Published: July 25, 1998 By

[1]  I really like to watch soap operas. As a self-respecting feminist academic, I realize I am supposed to be ashamed to say so, but for reasons I hope this essay will make clear, I am saying so at once. I am not using "soap opera," as do many scholars, as a portmanteau to refer to just any melodramatic serial. I mean specifically daytime dramas that develop continuous storylines, rather than being organized episodically: series that air only once, five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, to present a continuing set of plots and subplots.1 I am one of those people who have avidly followed many daytime and primetime serials off and on over the years (for example, Guiding Light, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Anthony Trollope's Palliser series on "Masterpiece Theater," Hill Street Blues, Soap , St. Elsewhere, Dallas , L. A. Law, thirtysomething , the second, third, and fourth Star Trekseries, and My So-called Life), but who have always remained loyal to one particular daytime story, in my case the CBS-Proctor and Gamble ancestor of all television soap operas,As the World Turns, the only one of the earliest soaps created for television (as opposed to radio) that is still being produced, and hence the longest-running TV serial.

[2]  In the spring of 1995, As the World Turns aired its ten-thousandth episode. This particular soap came on the air in 1956, when I was one year old; my mother, who stayed home full time until I was in my twenties, watched it continuously–and, I might add, highly critically, in the negative sense of that word–until she began working outside the home in the early 1980s. Some of my earliest childhood memories of television involve Lisa, Nancy, and Bob Hughes, characters who are still central to the narratives that constitute As the World Turns today, and who are still played by the same actors–Eileen Fulton, Helen Wagner, and Don Hastings–who created the roles 42 years ago. I first began watching regularly in junior high, during the late 1960s, when what used to be called "forced busing" put my school on so early a schedule that my girlfriends and I were home in time to watch our favorite afternoon soaps together. Throughout high school and college I followed the story in the summers, when job schedules would allow it; in graduate school during the late 1970s, after the episodes of As the World Turns had been extended from 30 to 60 minutes, daily viewing became one of my favorite modes of procrastination. There are, to be sure, lacunae in my day-to-day knowledge of the story line, the biggest gap being the six years I spent working toward tenure. By the time I had been promoted in the late '80s, though, the VCR meant it was no longer necessary to be at home during the day to keep watching, and I got back into the pattern of daily viewing through "time shifting." I find myself now, at 42, the embodiment of the kind of viewer that Robert Allen posits in his "Reader-Oriented Poetics of Soap Opera," a walking repository of 42 years, more or less, of continuous backstory.

[3]  Although my analysis of the structure of affect in daytime soaps begins with this first-person account of my own soap opera viewing, I hasten to add that the essay will not (at least not primarily) be about me. Still, I don't know how to write about affect in daytime drama without consulting my own reading experience. I am not sure how to explain the role that As the World Turns's continuous storyline has played in my consciousness–assuming I am addressing someone who may not have followed a narrative produced nearly every weekday over 42 years with no reruns and no syndication–except to suppose that the characters in some people's families must provide a similar length and variety of narrative incident. Some extended families in the U.S. might still have the experience of daily contact with a continuously present set of friends and relatives over four decades, but I certainly do not share that experience, nor do most of the people I know. In 42 years I have lived at 29 different addresses that I can remember (there were more in my infancy), in a total of eight states; I now live 3000 miles away from my family of origin. This peripatetic history is not, I think, entirely unusual among middle-class Americans, particularly academics. In all those places, only one set of persons has been constantly present, continually and reliably "there" no matter where: the characters who populate Oakdale, Illinois, the fictive setting of As the World Turns. I have sometimes watched the program in my mother's mode of angry resistance against its implausibilities; more often I have willingly suspended my disbelief within the conventions the genre sets up, and have delighted in this particular soap's fluency in those conventions. Whatever viewing position I adopt, though, I have noticed in recent years that the patterning of emotional content in the storyline tends to leave its traces on my own quotidian emotional life. For that reason–and because I have learned from other devoted viewers that I am no more unique in this experience than I am in the other details of middle-class "feminine" American existence I have sketched above–I am interested in analyzing what I am calling the "structure of affect" in this particular soap opera text.

[4]  Following the precedent of much recent scholarship on soap opera (which I will discuss below), I call the activity of soap opera viewing "feminine," which is not to say that only women are doing it. In speaking of "femininity," I invoke the longstanding feminist principle of distinguishing between sex–a relatively fixed and stable category based upon biological difference–and gender, a culturally constructed set of assumptions about what is supposed to be appropriate for women and for men, respectively. While the soap opera audience contains men as well as women, the genre "soap opera" carries heavily feminine connotations in contemporary culture, as it has been marketed and addressed to women since its early twentieth-century radio-broadcast origins. Scholarship on soap opera viewing generally takes this for granted, depicting soap viewers as predominantly female, and interpreting the messages soap opera plots transmit to women. Such work either narrows its ramifications by specifying the kinds of women it describes (in terms of class, race, sexual orientation, nationality, age, and so on) or runs the risk of invoking a universalized "woman" whose affiliation with the codes of femininity is assumed as a norm. I do not aspire to generalize about "women" as viewers of soap opera, except to say that the cultural construction of femininity inevitably resonates with every woman's identity, whether she identifies with feminine codes, rejects them, or–more likely in postmodern U.S. culture–positions herself somewhere in the middle of the sliding scale of gender affiliation.

