The Incredible Lessons Learned From Soap Operas
by David Matthews 2
Okay, guilty pleasure confession: I am a fan of “Days of Our Lives”.
For those that do not know, “Days of Our Lives”, or DOOL, is an afternoon soap opera on NBC. It’s one of the longest running daytime drama shows still in existence, and the only one left on NBC’s schedule.
I can only blame my mom for starting this, since she was watching this series back in the 1970’s. Back in the days before the “Super-Couple” concept and the “Rock Star” actors. Back in the days when there were only three major networks and they all had on nothing but soap operas in the afternoon.
We were watching DOOL before the Brady family existed. Before a certain mob boss from Italy showed up. Before some super-secret spy organization called the ISA reared its ugly head. Back when the worst enemy was a mass-murderer that killed a noted radio psychiatrist’s twin sister and started real-world riots in mental asylums across the country.
Ah, those were the “Days of Our Lives”!
Having spent some time thinking back, I’m sort of glad that I had other shows that I could watch in between episodes; because I would have been pretty messed-up if that was the only glimpse I had of what being an adult was like. Yes, soap operas are fictional, and were initially designed to sell soap products – hence the name. But to say that soap opera writers take a few “literary licenses” is like describing a hurricane as being “a little windy”.
Soap opera writers have to take some huge literary leaps to be able to tell their tales. After all, how else can they have a “night of terror” start in July and end just before Thanksgiving without anyone batting an eyelash or wracking their brains trying to figure out what happened to the months in-between? You’re starting the night with fireworks and you wake up “the next morning” in time to put up the holiday decorations.
And of course aging is such a beast in the world of soap operas. Kids grow up incredibly fast… from infant to teenager in five years, from teen to adult in two years, and then they’re popping out kids of their own two years after that. Meanwhile their grandparents are still in their thirties! You really want to know their beauty secret? It’s called “writers”!
So I thought maybe this is the time for us to go over some of those “incredible life lessons” that soap operas teach their viewers. Because… let’s get brutally honest here… some of these “life lessons” can be rather dangerous if some of these things end up being duplicated in the real world.
Let’s start with the biggest of them…
* Dead is not necessarily dead! Thanks to the world of soap operas, we now know that death is really not a permanent situation, at least when it pertains to “important” people. People don’t really “die”; they are cloned, frozen and revived later, substituted with exact lookalikes, or rescued from the “very brink of death” and come back to a full recovery later on.
If someone you know is dead, just wait a few years and they’ll be back like nothing ever happened! And if it’s someone that you really hate, someone that is truly despicable, then they’ll be back in a year or two.
* Heaven and Hell are real! Not only are they real, but people go there and then they come back regularly. Demons can possess people, angels can visit loved ones, dead villains can return to torment their still-living victims, and dead parents can have discussions with their still-living children even decades afterward and nobody thinks they’re going crazy. There are so many “miracles” in soap opera world that they could come up with their own New-New Testament.
* Love can “solve” everything! This goes along with the “Heaven and Hell are real” thing. Demonic possessions can be so powerful that trained exorcists and even angels themselves will fail to stop them, but somehow “the power of love” will send demons away. It’s a pity that this same “power” can’t save that relationship from ending a year or two down the line.
And it’s funny, because this leads right to the next one…
* All relationships are doomed! There is no such thing as a “happy couple” in soap opera world. You can have a “perfect relationship”, meet your “soul-mate”, be “destined” to meet and fall in love with that “perfect person”, have the perfect wedding, and you’re still going to be doomed for divorce or annulment if one of you are not killed or declared dead first.
You know why? Because soap opera writers love weddings and infidelity, and if they’re not starting marriages, then they’re busy breaking them up.
* Blondes can get away with everything! This one apparently is unique to “Days”, because they have a gaggle of blondes that seem to be able to get away with anything they want without accountability. And if a female character in that soap is about to get into some serious trouble, then all you have to do is look at her hair color. If it starts to turn blond, then she’ll escape accountability.
This is especially the case with Sami Brady, played by Allison Sweeney. I have nothing against the actress. I’m sure she is a wonderful young woman. However, the character she plays on “Days” is so narcissistic and is allowed to get away with everything – even murder (and I am not kidding about that) – that I’m surprised that the name of the soap opera hasn’t been changed already to “Days of our Sami”.
* Anyone can change a DNA test through a computer. Apparently DNA testing in the world of soap operas is so painfully easy that anyone can change the results simply by getting their hands on a hospital computer. Any hospital computer! It doesn’t matter what kind of computer as long as it is in a hospital. Even the toy computers in the hospital day care center will do. They don’t really need to know any passwords, they don’t need to know how DNA testing really works or what the results show, all they really need to know is they can change a name and nobody apparently is the wiser.
Again, Sami Brady knows all about this since she messed with DNA results on more than one occasion.
* Anyone can succeed in “business”! “So, what sort of work do you want to do here in soap opera world?”
“I want to work for a multi-million-dollar corporation.”
“Doing what, precisely?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Something.”
“What sort of education do you have?”
“Well I went to college for a few months but I never went to class, never took any tests, and never really graduated.”
