Thursday, April 14, 2011

Another Piece of my Childhood

I understand all the economic reasons behind the cancelling of iconic soaps "All My Children" and "One Life to Live", even if, much like Conan O'Brien's brief reign at the "Tonight Show" one has to feel for the cast and crew that upended their lives not that long ago to LA only to see this happen. 
However, these two cancellations make me very sad, even if I haven't really tuned in for a while (and therefore am part of the problem), I liked knowing they were there. 
My mother was a big believer in nap time.  When my sister and I were in morning pre-school, we would come home, eat lunch and then take a nap.  My mother somehow wrangled a deal for both me and one of the kids in my carpool so that we came home with the pre-schoolers on Wednesdays our first year in all day school.  And on weekends, my mom often enforced nap time, as well as on school vacations.  When we got old enough to start resisting this, we graduated to quiet time, which meant that for the hour we had to be in our rooms and could do anything we could come up with as long as it was quiet.  (We did not have TV's or any other media in our rooms at this point, so quiet was mostly reading or making the dolls and legos whisper.)
But, my sister and I figured out that sometimes mom wasn't napping, she was in our parent's room (which did have a TV) or sometimes on the couch in the living room watching  "All My Children" or "One Life to Live".  Sometimes she was watching with her eyes closed.  So,every once in a while, we were allowed to - quietly, of course - watch with her.  So, my sister and I knew about Erica Cane and Palmer and Opal, and we knew about Clint and Vickie.  And one summer (well after I had graduated from nap/quiet time) I dove into them full on.  And gave "General Hospital" a try.  So I know about the rock on the ranch that sent Clint and Vickie back in time.  I know that Jesse and Angie's parents didn't approve.  I know that Nina didn't really die in that helicopter crash. And for a while I was making use of the newspaper recaps, and the phone in recaps to keep up while I was in school.  (That's right kids, back before every site on the interwebs did recaps, it was hard.  And you had to walk five miles.)
So, from a nostalgia point I am sad.  And as the number of daytime soaps dwindle, I think we lose - not only a great place for actors, but also a great jumping off point for storylines.  Daytime soaps, perhaps because of the sheer number of episodes, were faster to diversify their casts, they were fast to introduce storylines where characters revealed to their parents that they were gay or bisexual, they addressed drug abuse, and rape, and all manner of mental health issues (and okay, most people with multiple personalities do not have one that is a prostitute, but it was there, and people talked about it).  They had characters dealing with AIDS and lupus (something I actually don't think I've seen on prime time at all) and partial paralysis and yes, sure, these things were blended in with time travelling rocks and people kidnapping their family members or having secret twins, but still, they addressed a huge number of issues. 
And, as night time soaps dwindled, other drama's out there started developing the arcing storyline, pieces of the plot that - soap-like - didn't get resolved for several issues. 
And, let me tell you, for all the terrible things that happen to soap characters, there's an amazing message of hope in there, because let's face it, most of these characters forgive each other for the most egregious offenses (yes, in part because some of them would have no one left to talk to otherwise).  (And sure, on a different soap on another channel, my friend and I once had a long discussion about how come attempting to sell your baby sister on the black market did not appear to even result in being grounded.)  But also - if your spouse dies or leaves you, you rarely have to wait long to either find someone new or to have your old spouse return from a long trip where they have now seen the error of their ways. People survive just about everything thrown at them, and often, even if it is in a terribly unexpected way, their dreams come true.  The most awful of schemers can be redeemed - often by love - whether romantic or for a child.  And on the holidays, most of the drama pauses briefly so you can enjoy the people in your life this year.

[And yes, I realize all the soaps aren't quite gone.]