They may be full of whimsey, hot love scenes, soap opera rapid aging syndrome (SORAS), characters back from the dead, evil twins, over the top weddings, switched babies, serial killers, rapists and "whose the daddy?" plotlines, but soap operas have been an American entertainment mainstay for over 70 years. When Guiding Light debuted on the radio as The Guiding Light in 1937, the genre was well on its way to becoming entrenched in our lives. One of the reasons I pursued Soapdom.com as a business was everyone I encountered had some story to share about a soap opera experience. Either they were named for a soap character (hence, Soapdom's Soap Opera Baby Names section), watched the soaps with their grandmothers and mothers as wee infants, or are in some way involved with the industry itself.
Additionally, the mere mention of certain hot, sexy soap characters can make grown, educated, intelligent women swoon. I'll never forget that night about 12 years ago when at a coctail party in Los Angeles I noted in passing that I was working on a project with All My Children's Michael E. Knight (Tad.) He'd returned to Pine Valley a few years before and the Tad/Dixie love story was heating up again. Well, had this one woman not been leaning up against the kitchen counter she'd have fallen to the floor. I actually witnessed her knees get weak at the mention of Tad's name. She was an executive for the Toyota company!
Now soaps are on their way to college.
Frequent Soapdom blogger, Sam Ford, project manager and blogger for the Convergence Culture Consortium Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, is teaching a class this coming spring semester at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., on the American Soap Opera. And get this: The course is not just open to MIT undergraduate and graduate students, but also students at Harvard University, Wellesley College, the Massachusetts College of Art, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.
Ford did his Master's thesis work on soaps and has a couple of book projects in motion dealing with the current state of daytime serial dramas. As part of his work, he hosted longtime daytime scribe Kay Alden (former Young and the Restless head writer and a member of Ford's thesis committee) at MIT last spring. The event included a podcast. They discuss writing for soap operas and more.
Here is the exact course description from the MIT catalog:
CMS 603/CMS 995: American Soap Operas
The television landscape has changed drastically in the past few years; nowhere is this more prevalent than in the American daytime serial drama, one of the oldest forms of television content. This class examines the history of these "soap operas" and their audiences by focusing on the production, consumption, and media texts of soaps. The class will include discussions of what makes soap operas a unique form, the history of the genre, current experimentation with transmedia storytelling, the online fan community, and comparisons between daytime dramas and primetime serials from 24 to Friday Night Lights, through a study of Procter & Gamble's As the World Turns.
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