Pass Me The Soap

By Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn)

Hi everyone! Apparently, I don't have a life. Here's why:

I'm married for close to a decade now, I'm pushing nearer to the big 3-0, I've got kids who drive me nuts, I do everything like a neurotic, hormone-crazy chick on a high of espresso-caffeine, I read romance (also write it, but that's another issue), and - tada!!- I watch soaps!!

Or, more to the point, I used to watch soaps. Why did I stop? From the relentless addict who taped everything and got recaps from her mom/best friend/mom-in-law when she missed an episode, I'm now down to the gal who kills time during the day by switching on the TV and watching whatever soap is playing.

You know what got to me? The endless droning of the same thing over and over again. That competes seriously with the far-fetched plots and the cliches.

Take The Bold and The Beautiful, for instance. The main heroine, Brooke, is looking for love apparenly. So, in that quest, she married Ridge. Left Ridge for Ridge's father, Eric and had 2 kids with him, Bridget and Rick. Left Eric back for Ridge. Left Ridge for Thorne, Ridge's brother. Left Thorne for Ridge. In the meantime, she had an affair with Deacon, her daughter Bridget's husband (and had his child!). She left Deacon for Ridge again, only to find Ridge back with his on-again-off-again endless marriage to Taylor. Brooke now finds solace in Dominick's arms, Dominick who happens to be Ridge's half-brother as it turns out Ridge has not been fathered by Eric but by Massimo. Brooke leaves Dominick for, you guessed it, Ridge (Dominick who now finds solace in Bridget's arms). Finally, Ridge leaves Taylor (who, by the way, came back from the dead) and Taylor finds solace in Thorne's arms. But Dominick is intent on destroying his brother, and if he can't have Brooke, he'll have Taylor!

Is anyone confused yet? That show has been going on for decades. I remember my aunts watching that when I still in that early age when love affairs could be discussed openly around me because my tender lil' brain couldn't make sense of all the husband-swapping. Even back then, surprise surprise, Brooke was after Ridge.

Tell me - how long can you drone the same plot and string the same characters in an endless promiscuous limbo?

Then, I fell victim to the Indian soapie that opened all the doors to Indian soapies - Kyunki... Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. Understand by that title, that the mother-in-law was once a daughter-in-law too. Consequently, the MIL should be more lenient and understand her DILs, right? Wrong! Every Indian DIL morphs into the monster-in-law when her son marries! That's basically the premise. The heir of the family, Mihir, comes back from the US to the family home, and like all good sons, agrees to an arranged marriage with Payal, a proper girl the rich and prosperous family has found for him (that show started in 1999). But, Mihir finds himself falling for Tulsi, the only daughter of their impoverished priest and his childhood friend. They elope and get married. WWIII in the house when he comes back with his bride. So far, so good. That's a true depiction of Indian family life. The MIL becomes the monster and the scorned fiancee vows to have her revenge.

Today, we are in 2009, and the show has jumped forward, and pay heed here - 40 years! Oh yeah! They jumped 20 years a few years ago. Mihir and Tulsi's kids are grown, they found the son who had been kidnapped and stolen by one of their sisters-in-law, their daughter is in love with, who else but Payal's (the scorned fiancee) son, and, surprise surprise, in comes another young man, and he is the son Mihir had with a woman who had stalked him in the past. Oh, I also forgot to mention that the character of Mihir was killed off when the actor left the show, but there were riots in India in front of the studio's doors and they had to bring the character back, in true soapie fashion, another actor playing the part.

They jumped another 20 years last year, and now the kids' kids are running the show.

Another thing I forget - the matriarch of the family, the paternal granma of Mihir, was 80 years old when the show started. When they jumped 20 years, okay, she was a hundred years old but that could be possible. But, hey, another 20 years and she's still here! The miracles of modern medicine, eh?

That show would pretty much be a template for every soapie you get on cable Indian television. Family, MILs, ungrateful sons, bitchy DILs, marriage breakers, home wreckers, money-hungry, power-starved. Uhm, is this a good refelction of Indian society today...?

Another one I was addicted to - South American soaps, more commonly known as telenovelas. These though, run maybe 300-600 episodes, but they end. That's a big thing in their favor - they don't just drone, though even the 300-600 episodes can seem tedious. But South American soapies mastered this plot-has-to-end-somewhere thing, and this is a very big factor in winning over their audience. But the plots, lol, well, let's just say they don't escape the cliches. Family, love, power, money, affairs. The usual hoop-la. However, South America, and especially Brazil, have delivered some good stuff.

