(This post was revised from an original column featured in a different format. It has been added to extensively and posted here.)
I was 14 when Luke originally married Laura on General Hospital. Because I went to school, I didn't see that pop culture event as it happened. I was not amongst the 30 million Americans who tuned in that day in November 1981. So, decades later, thanks to the magic of Tivo and cable TV (SoapNet), I got to view this soap opera phenomenon. And for that reason, it was fun. My pop culture is very important to me. I'm glad I saw it. But I also felt like I was missing something. Years later, I guess it is hard to live up to the hype. Tony Geary, the Emmy Award winning actor, is a charismatic Luke, but he is far from TV handsome. Plus, Genie Francis as Laura is attractive, but she wasn't soap opera sexy. Still, I enjoyed the Liz Taylor cameo, the fight scene between Luke and Scotty, and all of the pomp and circumstance. Today, though, soap operas are more expensively produced and they're all about the hot young actors and actresses. Tony Geary would never be a heartthrob today. And the sets back in 1981 were very minimalistic, with fake backdrops and limited furnishings. Soaps have come a long way in these last 30 years. But no one has yet to surpass the lunacy wrought by Luke and Laura.
I wonder why that is. The soap opera format has been dying in daytime TV so there are fewer opportunities. That is certainly part of the reason. And with cable TV providing so many other viewing options it is difficult to get 31 million people tuned into the same program, daytime or primetime.
Still the soap opera genre has been on my mind a lot lately. It is partly because I have been reading in the Old Testament for my daily devotionals. Each day as I read it just keeps occurring to me that these events are just like a soap opera. Though I have been reading soap opera like stuff I am still resisting the urge to watch the daytime dramas. I have seen about 1.5 episodes since I got laid off. One program bored me. The other, a General Hospital episode featuring Anthony Geary playing a much older Luke, was more interesting but I can’t shake the feeling that God thinks there are better uses of my time.
I will admit I used to watch them. Growing up under the care of my Grandma I watched them daily with her. She loved the ABC lineup of All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital. As I grew up, whenever I visited her I would ask her what was going on with her "stories" as she called them. When she died I had the chance to speak at her funeral and reminisce about how we would often talk about what that famous Erica Kane character had been up to on All My Children over the years.
But that was 20 years ago. So why do I keep coming back to thinking about them? Now that I am unemployed I have been writing more. The idea of writing a soap opera intrigues me. The twists and turns would be fun to create. I think the dialogue would be more challenging, but doable. My conscience would have difficulty with writing the sleazier sections of a soap opera. As a Christian man I am keenly aware of how soap opera images can fuel a sexual and lustful appetite that can lead your audience astray. It isn’t necessarily that I am a prude. I think a certain amount of sinfulness is necessary to create drama, so soap opera characters are going to have to misbehave. That is human nature. But when that misbehavior has no consequences, or there are no characters who exemplify a cleaner, more moral lifestyle then that lack of balance does your audience a disfavor. I’d like to think I could do a better, healthier job of writing drama that does a better job of striking that balance: showing the rebellion but also the opportunities for redemption. Maybe that is why it has been on my mind so much lately. I am longing to write the next Luke and Laura on their way to finding the Lord.