Yesterday a story that’s been running for seventy-two years finally came to a close:
Friday marked the final flicker of CBS’ “Guiding Light,” as that venerable daytime drama logged its farewell hour after 72 years on the air.
As the article points out, there’s a lot more competition for eyeballs than there used to be, and there are fewer and fewer consumers at home during the day. Of such societal shifts are final curtains made.
It also seems to me, however, that the essence of the soap opera remains deeply-rooted in our culture, even as the pre-packaged network television versions have been dropping like flies over the past decade. For what is the online gathering place — whether bulletin board, chatroom or social networking site — but a live-action, real-time soap opera?
The king of the hill these days isn’t General Hospital, it’s Facebook — a 24/7 rolling soap opera filled with bad blind dates, drunken escapades, desperate pleas for help, fake desperate pleas for help, loneliness, sexual intrigue, comedy and enough vanity to stock every dressing room the length of Broadway. Instead of SAG actors playing roles, the users are the cast, mixing truth with fiction as they build and morph their online personas into the feel-good characters they most want to be.
The entire production cycle is down to mere seconds. The production cost is the price of broadband. The actors, writers and directors are you. The show never goes off the air. And each user’s dialogue is immediately embraced by other live human beings, who in turn play out their parts against a backdrop of pop-culture myopia.
How could any fictional soap opera hope to compete with that?
— Mark Barrett