Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

The Allure of Dynamism

Posted by Sean Hull on March 5, 2017

The assigned reading for March 7, “Growing Old Together”, was a pleasant detour from the usual selection of essays.  Presenting a broad narrative of the As The World Turns character Tom Hughes’ life, the reading emphasized the dynamism of Soap Opera characters, which allows for exploration of current social issues, as well as adaptation to current trends, with an example given being a temporary shift towards fantasy storytelling during the 1980’s. Another point of emphasis was the necessity of respecting and utilizing character history & development, stating that the fan interaction & investigation required for Soap Opera comprehension is the best way to gain an audience.

Of these points, it is the dynamism, both in genre and character development that I find most interesting. Though I cannot comment on the quality or consistency of ATWT or Soap Operas in general, the concept of an almost inherent dynamism is refreshing when contrasted with some of the other shows the class has discussed, such as the near-cyclical I Love Lucy. Also in more recent shows such as The X-Files, genre and characters remain firm; even when considering the introduction of story arcs and other renovations on the episodic formula, the changes are pitiful in scope compared to the character developments that may occur within a single year on ATWT. This first comparison is made before even thinking of the genre shifts that ATWT has undergone, versus The X-Files‘ concrete nature as a paranormal investigation show.

Admittedly this is a comparison of dissimilar things, and I do not mean to imply that I could intelligently criticize the storytelling in a show designed to be episodic based on the storytelling methods used in a Soap Opera, or vice versa. I simply find it interesting to consider how a Soap Opera may be allowed —or perhaps forced— to continuously reinvent itself, versus shorter-lived shows that can allow themselves hard limits. Despite all the baggage this dynamic, messy, continuous storytelling may have, the possibilities it offers are alluring, at least in abstract.


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