[5]  In focusing on gender (femininity) rather than sex (women) in my analysis of soap opera viewing, I mean specifically to include those men who are as dedicated to watching soaps as their female counterparts, and who are, in that sense, full participants in this aspect of feminine culture. I contend that the movement of a soap's plot structures viewers' affective lives in much the same way as daily "box scores" do for sports fans. I am told that any loyal follower of a team will be cheered, on a difficult day, by a strong showing in the morning paper and that even on a pleasant day, the sports enthusiast will feel at least a little depressed when the favorite team has floundered. The sports fan, like the soap viewer, may be male or female, but in North American culture the enthusiasm for team sports is coded as masculine, just as soap viewing is coded feminine. Both activities have an impact on the emotional experience of those who participate, and I am interested in the gendered implications of that impact. Baseball scores are unpredictable (Isn't that the fun of following them? If, over a period of 39 years, a team always won or always lost, following the scores would be so monotonous as to be pointless). The emotional ups and downs accompanying this masculine pastime do not follow any identifiable pattern. Soap opera plots, by contrast, are highly structured over the long term, and in that sense, they provide a glimpse at the emotive implications of what it means to live "feminine" experience in contemporary U.S. culture. I am arguing that box scores and soap opera plots are examples of what Teresa de Lauretis has called "technologies of gender." 2 By identifying the structure that drives the movement of soap opera plots, I aim to uncover part of the machinery that keeps the construct of femininity in operation.

[6]  I will be drawing here on the reported viewing experience of the devoted viewers I have mentioned, a fan group that meets regularly to discuss As the World Turns on America On-Line, a commercial analog to the internet. The viewers include several dozen women and men who have watched the soap for decades, whose expressed feelings about the soap, in addition to my own, form the material for my analysis. By placing special emphasis on the experience of long-term viewing, I have found–contrary to what many researchers have assumed–that audiences' feelings are usually quite distinct from the fictive feelings being represented in the soap opera text, but that their affective experience nevertheless follows a structure the text establishes. This structure creates a wave pattern, building to a climax followed by an undertow of feeling, continuing, as it were, forever–or at least until a particular serial gets canceled. I will argue that just as soap opera carries feminine connotations both within and outside the academy, the ebb and flow of the wave pattern (a common enough stereotype for feminine emotion and for female sexuality) offers some insight into how femininity is continually structured, constructed, and reinforced within contemporary popular culture.

The Longtime Soap Viewer as Academic "Other"

[7]  One reason I began this essay with a first-person assertion is that soap opera scholars have commonly referred to the viewers of daytime serials as "them." Carol Traynor Williams points this out inIt's Time for My Story (1992), 3 citing Robert Allen among other influential theorists of soap who admit to watching–to be sure–for the purposes of their scholarship, but who would not classify themselves as bona fide viewers. Williams herself says that she watched twelve daytime soap operas continuously for six years while carrying out the research for her book, and the wealth of detail she cites about all the daytime plots from the 1980s suggests that this is no empty boast. Still, while she speaks as someone who watches, her perspective is not that of the longtime viewer, who–as she acknowledges–may have followed a particular storyline literally for a lifetime. Williams gets an "inside view" of the production of soap opera narratives from interviews with prominent writers of daytime serials; in another recent book, Martha Nochimson's No End to Her (1992), 4 the scholar speaks from the inside position of someone who has herself been employed as a soap opera staff writer but who speaks of female viewers as "them" or "her."

[8]  The pattern repeats itself, from Tania Modleski's groundbreaking Loving with a Vengeance (1984) 5 –where the scholar's detailed knowledge of current soap plots gives rise to a curious contradiction between her own professional identity and the one she assigns to soaps' viewers: housewives and women working at home–to Ellen Seiter et. al.'s essay, "'Don't Treat Us like We're so Stupid and Naive': Toward an Ethnography of Soap Opera Viewers"–where the you/us division between those who watch soaps and those who watch them watching becomes the focus of the witty title, itself a quotation from a viewer. 6 Even Mary Ellen Brown, who acknowledges that watching soaps "opened the door for me to a world that has given me immense pleasure ever since," differentiates herself from other viewers by assigning them a higher priority than the serial holds for her: "What became important to me was not so much the plots of the various daytime soaps but who else watched them." 7 For all the insight that such projects have to offer on the history, conventions, interpretation and reception of the genre, they construct the perspective of longtime viewers of soap operas as "other"–and therefore, academically speaking, as marginal–in opposition to the scholarly perspective that centers each study.

