Soap Operas And The Suspension Of Disbelief! image

GH's Emily dies...

OLTL's Marcie on the run with Tommy!

Before sitting down and settling in for an afternoon full of entertainment – or disappointment – courtesy of your favorite daily soap opera – today we want you to remove the rose-colored glasses and allow yourself to become one with a world where anything is possible… a world where anything can happen, a world of fiction where we are subconsciously expected to accept – if not understand - the reality of what’s surrounding our favorite fictional town!

If our introductory request totally threw your mind for a loop and had you asking yourself, "Huh?" then read on… You’re about to get a better understanding of the Suspension of Disbelief and how you owe it to yourself – and your sanity – to use it as a way to insure you’re getting the most out of your downtime and your beloved soap!

Although we can understand how one can get so drawn into a show that they often find themselves defending their favorite character to the point where the fine line of fiction spills over into reality, believe it or not, by doing so, not only can this be stressful mentally but in reality you’re not allowing yourself to get the most entertainment and relaxation out of your soap.

This bring us to the suspension of disbelief – a technique that could broaden your horizons and maybe even make the everyday emotional disappointments caused from beyond that veil that separates fiction from reality – otherwise known as your television or computer screen – evaporate by the time your soap is over.

While all soaps seem to push the storylines to the limit of almost disbelief, to get the most satisfaction out of the drama used to create them, you need to be willing to accept that what you’re watching is not real-life but in fact a work of fiction, produced purely for your viewing pleasure – even if the premise seems totally farfetched, so much so that it wouldn’t fly in the ‘real world’.

Now that we’ve established the technicalities of how suspension of disbelief could better your viewing pleasure, let’s try to create a scenario to help us make it work!

As the editor for One Life to Live, I’m going to use the current storyline surrounding Marcie McBain running off with Todd Manning’s son, Tommy, and how she’s been able to elude Todd, the police, her own husband and even the FBI for weeks as an example! While the fans are tiring of this drawn out storyline and saying, "Come on, give us a break! There’s no way Marcie would go unnoticed… no Amber alert has been issued… Please, writers, give us something real!"

Okay, I can see where the fans are coming from… Yes, in the real world an Amber alert would have been issued and the FBI wouldn’t repeatedly continue to ‘just miss’ her by a second, but remember… This is not real life. On the other hand, there have been many people in Marcie’s position who have eluded police, even through an Amber alert, and are still on the run today! So, I guess it’s safe to say that the writers are bringing us a ‘realistic’ storyline – for entertainment purposes only.

Some of us read in order to escape our everyday lives with the thrill of being put into a story, one that takes us away on a journey outside our minds. Soaps are meant to do the same thing. What fun would soaps be if everyone got caught and lived happily ever after? While in the ‘real world’ that scenario would be wonderful and would save many a lot of grief and heartache, but in fiction – or soaps – the thrill of the escape, the break-ups, even some of those tear jerking deaths is what make the shows exciting!

If you allow your mind to welcome the fantasy that each soap is trying to relay to you!

So no matter what soap you watch, next time your watching, I want you to take the storyline that infuriates you the most and ask yourself a question relevant to its premise as I will to my OLTL example above, "What if they caught Marcie the minute she left her house or even Llanview? Then what?" I’ll tell you what… It’d make for one heck of a boring and quick storyline. And in reality fans, isn’t real life boring enough sometimes?

In defense of the long drawn out storylines in soaps… These aren’t movies where everything is quickly wrapped up in two hours. Sometimes I don’t think soap stars get the credit they deserve for going to work everyday in order to bring us a ‘daily’ show. As it is, only so much script can be filled in a day, and it takes even longer to write them. If they didn’t prolong storylines, or run them through their course, giving us the most entertainment possible, these actors and writers would constantly be over-worked and bringing us short, non-productive, boring material.

Although understands and agrees that we don’t always have to like every character, show or storyline, we need to accept that parts of them act as our escapes, our comforts and our fantasies all wrapped up in one! So next time your chatting with a fellow fan, or even a rival one, make the most out of what one of life’s simplest pleasures has to offer… You may be surprised at the friends you make along the way!

Amy Mistretta
Assistant to the Editor-In-Chief