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Queen

The Cultural Revolution Wasn't Televised?

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Are there instances where soap operas allowed the culture at large to directly impact storylines? Which cultural moments do you feel your favorite show or characters could have benefited having worked into the context of the show? 

 

Sitcoms and drama series in the 70s, 80s, and 90s could be topical and popular and win Emmys. There were certain shows that remained a world unto themselves, but most existed within their era. They could still be provocative though. Soaps always seemed hermetically sealed. In my opinion, it was the medium most suited to incorporate seismic events like Civil Rights, Gay Rights, Women's movement, etc. I think of how powerful Bold and the Beautiful could have been in the 80s and 90s tackling HIV/AIDS destroying the fashion world by seeing it do the same at Forrester Creations.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Queen

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All My Children did a lesbian storyline in the early '80s, with Donna Pescow playing the character of  'Lynn'.
I've heard it was badly written, but was pleasantly surprised by the dialogue when I watched clips on YouTube - Lynn basically informing the viewers (by speaking to the character of 'Devon') that homosexuals weren't aliens or freaks, and that everyone out there probably knows someone who is homosexual. They could be physicians (I believe Lynn was a doctor), lawyers, police officers, ect. In other words, they weren't all deviants living on the outer limits of society.  
Perhaps it was unpopular with viewers because the character of Devon, who was always attracted to men, suddenly developed a crush on Lynn..??
Anyway, I've read AMC originally intended for a gay male character, but switched to a gay female because Dynasty had the homosexual son ('Steven').

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Y&R flirted with a Katherine Chancellor and Joanne Curtis pairing in the 70's and the audience balked. Bell dropped the storyline and Katherine went after Derek Thurston. Joanne was written out. 

 

On Days the interracial Valerie/David pairing was met with a lot of hate in the 70's.

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About late 1985-86, ATWT wove in and out of a storyline that somewhat grappled with the tense social relations between Blacks and the police through a black family, the Franklins.

 

Detective Roy Franklin (Count Stovall) of the Oakdale Police Department, at times had a fraught relationship with his father Leonard, a bus driver, who disdained cops because Roy's brother was shot and killed by police. 

It was a complex relationship because when the drug trade started to really impact Oakdale, Roy's father expressed disdain for the "scum" drug dealer (who was secretly dating Roy's little sister Nella, it was later discovered), Roy's father clearly wanted the police to put the dealers away, in jail.  Otherwise, Leonard Franklin had no use for the very profession that his son cared about so deeply.

I don't know what it says about America but that storyline, especially Leonard's disdain and simultaneous need for the police would still hold up incredibly well today.  Clearly Marland wanted to tell the story but something, for some reason, the story petered out as other threads like "The Falcon" storyline (which eventually became a big umbrella storyline) started to gain steam.  After that, it just seemed as if the Franklins receded into the background with Roy and Nella having C and D storylines until both characters left town and the Franklins were never heard from again.

 

Ironically, Jessica Griffin, played by Tamara Tunie (who dated and lived with Roy Franklin, for a time) and her family would be written in as a working class black family, similar to the Franklins except most of Jessica's family lived in the Bronx, NY rather than Oakdale, like the Franklins.  Jessica's divide with her family was more centered on the issue of class because Jessica ascended the ranks and became a lawyer but those gritty social issues that had been a focus of the relationship between the Franklins was not revisited with the Griffins. 

 

Whereas the Franklins' conflict was much more 'in your face' type drama, the drama with the Griffins kept the viewer at a kind of remove, a much safer distance in which to take in the family drama.  I was really disappointed that the full breadth of the Franklins' storyline thread was not pursued further.  I don't remember any other daytime soap really doing this type of storyline.

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1 hour ago, SoapDope said:

On Days the interracial Valerie/David pairing was met with a lot of hate in the 70's.

 

According to Pat Falken Smith, though, the network sabotaged their relationship by having the two kiss (at Doug and Julie's first wedding, I think) before PFS felt the audience was ready to accept them as a couple.

 

12 hours ago, Pine Charles said:

Anyway, I've read AMC originally intended for a gay male character, but switched to a gay female because Dynasty had the homosexual son ('Steven').

