The death of Agnes Nixon this past week saddened me, and spurred me to write two blog posts about her greatest, and most famous, creations; All My Children and One Life to Live. I watched both shows, along with General Hospital, off and on for over thirty years; I only stopped watching soaps when I needed the time I spent watching them to write–a decision I’ve never really regretted all that much. But I watched, over the years, many different soaps at one time or another: The Edge of Night, Dark Shadows, Love of Life, Search for Tomorrow, As the World Turns, Guiding Light, The Young and the Restless, Another World, Days of Our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful, Capitol, Love is a Many Splendored Thing–it’s really quite staggering. And at night, I remember watching Peyton Place with my mom as a kid–although I don’t really remember much of it–and later, I was a huge Dynasty fan. I did watch Dallas, Knots Landing, and Falcon Crest during the 80’s night time soap heyday; I also watched others that didn’t last very long, like Emerald Point NAS, Flamingo Road, Paper Dolls, and Bare Essence.
It’s pretty safe to say I am a fan of the serial/continuing story format. When I was in college, I managed to get into a graduate level English course despite being an undergraduate because I was able to write a paper that was good enough to get me in; it was on Popular Culture in the 20th Century, and attendance wasn’t required–always a plus for me–and there were no tests; you only had to write a lengthy paper on some aspect of popular culture in the 20th century for your grade. I chose to write about soaps; the paper, which would wind up being 120 or so typewritten pages long, was title “How Changes in Daytime Drama Storylines Have Reflected Changes in American Culture and Society Since the 1950’s.”
God, how I wish I still had a copy of that paper.
I really wanted to work for the soaps in the 1980’s; my ambition switched from being a mystery and/or horror writer to being a soap writer. I still think it would be a lot of fun, even if there are very few soaps left to work for. But writing that paper required me to do a lot of research into the soaps and their histories; I’ve never minded doing research if it was a subject I was interested in. So, I kind of became a mini-expert in the soaps, and their histories, and there were a lot of interesting trends. It was interesting how moralistic the soaps were–something that hadn’t changed from their early days; back when there was a Motion Picture Code and a Comic Books Code, and censors for television (do they still have censors?); in which someone who did something bad always had to be found out and punished. (An interesting aside: one of the bad things that characters could do, and be forgiven/rehabilitated for and not necessarily punished for, was rape. But that’s a subject for another time–but I want to go on record to say that characters who had long runs on soaps, and in fact became very popular, at one time were rapists: Luke on General Hospital, Mickey on Days of Our Lives, John on As the World Turns, Roger on Guiding Light, Todd on One Life to Live; far too many for it to be a one-off, and enough to make it a trend. Even in prime time, on Dynasty Adam raped Kirby and was never prosecuted; she later agreed to marry her rapist.)
I even wrote, as a joke, a soap parody when I was in college, with my friends as characters. I called it The Young and the Pointless, and it was primarily for my amusement, and that of my friends. Basically, I looked at my friends and asked myself the question, if you were a character on a soap, what kind of character would you be? I came up with the storylines myself; borrowing liberally from the storylines I’d learned so much about writing the paper, and ironically, my friends couldn’t get enough of it. They really became invested in the story; one even told me “My character wouldn’t say this.” Every day they would ask “have you written any new episodes?” It finally became over-bloated, because people who weren’t in it originally wanted to be, and I tried to be accomodating, and I cancelled it at long last midway through the third “season”. But it was a valuable learning experience for me, in that I learned that 1. I could write stories that interested people and made them want to keep reading; 2. I learned valuable lessons in creating characters and writing dialogue; and 3. I learned how to plot out a story. It was more like the classic parody SOAP than a real soap opera, but it was so much fun to write. I still have the originals somewhere–I’d always intended to type it up and make copies for the friends who were characters in it. Alas, some of them have died in the years since–a rather sobering thought–but The Young and the Pointless lives on in my files.
Yesterday LSU won, beating Missouri 42-7 at Tiger Stadium; their first win under interim head coach Ed Orgeron. LSU looked terrific; the defense played incredibly well, and the offense misfired a couple of times, but over all looked terrific. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if that was because they’ve come together as a team and are playing up to their potential, or if Missouri just isn’t particularly good; but LSU looked much sharper against Missouri than they did a few weeks ago against Jacksonville State. Their schedule now turns into Murderer’s Row, with games against Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M, so we shall see.
I wound up not being as productive yesterday as I’d intended; I did a lot of laundry and did some cleaning, but not all the cleaning I’d wanted to do. I also didn’t do any writing; I wound up getting sucked into watching some games on television (the last five minutes of the Georgia-Tennessee game was amazing; it reminded me of the last three minutes of the 2009 Georgia-LSU game, where LSU went ahead 12-7, only to fall behind with forty seconds left 13-12, but scored with less than twenty seconds left to pull off the win 20-14). Amazing.
I also spent some time opening Antonia Fraser’s Mary Queen of Scots and reading random sections yesterday; I originally read the book when I was eleven. The Queen of Scots has always interested me, and also, she was one of that ‘monstrous regiment of women’ who held power in the sixteenth century–when, as I’ve mentioned before, more women were in positions of power throughout Europe than any time prior or since. I also read some of Barbara Tuchman’s essays in Practicing History, and again, thought about how much I would love to write a book about the sixteenth century.
God, how I love history.
And now, I need to make up for the work I didn’t get done yesterday, so it’s off to the spice mines I go.
Here’s a hunk for you to enjoy: