2012-02-02 / Telling It Like It Is

Telling It Like It Is

Daytime Soap Operas Dissolved By Reality T.V.
By Dara Mormile

Everyone complains when something simple and relaxing that they've gotten used to disappears. For some of our readers, a week without the Puzzle Page, Sodoku or even a simple syndicated column, is a week of frustration and curiosity. “Why did you discontinue that section?” they'll ask.

We answer the question with the truth - there was no room in that issue for these games and sections - and there's much more newsworthy material to put in its place. A company also has to do what’s going to be more cost-effective. Even the editor of the Daily News cut the beloved cartoon section in half several months ago due to budgeting and space (but do we really miss or need those comics?)

After reading the Letter to Editor last week from Elise Kaplan about the cancellation of soap operas, it seems media, all across the board, is making eliminations so that people’s lives can be filled with more effective information. As I mentioned in a previous column, celebrity news is my least favorite of all, but I disagree with the older generation who might be stuck on their passion for daytime soap operas, which are now a dying breed of storytelling entertainment.

In April, 2011, ABC announced they were cancelling some of their soap operas. My first reaction was: Who cares? I work full time and if I didn’t, I’d be looking for a job and NOT watching soap operas in the middle of the day. I understand that in the 1970’s, 1980s, and even well into the 1990s, soaps were daytime delights for stay-at-home moms and even retired older women who couldn't wait to see their “stories” every day. I remember when I was about 8 years old – my mother worked in Woolworth’s on Ralph Avenue. I had a day off from school, so I went to work with her. In the lunch lounge, ladies would be biting their teeth over who woke up from their “coma” this week.

Come on! How many people in your personal life will fall into a coma THAT often? And how many of your close friends JUST revealed their “evil” twin (that would be one hell of a family reunion!)? We also know everyone's cheating on everyone, so why even create a diversion that someone's big marriage is going to be broadcast in a future episode. They're going to cheat on each other too! Lastly, how many close ups of someone's facial expressions are they going to show? We get it, the character is actually crying and the network wants US to feel bad?

Daytime soap operas will not survive the era of the 2000s - The Reality Show Takeover. With a slew of court shows, medical segments, cooking and talk shows, talent shows and programs about personal challenges, today's generation is focusing on what’s REAL. As silly as some of the reality shows are, they are taking REAL people and situations and broadcasting them to highlight some correlation to that of the average viewer. Those who are home during the daytime now get to watch programming that's possibly more congruent to their own lives.

Some reasons soaps haven’t lasted is because more women, who are comprised of more than half of the viewing audience, are not home during the day. Women work harder and longer then they used to. Those who aren’t working have gone back to school in their 30s and 40s to increase their chances of succeeding. Fewer women are staying home after getting married and having a child. Women have become more independent and face enough real life drama and don’t need to observe the ones celebrities get paid to recreate behind a camera. This may sound cold and callous, but older women who were retired and sat in their day rooms for four hours watching couples like Luke and Laura are no longer alive. Grandma’s not around anymore to keep the ratings of those soaps going and plenty of younger women won't be using their DVR to record a show that's had the same running plot for the past 30 years (another car accident is always in the next episode – and then comes your coma plot).

If you’re home during the day, turn on ABC and watch The View for some serious coverage of women’s priorities. These educated, professional women (including my idol Barbara Walters) discuss politics and controversial news, peppered with celebrity appearances.

Let’s get real, soap operas haven’t been statistically shown to make women smarter, more productive or more likely to succeed in life. Other than making them conscious of the possibility that they could be abducted by the man they were once in love with in high school, or simply their ex-boyfriend, the trend of keeping up with soaps has been washed out by poor ratings, reality and changes in values.

For those who are still faithful to their shows, I say congrats for hanging in there and creating a fantasy world that you'll never be a part of. The existing populations who struggle to keep ratings up will soon be gone, too.

While this method of storytelling is dying, you can always take the opportunity to change your life, change your career, start a blog and get people talking about real life…Or you can wash away with the tide.

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