Teens on Soaps: Love ’Em or Hate ’Em?
It’s summer, time for teen storylines that we can sink our teeth into.
It’s summer and for soap fans that often means prepping for an onslaught of teen storylines. But for every Last Blast crew on “Days of our Lives,” there’s, as Sue B put it on Twitter, a “Jade & Joey at the compound.” With the change of season upon us, Soaps.com decided it was a good time to delve into the soapy world of teen angst.
One goal of bringing teens to the forefront is to lure younger viewers, but that can make a more seasoned viewer want to hit the fast forward button. However, the younger set is essential to the continuation of the core families soap fans have grown to love. Without new generations, there’d eventually be no more story to tell, but just being the child of an established character, or looking good running around a fake beach in swim trunks or a bikini isn’t enough. Younger viewers need substantial reasons to stick around and older viewers don’t want to feel alienated. Therefore, the best way to satisfy both demographics is to weave the teens into stories with the vets.
Prime examples of this can be found in coming out storylines. Viewers young and old cared when teens “All My Children’s” Bianca Montgomery, “As the World Turns'” Luke Snyder and “Days of our Lives'” Will Horton struggled with their sexuality not only because of the topical issue, but because it affected multi-generational legacy characters. Who didn’t eagerly anticipate “All My Children’s” image conscious, diva extraordinaire Erica Kane reacting to her beloved youngest daughter Bianca telling her she was a lesbian, or the Snyder and Walsh clans (eventually all) rallying around Luke on “As the World Turns,” or grandmas Kate Roberts and Marlena Evans offering support to Will on “Days?”
One of soap legend Douglas Marland’s rules for good soap was to build new characters slowly, to not shove them down viewers’ throats. Ignoring this rule is another reason so many teen stories don’t work, especially when SORASing is involved. Newly aged characters, often returning from boarding school, are thrust upon the audience, who are expected to immediately care about them. “The Young and the Restless” currently seems to be having trouble with this in their introduction to the suddenly older Ashby twins. As Soaps.com writer Candace Young pointed out in a recent blog, not only is the audience constantly being told what their personalities are, but what the “Y&R” writers are passing off as teen speak comes off as clumsy, forced interaction, making their scenes the perfect time to flip channels or get distracted by social media.
It also doesn’t help when teens are SORASed into entitled mini adults as the current crop of teens were on “Days.” When asked about favorite and least favorite teen stories on Twitter, the consensus about them was pretty clear.
— Melissa Rukavina (@MissielovesWill) June 1, 2017
Definitely my fave teen story was with Shelle, “Ghoul Girl” etc… least fave Jade & Joey at the compound. — Sue B (@njmets31) June 1, 2017
Old favorites the last Blast Crew teens least favorite current teens
— Tabitha (@tabby2325) June 1, 2017
Fave: Belle/Shawn/Jan. Jan was a psycho, but showed how Belle & Shawn were meant to be. — Lauren A (@lllaurenA) June 1, 2017
Fans on Facebook had strong opinions about the past and present teen scene as well:
As Jacqueline R stated above, General Hospital’s Robin and Stone are a shining example of how to do a teen story right. Their star-crossed romance involved timely subject matter; viewers literally watched Robin grow up, as Kimberly McCullough has played her since she was a child, so there was no SORASing needed; the show took their time introducing Stone and developing their coupledom; many other established characters were involved, including Mac, Sonny, Brenda, Kevin and Alan; and it had real stakes: Stone succumbed to AIDS and our beloved Robin contracted HIV.
Teen stories don’t have to always be an after school special to work though. There’s more story to be told than just teen pregnancy (Starr, “One Life to Live”; Rick, “B&B”), rape (Liz, “GH;” Ciara, “Days”) and STDs (Lily, “Y&R”). On-the-run storylines can also endear fans to couples, be it “AMC” friends Jesse and Jenny against the world in New York City (albeit with some heavy issues mixed in) or a still teen-ish Laura running off on adventures with Luke on “GH.” And despite their current woes, “Y&R” featured a pretty successful teen scene in the late 90s when the scantily clad Glow by Jabot kids – J.T., Billy, Mac, Brittany, Raul and Rianna – hung out by the Abbott pool for a daily live stream resulting in the blush of first love, soapy sexual shenanigans and lasting characters.
So, what made the Glow by Jabot teens work, while the current crop on “Y&R” is struggling? Why did the “Days” Last Blast crew of Belle, Shawn, Chloe, Mimi and Philip draw in viewers, while Jade, Joey, Ciara, Claire and Theo are repelling them? Good casting, solid writing and connection with the audience all play a role in making the audience care about what happens to these characters. But sometimes, like any soap storyline, lightning can inexplicably strike, while other times, as the teens on “Y&R” would say, things can turn out “so sketch.”
What is your favorite thing about teen storylines? What do you hate about them? How do you feel the current soaps are handling their teen cast? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!
Photo credit: Aaron Montgomery, George De Sota, Howard Wise/JPI; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty
– Lori Wilson