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The enduring mystery of why I still watch soaps

November 6, 2012


Like with my very bad taste in magazines, I don’t think I need to confess to anybody that I also have extremely bad taste when it comes to television. I watch soaps. There, I said it. I refuse to watch reality television, because, there, you’re dealing with real twats (although they also get makeup and lighting). In soaps, at least you can make yourself believe that the twats are fictitious. So there’s an ironic distance that keeps me from blowing my top. With reality shows, I’m usually ready to crawl into the screen and go fuck up someone, especially whoever is the biggest asshole in Survivor.

What also makes the ironic distance easier is the fact that anything is possible in soaps – anything. Remember when Bobby Ewing came back to life in Dallas when the ratings dropped after his death? A few years ago, in Days of our Lives, a whole bunch of people got murdered over a six-month period by some mysterious monster, and then the guilty party turned out to be the sweetest character in the series, the gloriously insipid Dr Marlena Evans Black, under the spell of the evil moonface-with-obsessively-maintained-facial-hairstyle, Stefano di Mera.

And remember when another insipid wench, Dr Taylor Hayes from Bold, died and then returned a few years later, her “corpse” having been abducted by a Moroccan prince (fuck, they looove Moroccan princes in soaps. With names like Ismael al Wayed the Fifth), resurrected and treated very badly until she escaped to once again try and wrench that wanker Ridge from the arms of his libidinous blonde, Brooke? Oh, my poor, poor brain. How do I even store these ghastly details?

Lots of hospital (and jail) time

People in soaps spend inordinate amounts of time in hospital. One or two of the regular characters is usually a doctor, who usually falls in love with one of the female patients and sticks a very unhygienic tongue down her throat during an examination. Comas are big – they spend aaaages in comas, in full make up and hairdo. Defibrillators are hugely popular, and characters are regularly brought back from the brink of the hereafter with an almighty whack of the paddles. I am always terrified that the women’s breast implants are going to rupture.

There are poisonings on a regular basis, or somebody tampering with the diabetic characters’ insulin dosage.  They pass hearts around like footballs – Katy from The Bold is swanning around with her late brother’s ticker. They donate kidneys like they’re an extra apple in the bowl – Rick from The Bold is walking around with a kidney donated years ago by the evil trailer-trash-tart Amber. Most of them have been shot at some stage – and of course they survived the trauma, with nary a scar to show for it. Each and every character in a soap is a walking medical miracle.

And let’s not forget the Los Angeles County Jail, or the Salem Slammer or whatever they call their local lock-up. Most of them have been there one time or another, looking fetching in an orange jumpsuit. Oh, they still wear full makeup – they usually just muss up the chicks’ hair and allow the blokes a day’s worth of stubble on the chin.

The Old and the Surgically Enhanced

Of course the characters are mostly gorgeous – we don’t want to be watching a bunch of dogs with love handles and pot bellies plotting, scheming, stealing each other’s partners and having screaming matches, now do we? But then there’s the problem of ageing, which tends to happen to all of us, even actors. This is where the surgical enhancement procedures come in.

Over the years, I’ve watched soap star Hunter Tylo (Dr Taylor Hayes in The Bold) go from beyond exquisite, to a walking mask with lips so inflated they resemble two Vienna sausages about to rupture. Her forehead cannot move due to Botox, her cheeks and lips are injected to the limit with collagen or something. So, these days, like Clint Eastwood of yesteryear, she manages only one slightly quizzical facial expression which has to pass for all the emotions she’s supposed to portray – anger, sadness, fear, hysteria. At times, when she has to cry, and where her lips actually need to move, they start rolling up like badly-made blinds, and I hold my breath for the inevitable explosion. God, imagine all that blood, lipstick and collagen all over the cheesy cream-coloured drapes that adorn those sets…

The Enduring Horror of Ridge Forrester

Another horror – and my pet hate of all soap actors – is Ron Moss, the Mitsubishi robot who plays Ridge Forrester (who the FUCK calls his son Ridge?) Our Ron even moves like an automaton – slowly, and within the confines of the set he has been working on for like, 25 years. I’m convinced that, when he’s outdoors, he walks to and fro and a little bit to the side in a two-by-four metre radius, even when he’s on the beach.

He is cursed with a jaw like a boxer’s, expressionless little eyes and a hairstyle that makes him look like a pixie on steroids. And a permanently smug expression. These days, as gravity is also starting to get the better of him, he is sporting more foundation than even Taylor, which makes him look like an extra from a very old vampire movie starring Klaus Kinski. He is also the worst actor ever to disgrace the late-arvey small screen, and here I include every soap actor I’ve ever seen making a fool of himself on teevee…

And here I thought I had ironic distance – I would love to take out a contract on this smugly (smug + ugly) bastard. Mr Moss is also a rock star in his spare time – may we be spared that trauma. I hear via the grapevine of crappy mags I read that he will be leaving the series soon. I will do a happy, happy dance on the day he swaggers, slowly and woodenly, off the set. To my everlasting shame I rather fancy the fellow who plays his brother, Thorne (who the FUCK calls his son Thorne?). He is a tad more animated, and sort of a stud muffin. Down, Mads…

Ridge Forrester has been fought over by the filler-enhanced Taylor and the slutty Brooke for about a hundred years. For all this time, he has been going eenie-meenie-minie-mo over these two ageing tarts, spawning a herd of designer brats by both, with Brooke popping out a few others by men she has accidentally screwed over the years. The ongoing feud has now been taken up by Brooke and Taylor’s daughters, who are currently clawing each other’s eyes out over the same beady-eyed little fellow, so bland I cannot even remember his name, although Auntie Mads thinks he has a really nice little six pack.

It’s alllll about sex

And now we get to the crux of the matter – except for the scheming and fighting and hostile takeovers and endless medical and legal messes, soaps really are about sex, albeit a carefully draped and sterilized version. The storyliners keep on looking for an excuse to have two designer people tumble onto a bed with white Egyptian cotton sheets with a ridiculous thread count, and fifty pillows that first have to be slapped onto the floor so they can have their way with each other without getting a crick in their necks. Their designer couplings are always set to sax music – I have taken to referring to the poor maligned instrument as the sexophone.

And it’s all so neat and tidy and gorgeous, isn’t it? The gory details we’re spared – it’s usually the designer tumble onto the designer bed, following by a few cutaway shots to burning candles and roses and other Valentine’s Day leftover crap, and then we go to the beautifully posed post-coital chatter…

Boy, do they look good after a roll in the hay! Not a bead of sweat; not a hair out of place; not even a soupçon of smeared mascara. While the rest of humanity are trying to clean up soggy crotches and pick the odd pube from between their teeth, soap characters sit on a white couch – yes, a white couch – in silk robes and toast their designer orgasm with French champagne. Really? Just fuck off, will you?

Will I keep on watching this crap? I probably will, like so many other members of the human race, without really being able to explain why. Their cleverly-chosen time slot is that no-man’s land between clocking out from work and tucking into dinner, so those who aren’t sweating themselves silly in a gym or dealing with their toddlers’ suicide hour tantrums, will most probably be watching this crap.

For the next thirty years. As the French would say: “Quel horreur!”


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