 

So did AW.  From what I've read, Sandy Cory was intended to be introduced as a gay prostitute before DYNASTY and Steven Carrington forced NBC, P&G and AW to turn him into a male escort/gigolo instead.

 

Am I wrong, or didn't AMC and Y&R have HIV/AIDS storylines running almost simultaneously?  And in each storyline, the AIDS victim was not a homosexual, but a heterosexual, Caucasian woman (Cindy Parker Chandler and Jessica Blair Grainger, respectively).

Edited by Khan

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The tension between the soaps’ need to reflect the issues facing America while also offering escape is interesting. Some soaps have been better equipped to handle that tension than others. I never watched B&B in its heyday, so I don’t know how well a HIV/AIDS story among gay men in the fashion industry would have been handled, even with a willing Bill Bell at the helm. (His social issues plots on Y&R were never my favorites.) But we see how poorly Ron Carlivati has dealt with topical stories. It’s just not his forte.

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On 4/11/2019 at 11:28 AM, Khan said:

Am I wrong, or didn't AMC and Y&R have HIV/AIDS storylines running almost simultaneously?  And in each storyline, the AIDS victim was not a homosexual, but a heterosexual, Caucasian woman (Cindy Parker Chandler and Jessica Blair Grainger, respectively).


AW did it slightly ahead of both, with the character of Dawn Rollo being cited as the first US daytime character with AIDS. She, too, was a heterosexual female, played by an actress with the rather interesting name of Barbara Bush. She was the sister of Richard Burgi's character. GH, of course, took the route of giving Robin HIV, which packed a strong punch because it wasn't just some peripheral, disposable character but someone the viewers had watched grow up and loved.

On OLTL, I believe Bo had photos hanging in the precinct that included actual fallen officers. I feel like there was at least one, if not more, from September 11. Also, they created the character of Officer Talia Sahid, who was Syrian, and who had worked in NYC during Sept. 11. She, along with other characters, were also involved in a white supremacy storyline.

AMC actually seemed to be one of the soaps, if probably not the top soap, to have done a lot of culturally-relevant storylines throughout its history. Erica's abortion, Mark's (and later Erica's) drug addiction, several gay characters, a transgender character, wife-beating.  Also, it had some pretty seedy-type characters in the late 70s, early 80s that you might think would be a little risque' for  the middle America female audience. Billy Clyde, the pimp. Hookers Donna and Estelle. Drug addict Kelly Cole being supplied by Eddie Dorrance. Opal calling Jesse that "black boy" and forcing her teen-aged daughter to work in a seedy club wearing what amounted to a Playboy bunny outfit. I don't think even Ryan's Hope, which was set in Manhattan, showed as much of the seedy element as AMC did at the time.

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When ABC had cancelled AMC, one magazine (forget which, might've been New York Magazine) commented about that period in the show's history, saying how it seemed to be inspired by the grittier films of the late '70's.

Edited by Khan

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On 4/10/2019 at 7:58 PM, Queen said:

There were certain shows that remained a world unto themselves, but most existed within their era. They could still be provocative though. Soaps always seemed hermetically sealed

Certainly, nobody on soaps votes in presidential elections, or see popular movies, and most soap characters seem to have never watched a soap opera on television.  However, people in the soap universe often refer to classic film and television.  Y&R's Victoria and Billy shared a love of classic sitcoms.  Nola Reardon and Erica Kane had classic Hollywood film fantasies.  And Ryan's Hope replayed the plots of famous films such as Jaws, King Kong, and The Godfather. 

 

However, I think that soaps are missing out on reflecting the influence of social media on modern culture.  I often think that if Twitter had a voice it would be Phoebe Wallingford; witty, gossipy, and filled with judgment.  However, soaps have yet to find a clever use of social media in modern stories.  There have been silly/scare plots about bullying and cyber-porn that seem to have been written by a generation that does not actually use social media daily.  Y&R Phyllis hired a PI to follow Kyle, when she is an IT specialist who could have looked at where he checked in on Facebook, or who he commented upon Instagram   I think the lack of inclusion of how social media is actually impacting relationships is indicative of the overall lack of cultural presence in soap plots that prompted this thread.  

Edited by j swift

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