[9]  Charlotte Brunsdon has attributed the we/they structure of so much feminist commentary on television genres to a shift within feminist media criticism itself, from a position outside the academy (where the commentators of the 1960s envisioned a "transparent" relation between themselves and the female viewers about whom and for whom they were writing) to an institutionally entrenched "hegemonic/recruiting" position typified by such influential books as Modleski's. As Brunsdon explains,

The construction of feminist identity through this relation involves the differentiation of the feminist from her other, the ordinary woman, the housewife, the woman she might have become, but at the same time, a compulsive engagement with this figure. The position is often profoundly contradictory, involving both the repudiation and defence of traditional femininity" 8

In scholarship of this kind, Brunsdon remarks, "The pronouns . . . are 'we' and 'they,' with the shifting referent of the 'we' being both 'feminists' and 'women,' although the 'they' is always 'women' " (315). Brunsdon theorizes a third moment in feminist television criticism–characterized by Christine Geraghty's 1990 book,Women and Soap Opera 9 –where post-structuralist and post-modern self-consciousness about identity positioning lead to a less stable relation between the theorist and the audience: "Everyone here is an other–and there are no pronouns beyond the 'I'" (316). As Brunsdon asserts, the history of feminist television criticism means "[w] e now have gendered genres, and we also have gendered audiences" (311). One might add that we also have gendered scholars. Since the "gendering" of an audience or a scholar in a post-structuralist environment is no longer a question of biological sex (a question of whether viewers or authors are "women"), but rather of identity positioning (whether the address of the text, as well as the activity of viewing or writing about soaps is itself gendered "feminine"), it may be appropriate for feminist scholars to begin "speaking of soap operas" still more frankly in the first person, using a feminine-gendered "I". 10

[10]  The academic "othering" of the longtime soap opera viewer–and the reluctance of scholars to identify themselves within that category–arises, of course, from the marginal status of the genre itself. If "we now have gendered genres" in television studies, soap must be the most feminine of them all: Modleski cites statistics showing that 90 percent of soap viewers in the early 1980s were women, and she and other feminist theorists have shown how the multiple climaxes, the lack of closure, the constantly shifting points of view, the priority of dialogue over action, and the depictions of female power so common in daytime soaps mark them as a specifically feminine alternative to masculine narrative traditions in both high and low culture. 11 While the audience for daytime soaps may be less literally "female" today than Modleski envisioned it as being fifteen years ago, viewers are engaged in a pursuit that is markedly feminine–and only obscurely feminist, in the sense that soap opera texts continue to perpetuate such myths of the dominant culture as the primacy of the heterosexual marriage, the irrevocability of blood-ties between mothers and children, and the priority of white upper-middle-class Americans' daily concerns over those of other racial and socioeconomic groups. The persistence of patriarchal motifs can help account for the ambivalence Brunsdon identifies at the heart of so many feminist projects on the subject, "the paradox that, on the one hand, there is a perceived incompatibility between feminism and soap opera, but, on the other, it is arguably feminist interest that has transformed soap opera into a very fashionable field for academic inquiry." 12Feminist recuperations of soap opera have most recently relied upon explications of how viewers use those texts for feminist ends: to satisfy unconscious drives toward female power (as Nochimson hypothesizes), to serve as the focus for communities of friends or coworkers whose conversations about the plots can be critical (as in Dorothy Hobson's work) 13 or carnivalesque (as in Mary Ellen Brown's), and hence subversive of the plots' apparent ideologies. What has not been discussed is one of the subjects most marginalized in all of academic discourse, including feminism: what does it feel like to follow a soap opera over a period of many years, and how might those feelings inflect the experience of longtime viewers? Given that daytime soap opera's eternal serial structure makes it a unique television genre, and given that, as Brunsdon puts it in "The Role of Soap Opera in the Development of Feminist Television Scholarship," "the connotational femininity of the genre remains overwhelming" (58), an investigation of soaps' relation to feelings can provide some insight on contemporary constructions of what femininity itself "feels like."

[11]  The question of how femininity "feels" is a particularly significant one for feminists who are interested in recuperating women's experience, or investing with value those feminine activities that dominant culture has traditionally dismissed as unimportant or objectionable. As I have argued at length elsewhere, 14 British and American mainstream culture has been especially dismissive of feminine emotional experience. A plot that qualifies as "tragic" when it involves a hero in a position of public power is only "sentimental" when the focal character is a heroine living in the private sphere. Tragic stories are supposed to have "universal" significance; sentimental ones are trivial, embarrassing, or dumb. I agree with the long line of feminist canon-busters (dating back to the early work of Lillian Robinson, Joanna Russ, and Dale Spender) who have exposed the speciousness of this demonstrably un-disinterested system for assigning cultural value. If feminine texts have begun to receive their scholarly due since the early 1980s, however, the feelings they inspire in their readers have not. Sentimentality, for instance, still carries strong connotations of pretense and foolishness, as well as of femininity.15 I believe this cultural habit–which denigrates feminine emotional experience in women and in men–can be traced to a modernist opposition between "genuine" and "false" emotion. As I will argue in the next section, that opposition can be deconstructed through the post-modernist substitution of "intensities" for emotions, feelings, or affect. Moving away from the value-laden vocabulary of emotion–where feminine sentimentality, for example, is doomed forever to occupy an abject position–to the concept of intensities can be one step in reinvesting femininity with cultural value while detaching it from oppressive constructs of what is supposed to be real ("real feelings," "real women," "real art").

