The Dying Age of the Soap Opera
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.