Historically, soap operas have been tightly-woven tapestries of interlocking and overlapping characters and stories. But the threads have slackened over the years…
I made that observation last May in a post about the impact of technology on soap opera storytelling. I went on to say,
And tempting though it may be to point the finger at slashed budgets, lack of money is not where this problem began. This shift actually began with the finger we use to operate the remote control.
True enough, but not nearly enough so to let TPTB off the hook for the tattered state of Oakdale family ties. Take a look at the some of relatively new (compared to the Hughes’, Snyder’s and Walsh’s) characters who’ve dominated the canvas in recent years: Who was raised in a stable, much less emotionally secure home? Jack, Carly, Brad, Henry, Vienna, Katie, Simon, Noah, Gwen, Liberty, Gabriel? And, as for an intact nuclear family… Silly, I know.
The questions below are one possible – perhaps even probable – albeit tongue-in-cheek, explanation for the lack of inter-generational storytelling and parade of plot-devices that have characterized ATWT’s increasingly unbalanced storytelling over the past fifteen years.
welcome to oakdale…
We’re so happy that you want to come to our little town. Just a few questions to help us get to know you a little better. Oh, I almost forgot. Before we start, I just want to confirm that you and your family don’t have any connection, however remote or tenuous, to the Hughes’ family.
What!? Your sister knows Frannie Hughes? Where –
Oh, from Santa Fe. Wrong girl. Well, actually, right girl. Kidding – you just scared me there for a minute. All right. So why don’t you start by telling me how fucked-up your childhood was?
Well, there must be something. What about your parents?
And they’re still married?
To each other?
Happily… Of course.
And you’re sure they really your parents?
I see. And you’re still on speaking terms with them?
No, no. I didn’t mean anything by that. Don’t suppose there are any issues with alcohol, drugs, neglect, abuse… Maybe, incest?
Okay. Moving on. Any illegal activity – embezzlement?
How about organized crime?
I see. So, nobody’s been incarcerated. Any mental illness resulting in institutionalization?
You’re sure? Maybe one of your parents had, you know, a special friend you always wondered about?
Okay. Any relationships before they were married?
Well, long-lost half-siblings can be an interesting –
And nothing among your aunts and uncles?
Okay. So how about your siblings? Any bad blood there?
I understand. It’s just that –
Look, conflict and tension are part of everyday life as most people know it, but for our purposes… Now, we can work with dysfunction – obviously the more dysfunctional the better. But what really works best for us is serious family pathology.
Oh dear… Well, we really do appreciate your interest, but I just don’t think this is going to work out. Thanks again.
Next week, part two:
carjack: the beginning of 15 years of faux family ties and squandered opportunities...
© 2010 Lynn Liccardo
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