Why Are Daytime Soap Disappearing?

Soap Operas have been a part of our culture since the 1930’s but there have been many changes to the genre since then. Guiding Light was the longest running television soap until it’s cancellation in 2009. There have been many soap operas cancelled over the years. According to About.com there were 10 to 12 soap operas on television during 1990-1999. Currently there are only 4 daytime soaps still airing on network television.

Many people believe that the decline of soaps have to do with more reality programs, soaps are too expensive, and the O.J Simpson trial. Money is always a factor in which shows stay or go, reality has become very popular, and sure the O.J trail consumed a lot of daytime hours, but I believe that it’s more to it than just those factors. I believe that while soaps have large fan bases viewers are tired of the same old story lines. I was watching The Bold & the Beautiful recently and Brooke Logan has once again been caught having an affair with someone else’s husband. This character has been caught up in so many scandals over the years you would think she would learn some lessons by now but no she keeps doing the same things over and over. I know Brooke has always been portrayed has a sexual character but she been on the show since the beginning and it’s time for a change. It’s obvious that she’s head writer Brad Bell’s favorite, but why does he not give this character a new direction. Brooke doing the same things over and over is tiresome as are who is the daddy, and the constant back from the dead stories, and yet soap writers still use these same tropes over and over.

In addition to the same tired story lines, the lack of diversity is also a problem. Soaps have a huge minority audience and yet soaps are getting less and less diverse. The majority of soap characters are white with a few minority characters thrown in. It often feels as if the minority characters are used as window dressing and are simply there to support the white characters. It’s interesting that there are very few minority families throughout  the history of soaps that have more than one or two children and there has only ever been one black couple referred to as a “super couple” though I would argue that Neil and Dru from The Young & the Restless should be considered one as well. There is also a lack of other minority groups being represented. People come from many different backgrounds in life but soap writers continue to tell the same stories with straight white, able bodied characters with a few minority characters thrown in and call that “diversity.” Most viewers are tired of this and want to see more creativity and evolution from soaps and since they are not getting that they are tuning out.

It’s sad to see the soaps getting cancelled because they have been a part of our culture for so long and that means that people will lose their jobs. However, I can’t blame viewers for no longer wanting to watch the same old same old stories with boring, sexist, racist writing. I have watched soaps for over 15 years and there have been times I have stopped watching. I believe that soap operas can make a comeback but there have got to be changes in the way things are done.  

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