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Females are Often Women Too on the Soaps!


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(Yes, that was the actual title).

Anyway, back to the article. It's by Alan L. Gansberg

Years ago, soap opera females were very much like women in the rest of America. They cleaned houses, raised their children, and became involved in romantic affairs. On occasion, they suffered an incurable disease or an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

Times have changed now, but have our video women? Maybe they no longer wear pearls while they're cleaning, but prime-time TV women are still often unaccomplished neurotics. Even Rhoda and her sister Brenda are still primarily concerned with hooking a man.

Critics of nighttime shows should take the time to study the women presented during the daytime - where many of the females are now career-oriented...despite an audience which is still fundamentally composed of homemakers.

In the soap opera world there are women who fight for respect in male dominated professions. There are single parents trying to raise their children alone. There are women controlling their own bodies in matters of abortion and birth control...or lack of it. Of course, there are also women who are happy in the role of homemaker and those who suffer with the strict confines of their domestic worlds. But daytime dramas also present the real life situations that confront modern women today.

In rating the treatment of women on soap opera, The Doctors earns many pluses. Women on this show have always been treated as real human beings. There are female doctors; an entertainer; a female head of nursing; female researches; and, female hospital trustees.

Dr. Althea Davis is a shining example of a woman who has succeeded against all the odds. She is respected as a doctor and was the first choice of most of the staff at Hope Memorial Hospital when a replacement for Matt Powers as Chief of Staff was needed. Althea has done a decent job of raising her once rebellious daughter Penny by herself. If she has been unlucky at love, it is because she demands the same respect at home that she has achieved in the examining room.

Her friendship with Dr. Maggie Powers is a case in point. When the film "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" was first released, critics praised ti partly because of the camaraderie between Alice and Flo, the two heroines. The reviewers said it was the first time that two women had been portrayed as friends - real friends - instead of rivals, conniving companions, or untrusting wenches.

Althea and Maggie were loyal and secure friends, though, long before "Alice." They are so trusting of each other Maggie encourages - and expects - the friendship between her husband Matt and Althea. If Althea got along with her lovers as well as she did with Matt Powers, she probably wouldn't have had to undergo so many brain operations; each of her cranial mishaps was a by-product of one of her stormy romantic liaisons.

Even snobbish Mona Croft can be seen for her more positive side. Mona is the daughter of a bartender who obtained power for her the only possible way: by making brilliant marriage for Mona to weak, rich men. Mona is now the publisher of a newspaper and a hospital trustee. She continues to control her own life, and unfortunately, the life of her weak son, Dr. Steve Aldrich.

Created by home and career-oriented Agnes Nixon, the women on All My Children also fare well as liberated ladies. Female professionals, homebodies, and even bitch-goddess Erica Kane - played to perfection by Susan Lucci - are credible, with reasons and motivations given for their insecurities and malcontent.

On All My Children we have seen weak willed Kitty Shea grow from a wishy-washy weasel into a self sustaining woman who has accepted marriage to Linc Tyler on her own terms. We have seen Nancy Grant forfeit her marriage in favor of her professional career. And, Mona Kane - unlucky in love with her ex-husband Eric, a poor mother, and now "the other woman" - is still a darned good secretary and a person who has survived by her own inner resources. Goodness knows she didn't get any help from Erica!

It must be remembered that no soap opera character can be judged from just one episode alone. Soap characters grow and progress, they change and mature.

The women on soap opera must also be judged in terms of their men. They can only be free to be themselves if their men are also free. The Doctors has relatively few sexist men - except, perhaps, for poor Jerry Dancy, whose insistence on dominating and supporting his wife Penny comes undoubtedly from a dependent upbringing.

Perhaps young Jerry can be excused - at least for now - but what reasons can the males on Days of Our Lives give for being caught in the coils of sexism? Men on Days try to possess their women. They not only put them on a pedestal, but order each and every detail of their lives as well.

The problem is that unliberated males are driven by latter-day machismo coupled with women who can't seem to say "no." Greg Peters and Neil Curtis, for example, took turns charging in and out of Amanda Howard's apartment - but she never had the courage to get a lock for the door. Salem "ladies," as they are called - Julie Williams, Phyllis Curtis, and Maggie Horton - need to be dominated.

It is no wonder that young Mike Horton thinks that manhood is being a Tarzan forcing himself on a Jane (Linda); and that bravery is protecting a woman (Trish) from the cruel outside world.

One could argue that women on Days of Our Lives are designed to be glamorous. They are among the most beautiful on television...their hair, clothes and their jewelery are absolutely gorgeous! Of course, they can afford these baubles because they never have to pay for their own means: a Salem woman who isn't wined and dined at least once a day at Doug's Place just isn't considered a proper "lady." In any case, submission is not a prerequisite for glamour.

Several soap opera are quietly heralding a more equal view of sex roles. They are not radical and they do not go as far as some would like, but these soaps are ahead of both prime-time TV and big-screen films in celebrating the unlimited potential of women.

Girls growing up on a diet of soaps can see a somewhat well-rounded picture of the changing sex roles in the world around them. Now, when can the same be said for the boys?

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LOL... with the exception of needing a decent editor who actually understand English Grammatical rules, this is quite an interesting article - especially given it's date. But alas 30 years later it's still I can't say much has changed. There are efforts in equality but we still aren't seeing anything that suggests women are well rounded and men can be more than Thug.

As an aside, interesting that Maggie Horton is mentioned as one of the women who has to be 'taken care of' and can't stand her ground. That one has certainly changed this past year - although the jury is still out on a long-term change considering she's finally in a romantic pairing again.

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Thanks for posting. I was actually very interested in the article, aside from the issues you mention. I especially liked that they talked about female friendships, which are rare on TV or in movies, especially when they aren't about cackling over men. I think things have actually gotten much worse for women on soaps over the years.

I wish I could see some Maggie stuff from that time. I wonder how she was. It was interesting to see the description of male/female relationship on DAYS because at the time the press had praised DAYS for being more modern than a lot of other soaps.

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I too miss the friendship aspects of soaps. (Well, I miss a lot of relatable, human aspects of soaps.) Maggie established great friendships with both Julie and Marlena in those early years. Those relationships were been pretty much ignored after the mid-80s.

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