As written by GHH member TVAcademic

So I gather yesterday was the day that ABC tossed aside decades of soap history and replaced it with a rag-tag crew of people talking about things that 20 other shows are already talking about. Of course, it's about the money, not the conversation, and ABC will save tons of it even if this foray into boredom is a relative failure.

But I hope it's a complete failure--the kind that makes the suits (mostly men) reevaluate their choices.

Soaps ain't Shakespeare. We all are well aware. Even at their best, they're not the best thing on TV (GH will never be Mad Men). But their narratives allow viewers and creators alike a unique opportunity to expand the reach of lived stories over time. Even The Simpsons can't compete with the longevity of a single soap. Perhaps most significantly, soap opera is a genre aimed specifically at women. There's been a load of discussion about whether this is a good or bad thing throughout the years; however, it is nonetheless the case. In a media landscape where women are treated as a second-class audience (we've discussed the realities of this before and do not need to rehash), soaps add a for-better-or-worse alternative to perpetually pandering to men.

Now, of course, we can go back and forth re: whether soaps are simply a ghetto for "women's stories" filtered through the male gaze--and I think that's a pretty valid argument. But we cannot dismiss that they play a significant role in the history of ecriture feminine...whatever that means. Furthermore, we cannot deny that the stories and families and truly valid discussions of topics like HIV/AIDS, sexuality (GH has lagged behind the likes of AMC on this front), and rape (GH bungled this one in the 70's but came back like a champ in the late 90's). What's more, these stories create a framework over time--a way to consider how these discussions change.

While a ripped-from-the-headlines episode of a show like Law and Order seems ridiculously outdated within six months of its original airdate, soap stories build over time, revisiting and re-imagining their own histories in order to change with the times. Characters and narratives evolve. Of course, an argument can be made that, where women's issues are concerned, soaps can be downright reactionary, but the discussion is happening in more or less real time. We can reject the soap approach to women--that aforementioned male gaze--but we cannot negate the movement of this discussion through time and space. Soaps provide a benchmark with which to measure progress, even if they lag behind in progressing.

I for one want to see General Hospital pull through this low period for soaps. I can't imagine its end. If and when the end does come, I think--on the balance--the media landscape for women viewers will be a less interesting place.