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Article on Soap Operas and Infidelity

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Infidelity has been a long complaint with just about everyone for plot driven storylines. Currently we have such storylines with Bo and Carly on Days, Janet and Dusty on ATWT etc.


Yep, that’s my new slogan. I’m really thinking of figuring out how to do one of those Internet advertising banners, and buying time on Media Domain or some other message board, with that slogan. What spurs this on, you ask? It’s no secret that I’ve grown tired of the repetitiveness of certain storylines, and the unwillingness of TPTB to try anything remotely new. This is especially true when it comes to that old soap chestnut, infidelity. You know the drill: Great couple with oodles of chemistry goes through months/years of storyline to be together. And five minutes after they finally get together, they’re in bed with someone else. It’s a device so old, it creaks. And it’s gotten to where TPTB at all the soap operas are unable to write anything else.

Of course, it’s your fault. You, the viewer, watch as the chemistry develops between two characters. Those characters fall in love, and you fall in love with them. And now that they’re finally together, you have the nerve to suggest that they shouldn’t cheat on each other the first chance they get? Shame on you! Don’t you know how hard it is to write for happy couples? Don’t you want them to have an actual story with decent airtime? Then, you must let us write an adultery story!

When fans of GL’s Matt and Vanessa complained about their lack of story, the writers pulled out the old chestnut of Matt flirting with the idea of an affair with Beth. This was quickly rejected by fans who wanted to see their couple together, in love, and onscreen. The result: Writers killed the story; Matt and Beth never had an affair; Matt and Vanessa were backburnered; Vanessa eventually wound up in another storyline where she accidentally committed murder, and went into a coma for six months. Now Maeve Kinkead, the actress who plays Vanessa is leaving the show.

At every step along the way, fans protested the lack of airtime for Matt and Vanessa. They wrote and called with their complaints, as well as story ideas that provided Matt and Vanessa with conflict, without resorting to the tired cliche of cheating. They were met with disdain; they were told that the show could not revolve around their couple (Apparently, it was okay, however, to revolve the show around Josh and Reva), that you can’t write for happy couples (Even though the fans were doing just that; BTW, since when does being a faithful spouse automatically equal happy?), and that every story written for Matt and Vanessa was rejected by them. (There was only one serious attempt at a story for them in the past three years. It was mentioned above.)

Now, we have the same situation arising yet again on AMC. The popular couple in question is Tad and Dixie. Tad and Dixie are different than Matt and Vanessa. They’ve been together, off and on, more than a decade. They’re on their third (count it, third) marriage. Over the past year, there have been a lot of viewer complaints about the direction of Tad and Dixie. After literally years of being apart, Tad and Dixie finally reunited and remarried in May of 1999. Then, Dixie became pregnant. It was a situation ripe with conflict, as becoming pregnant put Dixie’s health at risk.

Soon, Dixie miscarried. Many viewers were outraged. (Especially those who watch more than one soap. The inability to bring children to term on daytime has become its’ own cliche.) However, there was the thought that this storyline could be a great one for Tad, Dixie, and the actors that portray them. Perhaps it would even be Emmy-worthy. Well, whoever was in charge was certainly thinking Emmy when they put together a few well-written scenes involving T&D, but put no thought into an actual storyline. The miscarriage seemed more like a situation designed to pad Emmy reels. It wasn’t long before it was forgotten.

At this point, the show stops writing for Tad and Dixie, shifting to the misadventures of Tad the Buffoon. Operating on a flimsily constructed excuse (Adam wants to take Junior away, and send him to a far-off boarding school. Sorry, that doesn't even make sense for Adam), Tad decides to go after Adam. He humiliates Adam by throwing a cream pie in his face on TV. When he learns that it wasn’t Adam, but his twin brother Stuart who got the pie, he continues to allow Stuart to impersonate Adam. Tad starts spending Adam’s millions (for altruistic purposes, of course.) Tad all but becomes Adam in an attempt to put Chandler down once and for all. Tad later condones Adam being committed to a sanitarium, even though he is not insane. Finally, Tad forces Stuart to hear the truth about Adam’s misdeeds, even though everyone had specifically asked that Tad NOT reveal everything. Stuart is so distraught, that he disowns Adam and runs off to a cabin in the woods, where he is presumably killed in an accidental fire.

Finally realizing that he has become as bad as Adam, with tragic results, Tad, overwhelmed with grief, breaks down on television. Dixie sees this, and immediately rushes to Tad’s side. The perfect chance for T&D to reconnect? No! Instead, Tad decides that he’s going on the road, alone, to find himself. How long? A few weeks, a few months, who knows? But, he must do it alone.

