My friend, Robert, and I have been soap fans for many years and, as such, I consider us to be sort of experts on the subject. We don't just know a lot about the characters, the plot lines, the family histories in Springfield, Genoa City, Oakdale, etc....but we know about how soap opera works, as a genre. We know the shape and structure of daily soap. We know how it differs from, say, the structure of a novel or a weekly series. We know how the pacing works, how important character development is and, mostly important, we know that soap is a genre that can't afford to ignore the needs, demands, and memory of its audience.
Discussing the sad demise of Guiding Light, and what seems to be the inevitable demise of As The World Turns, Robert and I got to talking about the missed opportunities, and what could have been - should have been - done to save these shows. We both came to the conclusion that, among other problems, soap writers have failed to make use of some of the resources at their disposal: the well-established, strong female characters that fans like us have loved so much for so long. A few years ago, All My Children took a stab at establishing a woman-centered world (via Fusion) that has never looked like anything more than a failed attempt at bringing the chick-lit vibe to daytime. Instead of making the most of strong, established characters such as Erica Kane, Brooke English, and Dixie Martin, Fusion revolved around a new generation of Pine Valley women, and has never amounted to more than four chicks sitting in an office, arguing about their love lives, working out on a stripper pole, and entertaining the occasional transgender rock star. (Can we erase Zarf from daytime history? Please?) And what was their big business venture? Cosmetics. That was the big endeavor for a woman-run business empire? Way to push the gender role envelope, AMC!
If only TPTB at GL and ATWT had given me and Robert a call! As actual soap fans (Robert and I are convinced that few people writing soaps these days are actually fans - and it shows) we're pretty confident that we have what it takes to put together a pretty, little package that other soap fans would by into.
It's All About The Women
Picture it: Springfield, 2009. Dinah Marler, no longer satisfied with being a big fish in a small pond (did any of us believe she could be happy as such, for so long? The woman was married to Roger Thorpe, for heaven's sake.) decides that being owner and general manager of a local tv station just won't do. She wants something bigger. She wants everything. And she wants to do it on her own terms. No old boys club for her. And nothing so limiting as television production...not when there's a whole world of ever-emerging new media out there for the taking. But Dinah Marler doesn't want a website. She's not talking about just setting up a chatroom or hosting a podcast. True to form, Dinah Marler wants to play with the big boys. She wants to get rich and be powerful. The Dinah Marler that GL fans love will build a new media empire. A woman-centered new media empire that covers all the bases and knocks any competition out of the running. The four-woman office that is Fusion? That's for sissies who don't even know how to wipe their own asses, yet, and for whom developing a new shade of lipstick constitutes a giant challenge. How boring.
Now, Dinah is nobody's fool. She doesn't have what it takes to launch such an empire on her own. She knows that a project of this scope requires two vital components if it's ever going to get off the ground, let alone succeed: investors and expertise. Dinah has some money, and some knowledge about successfully managing a local tv station, but that 's about it. She needs start-up money - a lot of it - and she needs real know-how accross a broad business spectrum. She knows exactly where to get both, because Springfield and Oakdale are teeming with talent, and wealth just waiting to be invested. Here's the team she puts together (queue up Goodfellas soundtrack):
Holly Lindsay - Who knows media better than Holly? Holly has about 30 years' experience in radio, print media and television - not just as a journalist, but as an owner, manager, producer, editor, etc. And her experience isn't just local, but on an international level. I suspect she's already got her hand in new media. She's been on an extended stay overseas, after all, and we know Holly can't stand to be idle. A woman of substantial means, among this group of financial heavy hitters, she's the closest thing this dream team has to a pauper.
Vanessa Lewis - Vanessa has all kinds of experience running huge conglomerates such as Spaulding Enterprises. She stepped in as CEO of Lewis Oil when Billy's drinking made him a liability. She ran WSPR for years. And she has a conscience.
Alexandra Spaulding and Lucinda Walsh - Soap royalty. These two feisty broads could teach Donald Trump a thing or two about the art of the deal. Both of these powerhouses have had to fight the old boys club tooth and nail to get their due, and both have emerged triumphant. They're both tough as iron, and neither one of them is happy unless she's trying to take over a little bit more of the world. Lucinda has all sorts of PR nous, and few people have Alexandra's experience managing a diverse multi-national business empire.
Olivia Spencer - Liv knows all about making something out of nothing. If you're looking for someone with the know-how and momentum to get a start-up off the ground, it's Olivia. Challenges make her happy, and she's not afraid to roll up her sleeves and get dirty, if it means getting the job done. She also gives great face, and can talk anyone into anything with nothing but a martini and a couple of olives. And, yes, tokenism is bad...but it exists, and having one of the women in charge be a woman sharing her life with another woman would be pretty damned awesome.
No, seriously...picture it
Imagine the possibilities for a show that brought forth the best and the brightest women of Springfield and Oakdale, and placed them front and center of the action. Not a bunch of 20-somethings with little if any background, and not an ounce of business acumen...but seasoned, mature women who know their way around a board room, don't have time or interest in installing a stripper pole in the work place, and are interested in bigger things than creating the next shade of eye shadow. I'm not suggesting a world where men don't exist - just a soap that focuses on women whose lives don't revolve around men. They'd have men in their lives, and men working under them...but business decisions will not be settled over "who does Ryan Lavery really love this week?" Nor am I painting a picture of hard-assed business women who have been neutered - does anyone believe Olivia or Dinah would be here if I were? Lucinda can be sexy as all hell. Alexandra is a really attractive woman. And don't even get me started on Vanessa.
CBS should have called me. I would have told them to lose the dead weight. I know there are zones on the internet where speaking ill of an actor or character's shortcomings is verboten. This is not one of them. If CBS had given me a call (I'm in the book, dammit!) I would have told them to get rid of Reva, Josh and Jefferey (boring, played out)...ditch Remy and Christina (lame characters and really, really bad acting) ...play down the whole Bill and Lizzie thing (entertaining to some but, ultimately, it has nowhere to go)...kill off most of the Coopers (they serve no purpose and, seriously, does anyone not find them annoying?)...and blow up Oakdale, killing off most of the its residents (I like the idea of keeping Barbara, Paul, Kim, Tom, Margo and maybe Craig...but everyone else is expendable.) And then I would have told them to read the above and invent a whole new soap opera, centering on a woman-run new media empire, using the best talent they already had at their disposal. A whole new soap based on tried and true soap elements: strong characters, history, power struggles, relationships, good vs. evil, work world vs home life. And, yes, attractive women....at least one of them being a woman who shares her life with another woman.
People would watch this.
© 2009 Lana M. Nieves
Limited Licensing: I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution license, granting distribution of my copyrighted work without making changes, with mandatory attribution to Lana M. Nieves and for non-commercial purposes only. - Lana M. Nieves