The one I most appreciated was Terra Nostra, a historical soapie set in the late 1800s when slavery was abolished in Brazil and indentured labour from Italy was brought in to work the cane fields. The story followed the lives and loves of Giuliana and Matteo. The two met on board the ship taking them to Brazil. Love at first sight, but Matteo is going to work in a far away plantation, while Giuliana is going to her guardian's place after her parents' death. The guardian is an Italian immigrant too, who came to Brazil 40 years earlier and is now a succesful banker. His son, Marco Antonio, falls in love with Giuliana the minute he lays eyes on her, but her heart belongs to Matteo, and she finds she is expecting Matteo's child. A sweeping saga that recounted the plight and condition of the immigrants who today consist over half of the Brazilian population, the show was a major hit everywhere it was sold.

Laços de Família was another one that set the dice rolling where family relations was portrayed in Brazilian soapies. Helena is a beautiful, independent woman in her forties who falls in love with Edu, a 25-year-old young doctor. All is well until the day Helena's daughter, Camila, returns from Europe. Camila wants Edu, and steals him from her mother. But then Camila is diagnosed with leukemia, and Helena knows she will do everything to save her daughter, even have another child with Camila's father, who everyone thinks is dead, but is in fact Helena's cousin who raped her when she was a teenager.

Themes to this day untouched in soapies were dealt with in this one - rape, older woman/younger man, mother-child love, and the ethics of having another child to save a sick one. There was also the fact that a daughter steals her mother's lover. Edu is played by former model turned actor Reynaldo Giannechini, and actually, when you look at the man, you can understand how Camila could want him, and one look at that hunk could make you forgive him anything.

In Por Amor, actresses Regina Duarte and Gabriela Duarte, mother and daughter in real life, play the same parts in the story. Gabriela's character, Eduarda, falls in love and marries Marcelo while her mother, Helena, finds love in the arms of Atilio, a family friend of Marcelo's family. Mother and daughter become pregnant at the same time, and their delivery is scheduled on the same day. But that same night, Eduarda's son dies because of heart defect, and Eduarda can no longer have children because she has had a hysterectomy after her complicated delivery to save her life. Helena sacrifices her own baby, and ultimately her marriage, passing the baby off as Eduarda's, to provide Eduarda with the son that will keep Marcelo married to her daughter.
These South American soaps are called the "burnt dinner" shows here in Mauritius. Why? they air at 6.30 PM, when dinner is on the stove but the housewives are busy watching the soapie and so the dinner gets burnt. Told you, didn't I? We housewives need a life!

So, how do you get a life when watching soaps? Maybe by catching something like The Young and The Restless. To this day, it is the droning soap I am most able to watch and not be sucked into a warp of cliches and who-sleeps-with-whom-at-what-point. Oh, mind you, there is the man who flings by every significant bed in the story. Brad Carlton comes to mind, followed by Jack Abbott. But what really makes me believe Y&R is such a lasting soapie is because it knows how to refresh its plots. While the story started with Viktor and Nikki's love story, their children Victoria and Nicholas were born, they grew up and now they have their own plotlines (without any need to jump forward 20 years!) This renewal of generations, while the older generations still struggle with their own conflicts, brings a touch of freshness and newness to something that could easily have become terribly stale and tedious.

Okay, so now I'm off to actually get a life... Y&R airs in another 4 hours. Damn, so long to wait?

I'd love to hear about your relationship with soapies. Are you attracted to them? Why? Or, why not?

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural romantic fiction, with a twist
With stories set amidst the rainbow nation of Mauritius, a multicultural island in the Southern Indian Ocean, author Aasiyah Qamar brings you tales of today's young women battling life on all fronts and finding love where they least expect it. Indo-Mauritian culture wants to stifle them in traditions, customs and antiquated morals while the world is opening its arms of modernity and globalisation. Where do these women belong? And more importantly, with whom?Find out more about her first release, The Other Side, here.


  1. Z,

    I used to watch soaps in my late teens and 20's. Bold and the Beautiful was my favorite. Then they started to get out of hand with all the affairs and childbirths. Not to mention the kids growing up in a matter of episodes and all the attempted murder. I decided to read it instead of watch it. I haven't watched a soap opera in close to 15 years.


  2. Hilarious post Z! Okay - I admit I love soaps - I've watched them on and off for years. Since I was a kid. My mother learned to speak English by watching soaps - and while my grandmother didn't really speak English she understood everything that was going on! LOL! When I was a kid it was Another World then Guiding Light - for many years Guiding Light was a terrific soap - well written, good acting and story lines that actually dealt with serious subject matters such as alcoholism. Young and the Restless is the soap that I still watch - despite the adulterous storylines which are annoying because they are repeated over and over again - there are other elements to the show that I love - the family loyalties, the exploration of addictions and mental illness and the impact of the death of a child on a family - really a lot of heavy stuff that they deal with quite well in addition to all the hoopla. And you know about Terra Nostra - that was one of my mom's and nonna's fave telenovelas! They loved it because they saw it dubbed in Italian - but they would have watched it in spanish as well. There is something about soaps that draws you in - the history the characters have with the audience - it's a great training ground for so many actors because of the sheer amount of work they must do. And it's kind of sad that we're starting to see the beginning of the end of the day time soap at least in North America.