“Congratulations! You’re our new Executive Vice-President! Here’s your corner office and company laptop, and here’s your desk where you’ll have plenty of office sex on!”
“Great! When do I start?”
“You already have. Oh, and next year we’ll make you CEO just for kicks.”
“Okay, unless maybe I decide to become a cop or a doctor.”
Again, this is funny because it leads right to…
* Nobody really works. This is the twist in soap opera world. Anyone can start a “business” and get promoted, but you don’t see too many people actually working. Yes, doctors will operate when the story calls for it, but they aren’t being burdened with too many operations… or too many patients for that matter. Cops do “stakeouts”, but only for the “extra-special cases”, and they’re not having to go to trial for any of those arrests they make. Farmers don’t really “farm”. Fishermen don’t really “fish”. Waiters and waitresses aren’t busy busting their butts dealing with every customer that comes into their restaurants or cafes. People seem to have all the leisure time in the world in soap opera world.
In fact, it’s amazing that DOOL can have a major university hospital and a “free clinic” and only be staffed by the same two or three doctors. There are maybe five police officers in the Salem PD. They have “Joe Izuzu” as the District Attorney. They had a mayor once… once. Nobody delivers the mail. Do they even have a TV or radio station or a newspaper anymore? They used to have all three, but now we don’t know because nobody works there anymore.
Let’s go back to Sami Brady… she’s supposedly the CEO of a “major cosmetics company”, but she has yet to show up in the office. She’s spending all her time at home, or on the run with her fugitive sometimes-boyfriend sometimes-enemy sometimes-lover sometimes-rapist sometimes-confidant sometimes-blackmailer, or trying to hook up with her many former husbands before dumping them for her sometimes-boyfriend sometimes-enemy sometimes-lover sometimes-rapist sometimes-confidant sometimes-blackmailer, or out-and-about talking about how precious her children are, including the now-grown-up gay son who is as messed-up as she is. I really hope that the business is doing well without her there guiding it. I shudder to think how long it would last if she actually did her job.
* Driving at night leads to accidents! Whatever you do, don’t ever be seen driving in soap opera world. Especially at night! Something bad always seems to happen to people whom you see driving in soap opera world. They get run off the road, they get into accidents, they run over people, they get stopped by the police, they get carjacked, they get stabbed or shot… it makes you wonder why they would even be allowed to drive.
Maybe this is why nobody complains about how bad the traffic is in soap opera world, because nobody drives! Unless it’s on a motorcycle! Then the chances of an accident are 50-50, but you look really cool either way.
* Ugliness is curable! You have to love soap opera medicine! Amputees can be healed. Paralyzed people can eventually walk. Disfigured people can be restored to their original look, or even better, with an “experimental procedure”. You can even have open-heart surgery, even multiple heart transplant surgeries done in less-than-optimal environments, and somehow not have a single scar to account for it or have to change their lives one iota afterward.
That reminds me, there is someone I know that would really like to speak with the soap opera doctors about that last little detail.
* You too can own a whole nation! Never mind owning a company or owning a boat or owning a small island… some soap opera characters can actually own a whole country named after themselves. But don’t bother trying to find it on a map. It’s supposedly a really small country, even though it would be large enough to have a castle, a seaport, and a major international airport. All of it owned, lock-stock-and-barrel, by a soap opera character that, of course, has full diplomatic immunity from all accountability and never has to worry about being expelled from the United States for their actions or even risk war from neighboring countries.
I guess Mel Brooks got it right… it’s good to be the king! Or Duke, or Count, or Countess, or whatever the title may be in soap opera world.
* Lastly… We’re all related in really weird ways! For a dramatic series that claims to emulate the virtues of good clean wholesome Christian family values, “Days of Our Lives” certainly has more than its share of strange bedfellows and twisted family ties.
There’s Bill Horton, the family horndog. It seems there’s no end to the number of legitimate and illegitimate “children of Bill” that exist in soap opera world. It could be safe to say that half the populace of Salem was sired through him in one way or another.
Sami Brady has four children, including fraternal twins that are each from a separate father! Go ahead and try to figure out the logic behind that one. But she’s just the tip of the genetic-soup iceberg here.
Then there’s John Black, who was once Roman Brady (Sami’s father), who was once Forrest Alamain (from the fictional country Alamainia), who was once John Stevens, who was once Father John, and who apparently is a member of both the Brady family and the DiMera crime family. Oh, and his former wife was the daughter of the head of a certain Greek crime family, and one of his former girlfriends is both the adopted mother and adopted sister of Sami’s sometimes-boyfriend sometimes-enemy sometimes-lover sometimes-rapist sometimes-confidant sometimes-blackmailer who is also the son of the DiMera crime leader, and thus makes him John’s nephew and almost step-father.
Got a headache yet? Good, because thankfully the sponsors have something for that.
But then again, that’s the joy of the soap opera world. Yes, it’s confusing. Yes, it defies all logic and reason, not to mention the laws of physics and the laws of time and space. But it does the only thing that matters: it gets the viewers coming back for more. No matter how many times it makes you want to smack your head in frustration, you keep coming back to find out what happens next. That, apparently, is the only reality that keeps their “Days” going.