This year marks the 50th season that the soap opera “General Hospital” has been on the air.
Story lines over the years have included (but were not limited to): amnesia, love triangles, a birth (with two possible fathers), evil villains, love quadrilaterals, being stranded on an island, a birth (with five possible fathers), blackmail, someone coming back from the dead, love parallelograms, betrayal, a baby switch, nuns on roller skates, a birth (with three possible mothers), and so on.
There’s always some sort of scandal going on in any given soap opera, too. Biff really isn’t the father! Sally is cheating on Julie! Bill is incontinent! Brad was literally scared to death by a mouse! Jane has stigmata! Billy-Joe-Jim-Bob spontaneously self-combusted! And believe it or not, sometimes the story lines can even get downright ridiculous.
Anyone who’s ever followed a soap opera religiously has to confess that the plots do get rather silly at times. But here’s the thing: that’s the way they’re designed. They are scandalous, ridiculous, over the top and deliberately convoluted. That’s something that’s been a constant throughout their history, and it is what has made them so deliciously entertaining. It’s like watching a “Jerry Springer Show,” only its better scripted and has less yelling.
This ridiculousness is what sets them up so perfectly to be mocked and parodied. In her variety show, Carol Burnett seemed to get the ball rolling with an ongoing skit called, “As the Stomach Turns.” “The Simpsons” offered a few soap parodies titled “Search for the Sun” and “It Never Ends.” Heck, even the Muppets often used a sketch called “Veterinarian’s Hospital.”
Soap opera parodies have made it to the big screen with movies like “Soapdish,” “Tune in Tomorrow” and “Tootsie.” And a few times, even television has cannibalistically turned on itself with self-effacing shows like “Soap” and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”
Personally, I’ve never faithfully followed any soap opera. However, on a few occasions when I feel like I need to uplift my life choices and justify my existence, I’ll watch a few minutes of a random soap.
Even with my very limited viewing time, there are several things that really annoy me about soap operas. Like when two people are getting hot and heavy into a dialogue and as it’s about to get really juicy, one of the parties ends up turning his/her back to the other person while they continue talking. Seriously, who does this? Who turns their back to someone while they’re talking? It’s just weird.
Then there are the love scenes. After two (or more?) characters have succumbed to their wanton desires in bed, the female will invariably leave the bed first. She will get up, while taking the top sheet with her, deftly wrapping it around herself tightly, like the casing around a kielbasa. Two thoughts here: first, they’ve just engaged in coitus-maximus and all of a sudden she’s shy and needs to cover up? And second, the guy is now shivering on the bed with nothing covering him. How rude!
This brings us to characters going to the hospital. Why is it that if someone has something fantastically dangerous-sounding, like quadruple kidney bypass elongation, they will be out of the hospital in less than 36 hours? But if they’re hospitalized for something simple like irritable bowel syndrome, they might be in intensive care for a month. Hey, where’s little Jimmy? Well, he got a paper cut so we had the ambulance take him to the trauma center. I just don’t get it . . . but it is entertaining, isn’t it?
As I’m writing this, I’m actually watching a soap opera on TV. I’m not sure which one it is, but one of the lead characters is an albino named Hiram who is a part-time tamale maker. Well, his sister (Beth) is schizophrenic and she’s dating one of her own split personalities, named Butch, who also happens to be Hiram’s uncle. Butch has a son who is able to see the ghosts of dead houseflies, but only while his third cousin (Larry) is having an affair with the willow tree in the backyard, and then – oh wait, this isn’t a soap opera. I’m watching a “Maury Povich Show” rerun.
Reach C.W. Plunkett at firstname.lastname@example.org.