  3. Z,

    I don't know why, but I've never ever been interested in soaps. My mother and sister watched them, but I never did. To me, they're boring.

    Great post about soaps though.

  4. Growing up in Canada, I cute my teeth on Another World. Remember the first time Rachel went blind, Jojo? lol. I loved, loved, loved General Hospital (Anna and Robert ftw! Felicia and Frisco -- omg!) and occasionally watched All My Children as well. I think I've watched them all a little bit from time to time, but I think GH and AW will always be favorites.

    I loved the primetime soaps too. The 80s were a great decade for night-time drama. I have to say I think Yellow Rose (of Texas) was my fave. Sam Elliot was amazing in it. Dynasty was a favorite as well, along with Falcon Crest.

    In fact, I'm treating my new historical romance series like a Victorian soap opera. I'm building a world with all these characters that will pop in and out. I'm even setting up a character I hope readers will love to hate!

    Thanks for the post, Z! I'm going to see if I can find my Jack Wagner LP -- not that I have anything to play it on...

  5. Hey ladies!

    Thanks so much for your comments!

    Liena - Lol, I know what you mean about reading it all. I read the recaps online, still, sometimes it's good to just while away in front of some soap. Mind candy, and lol, the eye candy doesn't hurt either! Question - don't you think Sheila Carter was the most annoying and over-the-top character you ever saw? When I saw her crossing over to Y&R, I was like, groan, don't they have enough plots without that wacko jumping in? And yeah, the kids do grow overnight there.

    Joanna - Someone who's seen Terra Nostra! If I got my hands on that one, I'd keep it and watch all over again. We got the French dubbed version here, but talk of sweeping saga and sucking you into the plot. The actors were marvellous in there, and the plot was simply astounding, spinning cliches in such fashion. You recall when Rosana went to Paola, her husband's Italian mistress, to learn how to make pasta, and the quirky friendship that established between them?
    It's true that Y&R doesn't shy from issues. It's not just a surface drama, it touches deep into the lives and psyches of the characters. But, the adulterous liaisons - wouldn't be a true soap without them, innit?

    Sandy - Lol, darling, you escaped the soap virus! They're not everyone's cup of tea, and half of them, well, really high-strung and far-fetched. That's what kills it for many. Glad you liked the rant, uh, sorry, post, though!

    Kathryn - I grew up with my mom watching Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Dallas. They did a rerun of Dynasty not so long ago, and it was one of my mom's and mine's bonding time when it was otherwise WWIII between us (you know, rebellious teen, strict mom, boys). Then we got caught into the likes of Eastenders, Coronation Street, even Neighbours. Now my mom is addicted to all the Indian soaps on networks like Zee TV, and I'm like, you can keep track of the, uh, 13 or so soaps you watch?
    Haven't seen Yellow Rose, but the others I'm pretty familiar with. Greg Vaughan in General Hospital - serious swoon factor!
    I'm intrigued by your Victorian soap opera story. It sounds interesting, and when you think of the foibles and propriety and society rules of the Victorian era, it isn't surprising that it would make perfect breeding ground for a soapie-kinda story.

    Agin, thanks for dropping by, gals!!



  6. Kathryn - ah yes - how I loved Rachel! Another World was terrific in its hey day. I hated it when Rachel and Mac go divorced (which was often) but I loved it when they got back together!

    Z - I remember that past making scene! My mother and grandmother loved it - I would pop in and out.

    Fun post! ;)

  7. Z,

    I remember watching mainly South American telenovelas with my mom in my late teens/early 20s. One of her favorite actresses was Grecia Colmenares...and I remember she liked the historical ones more than anything else. My friends at school watched Dallas and Dynasty, and I remember a girl with an obsessive crush on, those days!!!! You brought back memories...and I do understand how that stuff can be addictive.

    Lovely post, Z!

  8. Z - I was a massive As The World Turns fan in the late 80's, following the romantic traumas of Lily and Holden. The thing I liked most about that soap were the contrasts between the wealthy Lucinda Walsh and the farm family, the Snyders. At that point, all the soaps showcased wealthy families, so I loved the farm family for its freshness and difference. Plus, I'm always attracted to romance-that-can't-cross-the-class-lines.

  9. Hi Angela and Julia

    Lol, isn't that a universal storyline - the cut-across-the-class-lines plot? I admit I'm a goner for that one too.

    And yeah, it always seems there's one big, rich family in every soap. Could it be that rich equals drama?

    Lol Angela. A crush on JR? Shiver!!

    Thanks for the comments!!




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