Intensities and the Structuring of Affect through Television

[12]  I have said that this essay is not, or at least not primarily, about me, and–in the spirit of Brunsdon's scrutiny of identity positioning in feminist criticism–I would like to establish a theoretical framework for making that claim. The issue of television's affective properties is certainly not peculiar to my case. According to Lynne Joyrich, academic critics of television are always anxious about the medium's impact upon viewers' emotions, though scholars argue for two opposite models of what that impact might be. 16"On the one hand," Joyrich explains, "commentators complain of television's evacuation of emotion" or "emphasize the 'anesthetizing' and narcotic quality of TV"; "on the other hand, many people condemn television for its constant menu of sentimental and sensational drivel, for its arousal of extreme emotional states" (26). Television criticism evinces two fears: "that television deprives us of affect (as it emotes in our place) or that TV encourages an excessive emotionalism (as we're drawn into its flow)" (27). In the course of going on to develop other matters, Joyrich suggests a reconsideration of television and emotion in terms of postmodernity, and summarizes Jameson:

Although the traditional way of speaking of emotions as the revelation of some inner core no longer seems to apply to current constructions of identity, artificially-induced manifestations of emotional material (what Jameson calls "intensities" so as to distinguish them from older conceptions of centered and self-expressed feelings) are exhibited to us by the culture. (29)

Joyrich does not go into any detail on particular television genres in her useful critique of TV scholarship, but I want to direct her point back at the medium itself, to suggest that serialized television dramas–as a genre–neither evacuate nor arouse emotion, nor do they merely exhibit it: I want to argue that serial form structures the affective response of initiated viewers, although that response is never identical to the "feelings" being reproduced by the serial text. Even though Jameson elaborates the point in the context of his argument that affect is "waning in postmodern culture" (12), 17 his concept of "intensities" (borrowed, he says, from Lyotard) is nevertheless useful here, as it provides an alternative to traditional modernist assumptions that some emotions are "genuine" and some are "false." Jameson says that intensities, detached from the concept of a unified self, are "free floating and impersonal" in postmodern culture (16). They exist in a culture where the "depth models" of high modernism no longer operate, among them the "dialectical one of essence and appearance," the "Freudian model of latent and manifest, or of repression," and the "existential model of authenticity and inauthenticity" (12). If there is, in postmodern culture, no essential, latent, authentic unified self, there can be no personal repository of "real" emotions to be expressed, drained, or inspired. This notion of the free floating-ness and impersonality of affect suggests that intensities, unlike "emotions," exist in a state of detachment from individual persons or even texts: it implies that they are forms or structures operating within culture. My project, then, is not to provide a confessional account of how I feel about soaps, but rather to do a narratological analysis of the structures of affect in the narrative form of daytime television soap opera in order to describe how those patterns operate to structure (not drain, not reproduce) viewers' intensities.

Drawing on the Backstory

[13]  I will not dwell here upon all the scholarly work that has already been done on how soap operasrepresent feeling (projects like Modleski's and Nochimson's, for example), nor the sociologically- and psychologically-based work on what motivates actual viewers to continue watching soaps. 18 My interest focuses on the affective properties of individual episodes within long-running series. I begin with the assumption that an uninitiated viewer who tunes in to a single episode of a soap opera will be distanced from the emotions being represented on screen (a fact overlooked by much of the criticism of melodramatic forms, but emphasized by Allen and Trainor Williams). I like Allen's terminological distinction between the "naive" viewer (not, as criticism of popular culture traditionally had it, the person who believes the soap characters are real people, but rather the viewer who tunes into a soap episode for the first time, having no idea about the context of the events being represented) and the "experienced" viewer (who knows the backstory). As Allen explains, the naive viewer can only read syntagmatically, from event to event, whereas the experienced viewer performs a paradigmatic reading, recognizing the patterning among events that unfold over the long term (70). 19 The experienced viewer attains a level of literacy in soap-opera convention that makes it possible to interpret the broad strokes of an episode of a soap he or she has never seen before; approaching one of his or her "own" soaps, the experienced viewer has the competency needed to fill in the gaps that necessarily occur in the daily diegesis. Occupying the reading position of the experienced viewer means being able to interpret the unspoken aspects of the soap opera narrative: the long looks and enigmatic remarks exchanged between characters, the double-takes, the pauses in dialogue, and the seemingly arbitrary cutting off of scenes upon certain characters' entrances.

