Pathos TV – Gone for Good?

While pathos-laden television will likely never be gone for good, I’m exceptionally grateful that I stopped watching soaps over a decade ago. I loathe the fact that I ever followed them – and I admit, to my shame, that I did go through a time when I was so pulled into the storyline on one soap that I actually recorded – and watched –  it every day.  The storylines kept sucking me in until I realized that the plots were trite resurrections of earlier duds in the show’s history or hackneyed ideas from popular culture in which writers extended character illnesses, divorces, mysterious disappearances, or mental disorders simply to make a buck in the break-neck world of daytime television.  The characters on daytime dramas nearly always behave as if extra-marital affairs, murders, and all sorts of Dionysian activities are the norm (no wonder our society is so screwed up).
Even when soap operas attempt to address worthy social issues, the saga is so hyperbolic it’s as if they poured sugar on top of syrup on top of honey over pancakes.
At long last, daytime soaps are headed for the sappy, drippy, pathos-laden, pseudo-emotional nadir where the dead come back to life – not as zombies (which might have been interesting had they ever tried that), but when the actor gets a fatter contract deal; daytime serials will forever be trapped in that world in which grocery stores don’t exist, halitosis is unheard of, teachers are never seen – unless of course they are under indictment for some sort of criminal act, doctors are always boinking nurses, and everyone has a perfect, straight set of teeth and a brighter than mid-day sunshine smile.
Real life just doesn’t come wrapped in such a pretty package.
Soap operas perpetuate cultural fears regarding death, aging, and infidelity. No one suffers from hunger on a soap, rarely do characters remain dead once they’ve been shot, poisoned, killed in an auto-accident, or fatally maimed by the neighbor’s pet poodle. Likewise, the child “born out of wedlock” twenty years ago and who has been secretly kept in a basement appears – and suddenly the child is accepted by his or her dead-beat daddy and the long-suffering maternal grandmother embraces the jackass who ruined her daughter’s life (played by an actress who got a better gig out in Hollywood and has been making blockbuster films ever since). In a dramatic scene, the dead-beat daddy becomes a model citizen who is elected mayor and marries his now-adult child’s grandmother (for her money, of course).  Similarly, it’s possible for a murderer to be judged justifiably insane, having tripped out on a mixture of Vicodin and Cosmopolitans before ‘accidentally’ stabbing her philandering husband sixteen times. Of course, the husband miraculously pulls through, and in a tearfully pathetic moment, embraces his murdering wife just before the wife dies from some extreme form of cabin fever brought on by a mosquito bite at the backyard summer picnic.
Farewell, daytime dramas. I’m not going to miss you, although I do believe that your next evolutionary step is into the world of “reality” shows – and thank goodness I’ve had the good sense not to get caught up in that nonsense. Enjoy one last sophomoric splurge before fading into oblivion.

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