Apparently thinking that “On The Road with Tad Kurault” isn’t such a great idea, Tad comes home quickly. After taking some time off from work, reflecting on his life and the past few months, Tad decides it’s a perfectly smart idea to help run Chandler Enterprises (the company of his enemy, Adam). Of course, he’ll be helping Liza Colby, Adam’sex-wife, Tad’s former mistress, and the woman who has been his partner in revenge against Adam for months. Ah, but Tad is no longer motivated by revenge. Now, we’re treated to the Saga of Tad Martin, Failure Face. Tad feels inadequate because...he was abused as a child....because Dixie miscarried? Because he killed Stuart? Because he was never successful at business? Whatever the excuse is, this week. Tad wants to feel like somebody. He wants to mature. He wants to feel like a success. And, of course, the best way to do this is to work with your former mistress in wielding your enemy’s money around while you run his company.

And Dixie? (You remember her, right?) She’s got a job working for Dr. David Hayward. There seems to be chemistry between them, but it’s unclear if it’s romantic, friendly, or some bizarre mommy/child fixation.

If you were able to read wade through all that gravy, here’s the meat: It’s obvious that the writers are at least flirting with the idea of Tad or Dixie having an affair. Tad and Dixie are on their third marriage. Tad has cheated on Dixie twice. Dixie herself has been the other woman in another man’s marriage. Outside interests such as Tad’s work, and Dixie’s college classes have popped up before. That the writers resort to the same tired infidelity scenario so often is annoying; that they would try it yet again on Tad and Dixie, who’ve been through it before is infuriating.

Now, for the really good part: Michael E. Knight, the actor who plays Tad on the show, thinks the storyline is great! Knight feels that this story is allowing Tad to mature. Furthermore, he thinks it would be great if Dixie had an affair this time around. Knight is trotting out the same excuses to dissatisfied viewers that always get trotted out: “We (the actors)are all happy; you can’t write for happy couples; you can’t have Tad and Dixie 5 days a week; and, this story is so Tad and Dixie can mature, and (implied)grow, and probably come out stronger than ever!”

Bull. Tad and Dixie are being put through the same storyline they’ve been through twice already. Both stories ended in divorce. Is it supposed to be different because Dixie may have the affair this time? Or, because the cheating spouse will really, really, recognize their cheating ways, really, really apologize, and Tad and Dixie will really, really be together forever. What’s really amazing is that MEK is promoting the storyline as new and showcasing growth for his character, when it’s really recycled hackwork that is diminishing the real growth Tad has shown over the years. We’ve witnessed Tad grow from an irresponsible, sexually charged teenager to an adult family man who has actually proven himself to be very capable at business (The P.I. firm; Orsini Vineyards). He’s realized the value of having a good partner and children to raise. He knows how to put others before himself. (Tad’s attempt to save Brooke from going to jail in 1998, distasteful as it was, showed this beyond the shadow of a doubt.) He’s come to terms with the abuse he suffered at the hands of his natural father, Ray. So, occasionally Tad acts silly, cracks some jokes, and goofs around. Does that mean he hasn’t matured? And that the revenge-motivated, failure face Tad is the mature one? Give me immature any day.

Knight’s comments in the SOD interview are so far apart from my view, I find it hard to believe we’re seeing the same things. Of course, we’re not. MEK is getting paid for acting this story; I’m not. MEK is having a grand old time working with actors, and exploring chemistry; I could care less about chemistry if it’s at the expense of the storyline, characters, and viewers. (And I’m most certainly not going to put this view aside, and get over it, as Knight suggests, so he can have more scenes to explore the ridiculously overblown chemistry he allegedly has with Marcy Walker, who plays Liza.) Finally, MEK is obviously bored with Tad Martin and wants to try his hand at something different; I wasn’t.

*Sigh.* What else can I say? Unimaginative writers willing to twist and contort characters for the sake of the only conflict they know how to write: Infidelity. If you protest it and get your way, you could end up like fans of GL’s Matt and Vanessa: Hated by TPTB, because you didn’t let them play their only ace, and left without a storyline. If you’re ignored, you end up like fans of OLTL’s Bo and Nora, a couple who have had plenty of story created for them through Nora’s infidelity--all bad.

And what about those couples who do get caught in the infidelity game, and manage to stay together? What do you do, once you’ve played that ace. Well, if the couple is Tad and Dixie, you keep playing that ace again and again, until the true love between Tad and Dixie--the thing that hooked their fans in the first place--becomes a joke. That’s not new or innovative. It’s old and tired.

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