My Mom never told me anything about soap operas. Except that they were hogwash. Her preferred daytime stories were "Perry Mason" and "Matlock," so except for a brief period of time during high school when I force fed myself "Passions" because it was all the rage among some cool girls at school, my entertainment preferences have been squeaky clean of soap operas.
Learning about the dishy history of soaps for the most recent Stuff Mom Never Told You episode made me realize that maybe I gave them the brushoff a little too quickly. Sure, their plot lines are ridiculous (again, "Passions") and the acting overdone and, yes, Oprah has declared them dead, but they've made an indelible mark on television today. And really, what better time for an homage to soaps than as the days of their lives begin to fade?
- At the beginning of WW2, Americans could choose among 64 radio serials, aka soaps, including a familiar-sounding one called "The Guiding Light". The last radio soap ended in 1960.
- Andy Warhol was a fan of "As the World Turns". A 1976 "People" magazine story on the pop artist describes him lounging in front of a television watching the show, which was, incidentally, the first daytime series to feature a gay character.
- The average soap star only makes a measly $35,000 per year, despite being required to memorized up to 60 pages of dialogue per day and record almost year-round. But behind the scenes during soaps' heyday, female head writers were among the highest-paid in entertainment.
- In 1964, "Another World" aired television's first abortion, preceding Roe v. Wade by seven years.
- Although you won't see formal meals and swearing on soaps, these are a few of their favorite plot points: alcoholism, amnesia, illegitimacy, impotence, racism, class divides, temporary insanity, getting stuck inside revolving doors during 17-hour dream sequences, dolls coming to life, oranguntan nurses developing romantic feelings for human characters, evil clones, evil twins, evil parents, evil siblings and, yes, evil gorillas.