[14]  The more a viewer knows about what has happened before in the series (or what is happening "outside" the series, as reported in soap opera magazines or on internet gossip boards), the more capable that viewer will be of interpreting and participating in the intensities being constructed in any given episode. How much you could sympathize in the fall of 1994, for instance, with Emily's desperate attempts to interfere with Samantha's affair with Craig so that she might become romantically involved with Craig herself will depend on how long you have watched As the World Turns: for six days? you might read her as merely scheming and manipulating, supremely self-centered, in obvious evil opposition to the devoted Samantha; for six months? you might remember the trauma of her having lost her fiancé Royce in a crisis over his multiple personality disorder, and understand this as the source of her current desperation, while you may hold some lingering suspicions about the sincerity of Samantha, Royce's con-artist twin sister; for six years? you might have followed the details of Emily's fatal penchant for falling for inappropriate men who abuse her, therefore reading her desire for Craig as a positive development, and you might consider Samantha a mere arriviste ; for sixteen years? you might remember that Emily had vied for Craig's love once before, using many of the same tactics against her rival, Ellie Snyder, that she is now employing against Samantha; for twenty-six years? you might recall Emily's miserable childhood with her alcoholic mother, Susan (now in recovery) and understand that as the root cause of Emily's notoriously low self-esteem; for thirty-six years? you might have no interest in Emily's storyline at all, preferring to focus instead on the elder members of the Hughes family, whose story has continued over all 10,000 episodes. The current text sometimes drops allusions to details of backstory, so that the more recent initiate can put together the basics of the long-term plot, but the experienced viewer who has gone through the "feelings" of all those years of story will have a different relation to what is happening on the soap today. The complications inherent in longtime viewing pose serious problems for academic commentators on soap-opera plots: the scholar who watched Emily for only six days, six weeks, or even six months might draw conclusions about the two-dimensionality of the "villainess" figure that would be disputable from the perspective of someone who knows the backstory. 20

[15]  A naive viewer–scholar or fan–who wishes to glean the benefits of experience has several means of access to some of the basic facts of the backstory. One scholarly book summarizes the main plot lines of all the major soaps, tracing the current characters to their beginnings. 21 For the viewer who might not think of consulting the library for such information, Daytime Digest(Vol. 11 No. 4, December 1993) sold a magazine-format "History of the Soaps" on newsstands, presenting the backstory of "every current soap opera from its beginning." The account of As the World Turns in the 1950s and '60s is literate and useful (one learns of Emily's beginnings, for example, in phrases such as "After the baby was born, Susan found another man she was interested in, and divorced Dan. Dan and Liz were finally able to marry, and because Susan's new husband didn't want children, Dan was given custody of their daughter, Emmy. Then tragedy struck" (36). Later in the account, the prose style deteriorates ("Craig returned without Sierra. Ready to pick up with Ellie, where they left off. Meanwhile, Brock and Emily had become an item" [46]), as complete clauses and transitions establishing causal relationships between events begin to dwindle, reflecting perhaps the increasing complexity of the developing plot as well as the evident fatigue of the copywriter and editors. For instance, a passage about the late '80s reads:

Niles and Jeff Dolan, a cop, planned to kill Lily. Jeff lured her to a burning cottage, and Lily and Derek were supposedly inside when the cottage exploded. There was evidence that they might have escaped. Lucinda went crazy, because now both her daughters were missing. Lily was o.k., but Derek had died. Paul was being tried for James' murder. Brock really was crazy about Emily and was willing to give up organized crime for her or even turn states [sic] evidence against his father, if his father harmed her in any way (47).

The new viewer of the soap in search of a more nuanced account of the relationships that led up to the current storylines had the opportunity in the summer of 1994 to consult a witty and detailed history written in dozens of installments by a woman who calls herself "O2B Amish" on America On-Line. "Amish," as other viewers who post messages to America On-Line about As the World Turns call her, began her narrative in July, 1994, when the viewers of As the World Turns were, as she put it, "hostage to O.J." because the Simpson trial preliminaries were pre-empting daily episodes of the show. When other viewers remarked on the extensiveness of her knowledge about the backstory, Amish wrote, "It's probably a comment on my first marriage, but I have notes on ATWT from 1956 to present. I think, if it's OK with you, I'll do a running history of the show that you all can copy, if you wish. . . .I remember the show from the late '50s till now & it makes it ever so much more fun" (July 13, 1994). Other viewers' responses indicated that Amish's narrative made a difference in their appreciation of the subtleties of the current story; of course, her own feelings about the characters and events are very much in evidence in Amish's summaries, and would serve as an interpretive filter for any viewer depending on Amish's history as a guide to the story's background. For example, Amish has little patience with the young heroine Lily, and always refers sardonically to Lily's travails, as in this entry from her September 1994 account of As the World Turns in the late 1980s:

Welcome to Lily-land in the late 80s. The arrival of Rod Landry in Luthers Corners sent a big shiver through everyone. Rod had raped cousin Iva Snyder, and she had become pregnant with darling Lily, later adopted illegally by Lucinda and Martin Guest. In a major confrontation in the Walsh stables, when Iva thought that Rod was getting ready to rape Lily, the whole truth came out. Lily was deeply appalled and ran away (a pattern begins) to Wyoming. Holden Snyder followed. (Another pattern begins.) They spent the summer happy in a small town and grew even closer. They were undeniably "part of each other."

Amish's narrative, strong on causality and perceptive in its recognition of the interactions between the script and such extratextual matters as the hiring of new headwriters and the firing of unpopular actors, is always marked by how she felt–or feels–about the characters. (In addition to the obvious ironies, Amish's satire comes through in the parenthetical and quoted material in the passage above, alluding to repeated motifs in the plot that viewers had been ridiculing). This makes her text interesting reading for the experienced viewer of the soap–who may or may not agree with her interpretations (I remember the Lily/Iva/Rod Landry storyline as one of the most stirring in the soap's long history, and would not speak of it in terms much more ironic than I might use in recounting, for instance, the plot of Absalom, Absalom!)–but not precisely a substitute for long-term viewing.

