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Are Soap Operas a Documentary — The Answer May Surprise You

Are Soap Operas Documentaries?Are Soap Operas Documentaries?

Daytime drama fans always have amazing questions and one that we’ve seen pop up recently was: Are soap operas a documentary? And the answer isn’t as cut and dried as it may seem. We take a special look at the surprising connections!

Soap Operas: Back To Before

The first instinctive answer is to say, that’s silly, of course not! Soap operas are scripted television. They’re written by writers, acted by actors, and put together on sets with only three walls and no ceilings. They’re not real, they’re completely fictional! But that’s not the whole story.

Rock the Vote

Even while they were still on the radio, soaps asked real-life people to weigh in on their stories. In the 1950s, while The Guiding Light’s Meta Bauer was on trial for killing the man who killed their son, creator Irna Phillips asked listeners to vote on Meta’s fate — she was found innocent.

Thirty years later, in the 1980s, on Guiding Light’s sister soap, Another World (the character of Mike Bauer and his daughter, Hope, at one point, actually moved from Springfield to Bay City), the character of Brittany was also on trial — and this time, the jury was actually made up of real-life people, who deliberated their way to a real-life verdict — she was found guilty.

In between, One Life To Live, in the 1970s, filmed a character getting therapy for her drug addictions, with real-life patients in a real-life halfway house.

What do you think? Post a comment!

And we haven’t even talked yet about Jeanne Cooper getting an actual facelift at the same time as her character, Kay Chancellor, did on The Young and the Restless. A documentary? No. Infused with real life? Yes!

Soap Operas: Listen Up

And then, there were the times when soap operas influenced real life. GL’s Bert Bauer went for a pap smear, got a diagnosis of cancer — and thousands of American women followed in her footsteps, saving real lives! Soaps have also tackled issues like child abuse, alcoholism, and more in ways that bled out into the real world. Documentary? No! A force to be reckoned with in the real world? Always!

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