Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Understanding the U.S. Soap Opera, Part 1

Posted by nathanpowers22 on March 6, 2017

“Growing Old Together: Following As the World Turns’ Tom Hughes Through the Years” from The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era provided new insights for me (as well as everyone else, judging by their blog posts) into the unparalleled complexity of soap operas. One of the parts that triggered the most reflection for me, however, arose from a misinterpretation. Initially, when I read that the character of Tom Hughes had been “born on a show and then…consistently featured for five decades in a daily television text,” I mistook this to mean the actor that portrayed the infant Hughes was the same one to portray him into the 2000s, which made me think about the film Boyhood. Though I overestimated how long Hughes was played by the same actor, Scott Holmes still played the character for just over 23 years, far longer and in a much more involved capacity than the actors involved with this film. Despite already being an adult at this point in his career, the blending of Hughes and Holmes over time must have been substantial. Consider the fact that Justin Deas eventually married his on-air love interest, as well as a more recent example from the HBO series True Blood. The character’s playing Bill Compton and Sookie Stackhouse, portrayed by Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin, respectively, like Deas and Margaret Colin, also found a love for one another that blossomed into matrimony through their fictitious relationship. I guess what I’m trying to say by mentioning this stuff is that while the performers behind soap operas (in addition to modern dramas) have a notable affect on the audiences they target, televised media often appears to become integral to the identities of prominent cast members as well. This appears to be especially true as the narrative scaffolding that underlies many media texts today grows increasingly intricate over time.


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