Soaps Technical Difficulties

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A Peeve with the Writing

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Dear Suds Buds!

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Writing compelling continuing drama is a monstrous undertaking.  Imagine
crafting exciting, romantic, and intriguing material for up to 40 or more
characters on a daily basis.  It boggles the mind.  I don't envy the writers
their jobs. That being said…

I have a peeve about the writing.  Although soaps have technical advisors at
their disposal, they often choose to overlook obvious technicalities. For me,
this flaws the scene and detracts from its authenticity, thus hampering my
viewing pleasure.

Even if you are not a nurse or a doctor, I am willing to wager (and we are
talking considerable dollars) that you are aware of the procedure for oxygen
for a heart patient in a hospital. As soon as someone has any kind of chest
pain, one of the first procedures is to supply oxygen for the patient.  Y'know -- that plastic thingy that goes in the nose.

If I am watching a scene of a soap opera, and the character is in the
hospital symptomatic of heart problems, and there is no oxygen, it glares out
at me as this technical flaw which immediately takes me out of the story.

The same holds true in courtroom scenes, or crime investigations.  I know
that poetic license comes into play in order to move story along, but murder
investigations that end in days, including a trial and conviction or
acquittal and sentencing, is just so unrealistic, that it disrupts my
enjoyment of the storytelling.

Okay, so there is the argument that soaps are for escape -- for romanticizing
and wishing and hoping and longing for mates who are as handsome and gorgeous as the characters portrayed.  Even so, I yearn for the storytelling to be
based on some sort of realism, so that there is something to which I can

Soaps are unique in that characters come into our homes day in and day out.
They become "friends and family," so to speak. We look forward to seeing them
each day and we trust them.  We learn from them.  Soaps have been known to
impart important messages on drug abuse, abortion, HIV/AIDS, drunk driving,
and other social issues.  It is for this reason I believe they must create
the most responsible depiction that they can, without sacrificing the thrust
of the story. 

Earlier this year at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, CA, The American
Medical Association (AMA) brought together the physician leaders of American
medicine to explore the importance of medicine's depiction in television and
film.  Actors, writers, producers and medical advisors from Hollywood's best
known dramas discussed their approach to medical material, and how the
depiction of medical issues in the entertainment media can be improved. 
Also, health professionals and media experts shared their insights on the
impact that film and television has on the practice of medicine. 

Seven years ago the Soap Summit was initiated to nurture the telling of health-related stories on soaps in America.  See our coverage of the recent Soap Summit VII in LA and presentation of the Sentinel for Health Awards with finalists Young and the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful, with a special award presented to Agnes Nixon, who is credited with writing the first ever medical storyline in 1962.   Did you know that there are amazing resources available to soap writers to ensure accurate, impactful storytelling of medical issues?  There's even a dedicated website that writers and producers of daytime can access for accurate health storytelling. Here's hoping they consider using it on a more regular basis.

'Til the top of next week,


Linda Marshall-Smith,

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