, family and children and romance. All the losers at love finally winning. Any sour notes were from what they left out, not what they included. Everybody got closure and yet there was enough left open that you know life in Springfield will never be boring. And fantastic performances were threaded throughout the whole week. Grant Aleksander (Phillip), Ron Raines (Alan), Tina Sloan (Lillian), and Marj Dusay (Alexandra) are just a few of the stand outs. And Robert Newman (Josh) is the one who kicked off my waterworks.

I was so sad that I couldn’t even conceive of turning on another soap today, but then I remembered how invested I am in B&B and OLTL lately. B&B continues to build the romance of Bill and Katie, and their love scene today was equal parts hot and tactful. I’m prudish, and too much skin often freaks me out. I watch many of B&B’s love scenes turning crimson with embarrassment. That wasn’t the case today. It was sweet, romantic, and yet sexy. And how good were Donna and Justin dancing around the subject of Marcus’ paternity and finally stopping the footwork to just put it out there? Jennifer Gareis and Aaron D. Spears are great together.

Also great are OLTL’s twenty-somethings. I cannot say enough about how the Fish/Layla/Kyle/Cris/Nick story is playing out. Oh, hell, I’m just going to call them the Fishbowl for short, okay? So, yes, the Fishbowl today was fab. I had feared that the scenes with Oliver and his parents would be, well, a lot like the jaunty orange How To Tell Your Parents You’re Gay book: glaring, a little tacky, and an obvious prop. But they weren’t, and Fish’s father didn’t come off nearly as much of a caricature as, say, ATWT‘s Col. Mayer. The surprise hit of the ep was David Fumero, as Cristian staunchly stood up for Fish and went toe-to-toe with George as if he was the gay one and not his pal. Best. Friend. Ever. And, of course, that leading into Fish’s confession was achingly painful. Much like Layla, my instinct was to go to Fish and wrap him in a hug. Oh, Scott Evans. You rock. 

OLTL also featured a little more intimacy than hugging, when Kyle and Nick made out. I don’t want to turn it into a political statement every time a same sex couple kisses, and honestly it shouldn’t be, but go, OLTL! Good. Bravo. Treat them like anybody else…complete with a believable roadblock to them hitting the sheets: Kyle’s feelings for Oliver. I’m not one of those people who thinks a couple has to be chaste on a soap and cleave only unto each other. To me, the fact that Nick and Kyle are together only makes the anticipation for Kish all the more sweet. That’s how you tell a story.  

This was the kind of soap opera Friday that would send me rushing home from school as a kid. Must-see, skip-last-period, character-driven drama.