Commentary GH

Why Today’s Soaps Have Lost That Loving Feeling That Once Hooked You

Could this be the whole reason?

Soaps Finn, Liz and Eric Forrester

Are you a longtime viewer of various soaps? Do you remember the days when you couldn’t wait to see the next episode and realize that while you still enjoy your stories, they don’t provide that same feeling you remember from years ago? This may be why.

Soaps — No Longer A Woman’s Medium

A funny thing has happened in the same era that saw the #MeToo movement and women losing the right to make their own health decisions. The one entertainment medium where women were in control behind the scenes — as directors, producers, head writers, and executive producers — a medium that was watched mostly by women, has been taken over by men. Every soap currently in production has both a male executive producer and a male head writer (or maybe two).

We’re not saying that men can’t create compelling drama for women. Of course, they can, as William J. Bell more than aptly proved first at Days of our Lives and then by co-creating The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful…with his wife and partner, Lee Phillip Bell. He certainly wasn’t the only male to succeed. But they weren’t going it alone.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, representation matters, as does being in the room where it happens. Is it really a coincidence that soap towns are populated by men who seem more controlling, mansplaining, and abrasive than the romantic heroes we remember? Maybe. But there is a reason John Gray’s book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus was so popular — our perspectives can be quite different. What men think women want and what women actually do want can be very different and vice versa.

Take General Hospital’s Hamilton Finn (Michael Easton) and Liz Webber (Rebecca Herbst). It appears the creative team sees Finn as heroic, trying to save the woman he loves from a past that is haunting her. One scan of Twitter shows scores of women calling him controlling and not honoring her boundaries which she clearly stated. Read the room fellows — this isn’t seen by your audience as a grand romance. Just like Finn’s dad Gregory Chase (Gregory Harrison) bantering with Alexis Davis (Nancy Lee Grahn) doesn’t satisfy when it feels more like he’s mansplaining journalism to her. This isn’t attractive to female viewers. It really isn’t.

This author was much younger when she learned this difference acutely. One development exec for soaps, a male, was trying to explain what he felt was the most romantic thing on the soaps at that time. He pointed to a story currently airing on The Bold and the Beautiful in which Eric Forrester (John McCook) had five women vying for his affection — but Eric only wanted Taylor Hayes (then Hunter Tylo). That was it. That was his answer. Stunned, I simply kept my mouth shut (a rarety as anyone who knows me in real life will co-sign) but asked others if I was completely off-base in thinking this was oh-so-wrong. One of those asked was a very respected actor on another soap, who had written for daytime. When he heard what was said, he rolled his eyes and clearly stated (but in possibly more graphic terms), that it was a male fantasy — not a female’s. He not only understood the difference, he understood the problem this presented.

Do current regimes understand this? It doesn’t feel like they do. Women, who still make up the majority of viewers, want an escape from a world that has become increasingly hostile toward them. We need to see (at least a few) men wanting to do the right thing, being supportive, and looking for a chance at romance. We need to see stories that matter, for dramatic stakes to rise and crash down, for feelings to be shared, and for a sense of community. We want to see what life could be like in a better world…not a constant reminder of the unfairness we see all around us.

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