Tuesday, September 22, 2009
When I heard earlier this year that Guiding Light, TV's oldest soap opera (one of the few that made the crossover from radio waves to television and still survived), was going to end I felt a little twinge.
And since I've been so busy, I missed the final day (last Friday), so I felt an even bigger pang then. To me Guiding Light and Gramma are always linked. My grandmother watched Guiding Light on a regular basis and for years after she died, I did too. Even when my mother abandoned the show and questioned why I watched it, I stayed true. In college, my friend watched Young and the Restless. Gramma watched Y&R too, so I joined them because it was a social experience, but Guiding Light was still #1 in my heart.
Later, I learned Spanish and got hooked on novelas while studying abroad in Costa Rica. When I got to graduate school, I found classmates who liked novelas too, so I was in good company.
These days, I can't make the time to watch novelas or soap operas...well, I do watch Ugly Betty, which is a hybrid--an American nighttime soap that has some characteristics of a novela...but on the very rare ocassions that I do catch a soap opera or see a novela, the melodrama is more apparent than it was when I was younger. But I do not despise or make fun of them as some people do because I recognize the power of story. I once heard someone refer to wrestling as a "male soap opera" and in a way it is. The wrestling federation recognized that even those who were dying to see violence, still wanted a story arc to put the fighting in context.
And so it is is with the struggles of life. We tell ourselves stories to make sense of it all. Sure, there is something manipulative in the way that a soap opera will leave you hanging a bit to get you to return, but isn't that what the best storytellers do anyway?
Gramma and gone. Guiding Light is gone. But the power of storytelling remains.