I don’t like soap operas. Well, of course I don’t. The only soap opera I ever watched for any length of time was As The World Turns . . . or was it All My Children? I don’t know. Sleaze and cheese, they really are all the same. Whatever it was, my friend Louanne and I used to watch it after school when we were thirteen, mainly to luxuriate in the vicissitudes of the teenage daughter who had managed to get herself “in trouble,” much to the consternation of the adult characters.
What the nature of that trouble was, we did not know. That’s because my mother never enlightened me on the more operational aspects of sex, leaving me to arrive at an approximate knowledge of its mechanics by painstakingly working my way backwards from dirty jokes. “Now, why would that be funny?” I would puzzle. Louanne, on the other hand, less motivated by the Spirit of Inquiry than me and considerably hotter, learned the facts of life the hard way, by landing herself in that selfsame sort of trouble a couple of years later. We’re talking late sixties-early seventies here, when having a baby out of wedlock meant that a girl’s life was, not to put too fine a point on it:
But I digress.
I dislike Soap Operas for a whole slough of feminist reasons, among which:
- They pit women against women.
- They perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
- They create a false and troublesome narrative around romance that’s predicated on women being plied . . . and being pliable given the right combination of expensive jewelry, roses, and candlelit dinners in romantic settings. Things that do not happen in the real world, but which women raised on a fatty diet of Soap Operas can come to confuse with genuine expressions of love and esteem. (Hi, guys who are always being accused of being unromantic, I’m standing up for you here.)
There’s also the fact that, on a Soap Opera, nobody eats. It’s true. Dinners are served. Often romantic, candlelit ones. Then some character throws down his napkin and, in high dudgeon, stalks off, leaving his fellow diner to stare, stricken or perplexed, into the camera. Cut to commercial. What about that expensive steak? Is anybody going to eat that souffle? No wonder Soap Opera divas are so skinny. Which is a whole different problem.
Launching into a tirade against women who watch soap operas in the presence of such women is socially unwise, but also unkind. The cow has left the barn; the damage is done. For that reason, I have, lo these forty some years, kept my own counsel when it comes to soap operas. I have, however, taken solace in the fact that, as the years have passed and with so many women now working, fewer and fewer of the damn things have managed to survive on air.
Then it happened.
Earlier this month, after my nephew’s wedding in Ithaca, New York, my husband and I found ourselves in a Comfort Inn with only Standard Cable, and, by dint of the fact that the only other viewing option was Of Mice and Men, in which puppies die – I’m sorry, an absolute deal breaker — I was compelled to watch an episode of The Bachelor in Paradise.
Soap operas are not dead at all! They’re back, like loathsome, hollow-eyed revenants, preying on the minds of women, booby-trapping their expectations, turning their brains to mush. I can be silent no longer. I must speak out. Women of the West, eschew competitive dating reality shows! They’re this generation’s version of Soap Operas, only at night and with slightly better production values. And they are coming for your brain!
Because you know who else feeds on brains?
So think about it. If you can still think, that is. If it isn’t . . . already . . . too . . . late. . . .