Keeping in mind that today is Mother’s Day, Soap Hub’s writers wanted to share what the day means to us all in terms of having watched soaps. Some daytime mothers have influenced us, for others it’s the bond they formed with their moms while watching soaps, but our beloved shows are at the heart of it.
My grandma Deanna has been watching soaps for 50+ years. She started with All My Children and One Life to Live, and now she loves watching the drama unfold on General Hospital. She was my first connection to the genre, and I remember many summers spent at her house tuning in with her. Growing up watching her indulge in such a way every afternoon left me with many memories. Happy Mother’s day to my grandma and all of the other wonderful grandmas out there who got the next generation of children hooked on soaps.
Soap opera moms are filled with love for their children. While real-life moms are juggling a million things, viewers escape into the fantasy world of soaps to watch Daytime TV mothers perform non-traditional acts of love – like going on trial for murder to protect their daughters (GH’s Lesley/Laura; ATWT’s Kim/Frannie). The late, great Darlene Conley drew upon movie characters like Mildred Pierce and Stella Dallas for her passionate portrayal of B&B’s Sally Spectra – a momma fiercely determined to give her children Macy and C.J. a better life.
I immigrated to the United States when I was 7 years old. My parents, I realized very quickly, were not “American parents.” They spoke a different language, they cooked different foods, they worked night and day. So I created an American family for myself, one that would help me become a typical “American kid.” When I was 10 years old, I wanted, more than anything, to have General Hospital’s Lesley Webber adopt me. She seemed like such a great, understanding mom. Look at what she put up with from her daughter, Laura! And if she and husband Rick Webber could adopt that whiny little Mike – why not me too?
Here are but a few of the immutable truths about mothers that I’ve gleaned from a lifetime of watching soap operas: The noblest, long-suffering, and put-upon heroines tend to birth a most ignoble, pitiful, and selfish lot (think Joanne Baron Tate, Mona Kane, Ada Hobson, and Kate Rescott). The most mercurial of matriarchs can, and usually do, mellow (see: Bert Bauer, Nancy Hughes, and Phoebe Tyler). Aside from the most notable of exceptions, stepmothers and mother-like figures always make up the difference beautifully (Vanessa Dale Sterling, Nancy Pollock Karr, Myrtle Fargate, etc.). And finally, there’s no greater irony than motherhood itself. The likes of Erika Kane and Rachel Cory whom the affront “in love with oneself” seemed tailor-made for, wound up able to subjugate their egotism and put their offspring first and foremost – barring the occasional oopsie. Nobody’s perfect, not even mothers!
The women in my life instilled a love for soaps. My nana still watches The Bold and the Beautiful and my mother is a Young and the Restless addict. So much so, that she styled herself like Nikki Newman (Melody Thomas Scott). Am I complaining? No. Nikki was the most gentle mother figure on TV (when she was sober) and I simply loved her. Thank you, Nikki Newman, for showing us how to speak with kindness, love fiercely and cherish all the good moments.
Sherrie E. Smith
It wasn’t one particular character that stands out as an inspiration for Mother’s Day but soap operas as a whole. It was Dark Shadows that I raced to my grandmother’s house from kindergarten to watch the witches and vampires flirt, lust for someone they could never have, or hold in rapture the gothic scenery. I was a latchkey kid with a working single mother so it was a pure pleasure when she was home and we could watch her favorite shows, One Life to Live and General Hospital, together. Whether it was Viki and Niki duking it out for custody of the same body, Karen Wolek testifying in Marco Dane’s murder trial, or just the Quartermaine’s feuding in Port Charles, it didn’t matter. It was sharing the soap opera experience with the women I loved in my life that made it special. Even now that they are gone I can still feel them next to me as I enjoy the suds today.
Not having grown up with any of my grandparents alive, soaps filled that void. I absolutely loved how Tad Martin could be such a cad but listen to Grandma Kate and get good advice. But this all came home to me that I was not alone when I worked on the primetime soap special called 50 Years of Soaps: An All-Star Celebration and Search For Tomorrow star Mary Stuart arrived for rehearsal. She saw my thrill at meeting her and immediately said, “Did I raise you too?” Indeed she did. That is the impact our soaps can have on people — and it’s beautiful.
Growing up, I remember watching Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) on All My Children, and after her mother, Mona Kane Tyler (Frances Heflin), died, Myrtle Margate (Eileen Herlie) stepped in to serve as a motherly figure for Erica, and she proved that moms come in many forms — not all of them biological. Later, Myrtle revealed she’d had a child of her own, Rae Cummings (Linda Dano), whom she’d given up for adoption. Overall, Myrtle’s story portrayed the many-faceted ways women can be mothers.
Some of my first memories in life are memories of watching soap operas with my mother, taking in the often-confusing goings-on in Bay City on Another World, and loving the images of the New York City scene on the Ryan’s Hope opening. Eventually, I am the one who started my mother watching other soaps, including Days of our Lives where we both wished the ultimate soap opera mother and grandmother, Alice Horton, would come to bake us some donuts, and dole out the best advice in her kitchen.
Growing up in a Latin family, I was surrounded by telenovelas. I used to watch them every afternoon at dinner with my grandma and my mom. On telenovelas, there are only two kinds of mothers: the good ones, and the bad ones. There’s no in-between. So good mothers suffer all the time. They are usually abused by their husbands and children and they love, not unconditionally but blindly. On the other hand, we have the bad mothers, those ambitious monsters that are capable of anything to get what they want, either for themselves or for their weak children. Telenovela mothers are dramatic, loud, and sinister (when they are bad). Now, U.S. soap opera moms have the same characteristics but they are more discreet. They plan, scheme, and act in private. They don’t (usually) yell out their plans to the entire world and most of their acts are guided by love. I honestly don’t see Sheila Carter (Kimberlin Brown) throwing a temper tantrum in front of all the Forresters, yelling at Steffy Forrester Finnegan (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood), and telling her she is the shooter. Well, Telenovela mothers do that and they even tell their next move to all, and, somehow, they usually do not get caught at the very end of the Telenovela so they manage to succeed even when everyone knows they are guilty.
My appreciation for Mother’s Day, I strongly admire Days of our Lives, Paulina Price (Jackée Harry) for her courageous strength! Protecting Lani Price Grant (Sal Stowers), to the extremes from her abusive biological father, TR Coates (William Christian), when she was a child. Additionally, that “guarded” love Paulina fiercely displays for her other daughter Chanel Dupree DiMera (Raven Bowens) when heartbroken by Johnny DiMera (Carson Boatman) and Allie Horton (Lindsay Arnold). Paulina is my favorite soap Mother’s Day in this special event.
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