[16]  The emotional impact of long-term viewing depends on matters other than knowledge of storylines, after all, matters that cannot be communicated through plot summary. The return of familiar actors reprising roles they had created years or even decades ago would be one example. When Martha Byrne–who had created the role of Lily as a child and adolescent, then left the series for several years to pursue musical comedy while her As the World Turns character was re-cast–made a well-publicized return as a twentysomething Lily, the viewers' potential anticipation of seeing Lily again (after one of her many runnings-away-from-home) was greatly enhanced. 22 This particular soap opera also uses musical themes to connect current episodes with past emotional associations, sometimes depending on viewers to recognize leitmotifs after months or even years have elapsed since the last allusion to a specific song. A recent example is Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," first sung by Lily in May of 1993 in a nightclub in Malta, where Holden (beginning to regret having severed their lifelong love affair when amnesia caused him to forget that they believe they are "part of each other") has traced her. Lily is sadly performing the song, evidently still grieving that she can't make the amnesiac Holden love her; she has, however, remarried since last seeing him, and the complications of their mutual and ambivalent desire for reunion were to drive a major storyline for nearly two years. The scene of Lily singing Raitt's song recurred three or four times in flashbacks from Holden's point of view in the spring and summer of 1993, and he once overheard Lily trying to rehearse it during that period, but the musical theme dropped out of the diegesis until June of 1994, when a keyboard arrangement of the theme appeared, briefly and only once, on the soundtrack during a scene in which Holden is finally coming to accept that Lily will remain married to her current husband. With a subtlety that might surprise soaps' detractors, the theme's reprise effected a shift in the song's point of view, from Lily's grief to Holden's, and suggested that Holden's resignation to their separation now–like Lily's, thirteen months, or approximately 280 viewing hours earlier–is permanent, or as permanent as any emotional situation can be in a form that resists closure so aggressively as daytime soap opera does. For the experienced viewer, the affective impact of the theme's reprise could be substantial; while it can be explained to the naive viewer, he or she cannot "feel" it in the same way. Part of the appeal of following a soap opera over a long period of time is the accumulation of knowledge of those emotive details that add layers of affect to each new episode.

Analyzing the Structure of Viewers' Response

[17]  Obviously, detailed formal analysis of the intensities represented in and inspired by any "text" as massive and ungainly as 38 years of daily episodes is logistically impossible; the attempts at plot summary I have quoted in this essay (not to mention the ones I have produced) demonstrate the difficulties involved in assigning causality and conveying emotional impact in an account of anything so long-standing and complex as the text of As the World Turns, and such relevant matters as casting and musical themes can only be accounted for with reference to specific instances. Indeed, (as, for example, the ironic tone and hilarious dismissiveness of O2B Amish's narrative indicates), the melodramatic extremity of all soap opera storylines makes plot summaries sound laughable, even to the very viewers who are moved by the playing out of those plotlines in individual episodes. I therefore make reference in what follows only to a narrow slice of that endless narrative that is As the World Turns, and I will resist resorting to plot summaries as I account for the intensities this text conveys. Taking a narratological approach, I aim to identify the patterns that constitute the structure of affect in the transaction between the experienced viewer and the soap opera text, rather than to analyze at length specific instances of emotional intensity in the text.

[18]  In trying to locate the patterns of affect in the series, I have made "mood sketches" of 26 consecutive episodes from a six-week segment of the fall of 1994, looking for the interplay of types of emotion within and among episodes. I took notes on each of the 26 episodes, describing the action of each scene and characterizing the dominant emotion being depicted in each scene (anger, suspense, grief, sexual tension, cheerfulness, etc.) Taking each episode as a whole, I counted the number of scenes dominated by each of the moods that appeared that day, noting the emotions that dominated the hour, as well as the emotions that were secondary or tertiary to the day's main dramatic actions. I tracked the intensity of the emotions being depicted through the buildup of particular plotlines to their crisis points, and counted the number of days it took for each of the major and minor plots to reach its emotive peak. Shifting my analysis from the text to its audience, I then recorded both the content and the intensity of viewers' reactions to the details of the forward-moving plot, to determine whether the audience's emotional experience was tracking with the emotions being represented in the story.

[19]  In constructing this analysis, I have consulted–in addition to my own response–the continuing conversation about As the World Turns on the America On-Line network. The electronic bulletin board (EBB) devoted to this particular soap brings together fifty or so businesspeople, homemakers, students, writers, and teachers who watch the show regularly (many of them for as long as I have), women and men who meet on-line to "talk" about it. This group of viewers–evidently all upper-middle class people economically comfortable and technologically sophisticated enough to afford home computers and use them to enter the internet–cannot be seen as "typical" of the daytime audience, because their subscriptions to America On-Line set them apart as having a certain degree of privilege in terms of income and educational level. While I do not wish to generalize from their remarks to make statements about the activity of all viewers in general, I am arguing that the way they (and I) follow the soap text suggests one possible mode of reception for soap operas: reading serially, over an extended period of time, while enjoying simultaneous critical and affective reactions spurred by the text.

