If you think your life is full of drama, clearly you’ve never followed a soap opera. The genre sustains itself on ties that bind, unbind and then combine again. For even the most faithful followers, it can get convoluted. If you don’t believe us, check out any soap opera family tree for confirmation.
Yet with all their plot turns, even the most peripheral viewers know to expect certain storyline staples from daytime television. From intertwined familial genealogies to nosey town residents listening to every utterance, here are eight things you'll always get in a soap opera.
The evil twin
Soap opera drama starts from birth. Unbeknownst to a beloved character, not only does he/she have a twin, but an evil one. Somehow the two were separated at birth. In adulthood, the double returns to ensure our favorite character suffers for perceived slights of which he/she totally is unaware. Then, the trouble really starts -- like the time Dr. Marlena Evans’ evil twin had her committed to a mental institution.
After wreaking an insane amount of havoc, the evil twin almost always comes over to the good side. The twins forge a loving relationship just as if one never tried to kill the other. (Remember when you tried to take over my life? Ah … those were the days.)
It’s all blissful until one dies -- because one of the twins always dies. And it’s not always the bad one. R.I.P. Stuart Chandler.
The lesson: You probably have an evil twin out to get you.
The entire town is rocked by the death of a loved one. Grief grips residents … until the character returns from the dead. It’s a miracle – a miracle that repeats itself consistently.
In life death is final, but in soaps it’s just a precursor to a comeback. Characters can fake their deaths, be murdered or die accidentally and still come back to life. Yet they're never zombies.
The lesson: If you think someone is dead, he/she is not. Even if the person doesn’t have a pulse, is blown up in an accident or was the victim of a serial killer -- that person is alive.
Who’s your daddy?
It’s the awkward moment where she’s not sure who fathered her child. Oops. Sadly for soaps, there’s no “Maury” show to issue a paternity test.
Could it be her longtime lover or the one-night stand she had when she was upset? Good luck figuring that out. There is no amniocentesis in daytime. She’ll carry this secret until the baby is born.
Even after she gets a paternity test result, it doesn’t mean it’s correct. It could have been switched. Even when the audience finally learns who the child’s real father is, there’s still the odd reveal.
The lesson: When in Soapland adopt a baby. It’s much easier. Actually, it still could turn out to be your long lost child who was stolen from you without your knowledge.
Everybody knows, but you
Shhh … We have a secret and everyone in the entire town knows except you. That’s right, the one character to whom the secret is most relevant doesn’t know. And that person won’t know for a very, very long time. But the rest of the town’s residents will learn about it.
Sure, our hero/heroine almost may stumble upon the truth several times during the course of a storyline. But the secret only comes out only after it’s been obvious for months.
The lesson: There are no secrets in Soapland. If you’re speaking -- even to yourself -- someone is eavesdropping.
We’re getting married … again
Elizabeth Taylor’s many marriages cannot compare to the number of times daytime’s leading ladies have headed down the aisle. They get married so much; they often circle back and remarry an old flame. It’s the ultimate in relationship recycling.
“All My Children’s” Erica Kane may be the best example. She married three different men twice. Her 11 marriages ended in annulments, divorces or were deemed invalid.
The lesson: Save your money and forget getting a wedding gift. Odds are you’ll revisit the marriage and divorce. You could go broke getting so many wedding presents.
Soap fans know them as super couples. They get together. Then they make up to break up, repeating the cycle until someone dies. Then the dead person returns from the afterlife to repeat the cycle. Think John and Marlena, Bo and Hope and Luke and Laura.
Sometimes it’s a Montague-Capulet scenario that keeps them separated. Other times, it is the “Who’s the daddy?” storyline that puts a kink in the reunion.
The lesson: They will get back together for a time and then break up. That’s soap opera life.
Major town event
It’s the town fair, jubilee, wedding, dance -- or something. All our favorite characters will be there. This means two things. One: A devastating secret will be revealed. Two: Someone is going to die and several people almost will die.
“General Hospital” has perfected this. It’s blown up a hotel, had a serial killer at a ball and had a train wreck.
The lesson: Avoid any invitations to any town-wide events for your own safety.
In Soapland, somebody is being unfaithful – either intentionally or unintentionally. Sometimes someone drugs you to make you THINK you’ve cheated. Then you believe it and end up with the villain.
Other times you’re actually cheating and are busted in the most dramatic fashion. For example, your lover walks in on you and your new paramour. It’s the definition of a tense moment.
The lesson: No one is faithful in Soapland unless the person is dead. Even then, when the person comes back, he/she will have a new love because of amnesia.
I cannot remember how this storyline goes. It’s a little hazy. I’m pretty sure it starts with an accident. Then our favorite character adopts an assumed identity because of a blank memory bank.
“Guiding Light’s” Reva Shayne lost her memory and thought she was an Amish woman.
Someone always finds out about our forgetful character. Usually the first person to discover the truth refuses to enlighten the once-comatose character. So it takes another outsider to help bring back those deep memories. I remember now!
Then, it all comes back in a musical montage of flashbacks. But because it took so long, the character cannot pick up where it left off. See the previous 10 reasons for why.
The lesson: I … I can’t remember -- until I do and then it’s too late.