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Confessions of a soap opera fan

Cassie Belek | Tuesday, September 5, 2006

My name is Cassie and I’m a soap-a-holic. There are others of you like me on campus, hiding behind closed doors, not willing to admit your slight disappointment that your class schedule conflicts with your favorite soap opera. You try to tape your soaps, read detailed recaps online or maybe you even got DV-R to maintain your addiction.

Whatever the case, you love soap operas with all your heart, but you’re just a little bit ashamed to admit it. When friends walk by and hear the intro to “Guiding Light” or “General Hospital,” they scoff and immediately begin a tirade on the inferiority and mindlessness of the soap opera. You search for words to defend yourself, but nothing will convince the nonbeliever that soaps are a legitimate form of entertainment.

Now is the time to rise up, my fellow soap opera fans. Be proud of daytime television!

However, this article is not for you. It is for those who let their misguided elitism stand in the way of being truly entertained and captivated by soaps and for those who don’t realize how on fire “General Hospital” is right now. Like, amazingly on fire.

Soap operas have evolved since their days on radio but their soul remains the same – relationships. Relationships between friends, lovers, enemies and families drive these shows as familiarity with the characters increases.

Each episode, we learn more about the characters and develop an intimacy with them. We anticipate their next actions and discuss their relationships with friends. In this way, watching soaps becomes a social activity and a way to see parallels in our own lives. Sound familiar?

Actually it sounds like “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” A soap is nothing more than a serialized drama broadcast five days a week, 52 weeks a year. Many of your favorite primetime programs are just glittery soap operas with storylines already used in daytime. Soaps, by any other name, have just as many suds.

But many will argue that the acting in primetime is of a higher caliber than daytime. This assumption is not without reason. Several daytime actors, mostly the newbies, are terrible. Soap opera acting is a difficult craft to hone. Actors are constantly memorizing lines and going through pages and pages of dialogue every day in order to keep up with filming. Some actors naturally fall behind.

However, the majority of daytime actors are superb. One look at veterans Maurice Benard (“General Hospital”) or Erika Slezak (“One Life to Live”) and my belief is validated. They are Emmy-award winning actors who could easily find work in primetime or films, but stay in daytime because they love their jobs and they love their characters.

One last message to the nonbelievers: soap opera fans are not stupid. We know that storylines are sometimes ridiculous. We know that realistically a human being does not go through such a high degree of trauma.

We know that when we die, we won’t come back five years later with a new husband and a severe case of amnesia. The purpose of a soap opera is to entertain using drama – not to depict absolute realism. But for every vampire storyline, there is a drug addiction storyline. For every psychotic serial killer, there is a character struggling with HIV or cancer.

Soap operas draw on human emotions and tackle social issues in depth and in real-time so that the audience may see the day-to-day effects of disease or an unexpected pregnancy on relationships, health and state of mind.

My words today may not convince a single person to stop ridiculing soaps, but I am an absolute defender of soap operas (even “Passions,” I suppose) and I urge all non-fans to keep an open mind – to recognize quality acting and fascinating narratives and to realize both the frivolity and the seriousness of daytime dramas.

And if anyone out there watches “General Hospital,” let me know. We need to talk.

The views expressed in this

column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Cassie Belek at cbelek@nd.edu