[20]  The As the World Turns "family" on America On-Line (as its organizers call the discussion group) produces a "members' packet" including profiles of thirty-six of the regular participants. They range in age from 15 to the early 40s, with the majority being in their 30s; the group includes six men, only one of whom posts in tandem with his wife. A few profiles do not mention the longevity of the viewers' investment in this particular soap opera, but those who do reflect a long-standing commitment to watching it: only three members have followed the soap for five years or less; four have watched from five to ten years; six have watched from ten to twenty years; six from 20 to 30; and nine of the members have watched continually for 30 to 38 years. Not everyone who posts messages to the list has a profile in the packet, but most of the members who are profiled make regular postings. The long-term viewers are always available to answer new viewers' questions about past connections among the characters, to remark on the relative consistency of characters' behavior over the years, and to praise or to criticize the current storyline in the context of the show's long history.

[21]  The ongoing conversation among these viewers puts to rest any lingering scholarly clichés about soap opera watching as a necessarily passive or naive activity. 23 They continuously critique actors' performances (complaining about phony foreign accents, bad hairstyles, or awkward acting); point out inconsistencies in the plot (drawing on details, some of which reach back for decades into the backstory); complain about the overuse of certain sets (pointing out that bed-and-breakfast rooms supposedly set in rural Illinois and in Paris are identical); denounce manifestations of racism and homophobia (criticizing the writers for breaking up an interracial marriage and supplying the African-American wife with a new black love interest; organizing a protest when the producers fired an actor with AIDS); and–of course–they speculate about the psychology and motivations of the characters. 24 In this last respect, the viewers may appear to live out the cliché of soap opera fans' mistaking characters for real people (for example, they expressed something like moral outrage at Holden's neglecting his toddler son to pursue his obsession with Lily; this thread, like many others the viewers anticipate in their discussions, appeared in the discourse of the soap itself a few weeks after it appeared on-line). The participants in the discussion are highly aware, however, of the constructedness of the text: they share news about hirings and firings of actors and they speculate about whether the series' writers are "lurking" on the list, picking up ideas from their responses. The viewers are even competing with the writers, constructing texts of their own, including an enormous America On-Line file containing an alternative future for the characters ofAs the World Turns, known as "Oakdale 2," in which Emily–who had been particularly irritating some members of the list for many months– gets murdered, and many characters whose actors had long ago left the series come back. The viewers also held an on-line "costume party" on Halloween, for which they adopted aliases and engaged in on-line "chat" in the personas of the soap characters whose identities they had appropriated. The resulting parodies of characters' speech and thought patterns showed a sophisticated readerly awareness of how the soap itself is put together.

[22]  By placing the analytic record I made of six weeks of As the World Turns episodes next to the comments the America On-Line viewers made during the same period, I have come to two preliminary conclusions about the structure of affect in this daytime soap: First, the episodes follow a "wave" pattern of represented emotion, building to affective peaks that are followed by an "undertow" of reaction, and second–though the intensities expressed by the viewers follow the same wave pattern–the intensities the viewers express are not at all the same as the emotions that are being represented in the soap. To rephrase it in the critical terms that Joyrich provides: while the continuing text is clearly not "evacuating" emotion (the viewers' lively participation on the electronic bulletin board suggests otherwise), it is not "arousing excessive emotionality," either, even though it may be representing emotional excess. While the soap's patterns are structuring the affective response of the viewers, the story line is by no means dictating a particular response.

The Ebb and Flow of Feminine Intensities

[23]  Before I analyzed and sketched the dominant emotions being represented in individual episodes over six weeks, it had been my impression that particular episodes tend to be unified around the representation of certain sets of emotions: there are anxious days, angry days, erotic days, joyous days. My analysis of all the scenes in those episodes indicates that this is generally true, that each episode is dominated by characters populating various subplots, expressing a particular subset of all the emotions available to soap opera diegesis. What I did not anticipate is that when you flatten out the emotional impact of drawing on elaborate backstory (I mean, when you look rapidly at many episodes on a VCR in a library, over a short period of time, from a scholarly point of view),As the World Turns appears to represent a very limited range of emotional affect. The 26 episodes are dominated by the expression of Angst, in the forms of worry, concern, tension, anxiety, dread, suspense, depression, and unsatisfied sexual desire, except for those episodes that function as the crisis point in a particular storyline, where the dominant emotions are anger, terror, and erotic gratification. 25 The emotional wave pattern cuts across the familiar five-day pattern of a "mini-climax" on Wednesday and a "cliffhanger" on Friday, in that it seems to function within a cycle of 10 to 15 episodes: After 10 days or two weeks of tension/worry/suspense/anxiety, one or more of the subplots will culminate in a crisis day of rage/terror/eros. Even the most intense of crisis days will be broken up by some brief scenes from other subplots reflecting happiness, warmth, or affection, scenes which are also always present during the days that build up to and recover from the crisis. 26

[24]  This wave pattern contributes to the rhythm of suspense in the serial form, and results from the form's radical resistance of closure: no subplot is ever really resolved, as the undertow of emotional repercussion after the crisis keeps the pattern of affect constantly moving. In this important respect, soap opera is unique among melodramatic forms. Daniel Gerould, summarizing the Russian Formalists' models of melodramatic structures, states that melodramas typically "move in tiers." As Gerould puts it:

