For a few moments, I contemplated the strange dream-like suspension that stalls the aging of real people who exist in soap opera time (with the assistance of great wardrobes, perfect make-up, airbrushing and soft-focus lighting, of course). The last time I watched a soap on a regular basis was 1992, yet I recognized the characters immediately.
That, I suddenly realized, was the real magic behind recognizing Nikki and Victor. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about their storyline, but I remembered that when they kissed, my breath caught and when they fought, my heart broke.
Soap opera story lines are almost incomprehensible if you condense them into a few short paragraphs. If you don’t believe me, try searching a fictional soap character’s life of Wikipedia. Madness. The stories work in part because they hook the fan with five to ten minute shots of adrenaline. I had the chance to meet a Guiding Light writer at an RWA conference a few years ago, and I can tell you they work hard to manage something that looks so effortless. There are writers working on story arcs & character arcs that will unfold over months and another set of writers making those arcs work on a day to day basis (creating the 5 minute hooks).
But the most important reason the fans watch is the coupling (and uncoupling) of the characters. Why? Because love resonates and passion is the world’s best reason for hope.
When Guiding Light came to an end a few years back, I tuned in because I remembered Josh and Reva and I was desperately hoping the writers would do the fans a favor and allow them a happily ever after (they did, in a soap-epilogue sort of way).
Most daytime couples never get a happy ending, but I was happy to know Reva and Josh headed off into the netherworld of fictional characters hand-in-hand. Do you have a favorite memory of a daytime soap couple?