Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Dying Age of the Soap Opera

The Dying Age of the Soap Opera
Lisa Williams

            When “Daytime Drama” first aired, the majority of sponsors were manufacturers

 of laundry detergent, hence, the term “Soap Opera” was coined.

            As Guiding Light aired its final episode on Friday, September 18, 2009, I thought

of my mother, an avid fan for that and many other daytime stories.

            The blare of mesmerizing dramas filled the house. She seemed lost in their world

 from 11:30 am to 4:30 pm, starting with “Love of Life” and ending with “The Edge of

Night”.  This was how my mother spent the majority of her days, in the midst of fictional

characters as transitory as the soap bubbles sponsors blew at the lonely women who

 joined their world of make believe.

            A world created in hopes of easing the drudgery of homemaking, which most

 women of that era were brought up to believe should be enough for them. To deny

  reaping any satisfaction from these daily tasks was to admit failure.

          In the wee hours, when the house was silent, the discontentment of their man-made
world filled the darkness, some would drink it away, some would lose themselves in the

 false sense of contentment doctors would offer in hastily written  prescriptions which

dulled their “Secret Storm”. I’m sure many waited anxiously for the day to begin so they

could join “Another World”.

            “As The World” turned, they remained still, never moving with it, just watching

as “The Days of” their “Lives” passed them by and before they knew it, just as “The

Edge of Night” fell, dinner, dishes and finally sleep took over.  As they lay quietly in

their beds, many wondered when in fact, their “Love of Life” would actually begin. 

            These amusements, created by the media to pacify bored, lonely women,

 failed miserably. The rights of women, fought so desperately for by previous

generations, were put aside once again in the age old attempt to keep the female “safe” in

 the home where many believed she belonged.  Unfortunately, this is where she began to

 unravel, losing herself in the shadows of wifedom and motherhood.

            The loneliness my mother and many women of her generation must have felt as

 “home” became a solitary dream denying shelter. The windows to the outside world

  became clouded with their families wants and needs, leaving these wives and mothers

 floundering in discontent as they wiped away smudges and crumbs of their daily lives to

 a sparkling shine, catching sight of their own unfamiliar reflections, surrendering to their

 “living” rooms, filled with the all too familiar voices of their soap “families”.

            My mother passed away on February 4, 2009.  She was found in her home by the

housekeeper.  In the background, the soaps still told their stories, so I presume she didn’t

feel she died alone, but I do. 



  1. You have shared a strong message within an even stronger story. The dream-denying line carries great force. I'm thrilled and fortunate that I had the opportunity to choose what kind of woman I would be. Lucky!

  2. So sad, Lisa. So many lonely lives trying to fill the emptiness with tv personalities. I was programmed for such a life, but came awake in the era of Women's Lib, and thankfully never was the same again!

  3. Lisa,

    My mother was from that era of women being the sole house keepers and household doers as well. She was in fact a housekeeper to another family, as her 'day job.' Little respect and with a very poor reward.
    I understand your feeling too Lisa.
    My poem, is really about my mother as well....


    1. So sad that for the most part so many women were treated with such little respect. Thanks so much for your comment.

  4. . Soaps I did watch for a brief time before I was married (habit picked up from my mother!). Thank God I switched it off. Poignant write

  5. This poem makes me very sad on so many levels.

    1. It was very sad for so many women during that time period. They needed encouragement to grow and enjoy new experiences. Unfortunately, so many shared the same life as my mother. Thanks for commenting, Janet, always appreciated.

  6. ...a very sensitive poem and sad... when a woman gets married she loses her job... devoting the rest of her life indoors...doing this & that... yet still bored..and soap operas lay temporary relief for her to find escape... i felt sorry for her...and yes for my mum too --- how they reached to this point of their lives... they needed company but nobody's home... somehow i'm thankful that in our place soap operas are still in abundance... good enough to fill the spaces we left to her alone... smiles...

  7. Oh, this is sad, Lisa. I remember those soap operas. My mother used to watch Love of Life, Secret Storm, and As the World Turns. I don't know, to be honest, if soap operas exist any more. But I wonder if our generation watched The Bachelor, American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, etc. in the same way as our mother's generation watched soap operas. Do many of us live vicariously in some way? And, I wonder, is this all bad? I am not judgmental, and I don't have answers. You just wrote a very thought-provoking write.

    1. I think in my mother's case being so hooked on soaps was to her detriment. She already suffered from depression and being so isolated (she also didn't drive) only added to her sadness. Thank you for your comment.

  8. Powerful and creative - and gives me chills.

  9. I almost forgot about Soaps! The women in my family used to be hooked on Days of Our Lives. Wow, Lisa. Heartbreaking but cool write nonetheless.

  10. Lisa, this is my mother's life! She would have been 90 on March 14, but she succumbed to years of alcoholism and also chain smoking at age 69, looking much older than she was.

    The soaps started back in radio days; I remember hearing the organ play when something was up - "duh-daaaaah"! The Secret Storm was on when I'd get home from school, and by then, Mom was sipping gin from a crystal cocktail glass. She grew to love the Young and the Restless, or as we called it, "The Hung and the Chestless"! Now, it's cool that gay characters are accepted (and my mom would have dug that, too; she was a jazz singer like me), but the blatant "straight" sex turns my stomach. I wonder how many moms turn off the TV when their little ones are in the room. GREAT post!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, by the way. Here is one on my mom that will give you a good idea of the women you write about here:
    Thanks, Amy

  11. Thanks, Amy. Love your poem, Missing Charlotte.


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