THE SOAP OPERA AND SHAKESPEARE
“As The World Turns” is celebrating 50 years. Next year “Guiding Light” will celebrate its 70th year. This genre popularized as Soaps offers its audience the plot twists, catharsis, identification, suspension of disbelief and pure enjoyment that Shakespeare’s plays gave to his audience masses in his day. I would guess that Shakespeare might have been a fan of the Soaps.
As did Shakespeare’s works, the Soap genre implements many plots that require the audience to believe dramatically rather than literally. This suspension of disbelief allows viewers to identify and empathize. The result is an attachment to characters in an almost familial way.
Shakespeare’s works live on as do the Soaps. Many of the truths in Shakespeare’s plays are universal and timeless. Today’s Soaps serve to explore many of our modern day problems and challenges. As Lynn Leahey, Editorial Director of Soap Opera Digest, recently wrote “Many shows have featured prominent, impactful social issue stories…
Soaps are a uniquely effective way to communicate.”
A recent example of a Soap Opera dealing exquisitely with today’s challenges of the single female was “Guiding Light’s” in the life focus on its character Dinah brilliantly played by the gifted Gina Tognoni. Most women once or presently single could identify with the life portrayed in this special segment.
Audiences have a need to escape, to get lost in the lives of others. Time will tell how long the Reality Show genre will last. Shakespeare’s works, however, are timeless and infinite. The Soap Opera is enjoying half century and more life spans. Its popularity is evident. Its need by society as a cathartic form of entertainment is proven. Its role as a means to present social issues is invaluable. Like the role of Shakespeare’s works, Soaps allow their audiences to leave their own lives for the moment and to partake in the twists and flow of the lives of characters they have come to love and hate. Like Shakespeare, the Soap Opera experience is universal.
PUBLISHED Soap Opera Digest Website March 2006