What is characteristic for melodramatic composition is not a straight rise to the culminating point and then a lowering of tension until the conclusion, but rather a movement in tiers by which each new phase of the plot with its new "obstacles" and "non-resolutions" gives rise to new degrees of dramatic intensity. This new "quality" of dramatic intensity, which builds in layers, creates heightened dramatic perception on the part of the spectator, not resolved until the final moments of the denouement. 27

The "movement in tiers" resembles the wave pattern, in that there is never a single climax to a plot, as each new complication builds more "dramatic intensity." But, whereas the stage melodrama (or its filmic and novelistic counterparts) eventually will reach "the final moments of the denouement," the soap opera text–like the surf–never does. The intensity continues unabated, for over ten thousand episodes throughout 42 years and more, as the spectator's "heightened dramatic perception" is never fully dissipated.

[25]  The America-On Line record of viewers' responses (and my own viewing experience) suggests that emotional engagement with the text follows the wave pattern produced in that text: during the periods when the plot is in the undertow of repercussions from crisis, viewers log on more often and express more vivid reactions to what is happening in the story. However, the intensities expressed are never identical to those being represented on the soap. When characters are evincing Angst , viewers are typically expressing irritation, impatience and annoyance. At crisis points, viewers say they are disappointed with outcomes or happy about them, they report that they are moved by certain scenes or left cold, but the viewers' expressed intensities are neither unanimous (there is limited agreement, even among long-term viewers, about which characters are sympathetic or attractive) nor correlated with the characters' feelings about those same outcomes. For example, Rosanna and Evan might both be upset (he is defensive and furious, she is outraged and distraught) when she ends their relationship, but most of the viewers are satisfied or even delighted to see the manipulative Evan receive his come-uppance (though some are disappointed–preferring Evan to Mike, his working-class rival for Rosanna's affections–yet resigned to the realization that the conventions of soap narrative make the young heiress's shift to the working-class lover inevitable). In short, for these viewers the soap opera text's representation of "excessive emotionalism" inspires a response that parallels the episodes' structures of affect without mirroring them.

[26]  What does it feel like to view As the World Turns over the long term? Individual viewers' responses to the feelings being represented can vary, for any given fictional event, across the range from sobbing to laughing aloud, but the underlying motion of the wave pattern gives a structure to those responses that resembles the ebb and flow the culture has long associated with feminine emotion. Even the detached response of critical irony (so typical of the America On-Line viewers' attitude toward the plot and so antithetical to the cultural stereotype of femininity) follows the pattern of intensities set by the soap's plotline: even viewers' ironic outrage ebbs and flows with the climaxes of the story. "Feminine" emotional experience, in this view, does not emanate from the female body or even from any given woman's psychology. It is a process structured by culturally produced and received intensities. Any longterm soap opera viewer whose daily mood tracks with the structure of the series is submitting, therefore, to a technology of gender, a process that patterns and reinforces what the culture assumes feminine emotion ought to be. For some viewers, the intensities are a form of background noise in a life otherwise detached from the concerns of the soap opera plot; for others–particularly those who are moved enough by the storyline to want to write about it on-line (or, in my case, in this essay)–the intensities are more present, more vividly a part of daily consciousness. To watch every day is to be carried on that wave of intensities, to experience the build-up, the crisis, and the undertow of response as one of the structuring principles of daily life. To watch every day–to have your emotional life structured, however subtly, by that wave pattern–is to be continually re-gendered as feminine, whether you are male or female, whether you experience the feelings as "genuine emotions" or "intensities," whether you view this process as part of the oppression of women or as an opportunity for celebrating twentieth-century, middle-class, North American feminine experience.

[27]  When I consider the venue in which the America On-Line viewers' conversation is being held, I find it appropriate to think about the feelings I am discussing in terms of "intensities." Not only are these feelings, as Joyrich suggests, artificially induced, they are being expressed in a metaphorical space (for "cyberspace" is not literally a place) by entities bearing ambiguously gendered aliases rather than personal names. Sometimes a viewer will sign his or her real name; sometimes one will report that he has been ill or she is currently grieving over a divorce or the loss of a family member. When they do, a wash of intensities comes over the line: "I'm so sorry for you"; "Let us know if there's anything we can do." Do these utterances sound insincere, inauthentic, absurd? Not to me: I would say they express feelings that are structured by the conventions of internet communication among persons who have never met, but who share certain feminine expectations about appropriate social interaction. 28 Like the intensities inspired by the patterns of storyline in soap opera, these feelings may not be "authentic" or "genuine" in the modernist sense, but they form the basis for a virtual community that exists in the absence of long-time residence in a single geographical place. As cyberspace stands in for place–as the America On-Line "family" stands in for bodily present persons–so do intensities for "feelings." The existence of the VCR and the electronic bulletin board make possible an extension of the family group, the college dorm crowd, or the community of coworkers who might meet "as women" to discuss soap opera. The virtual community includes men, too, in an expanded version of the gendered audience; the "intensities" being expressed in that virtual space are a feature of post-modern, ambivalent femininity, as potentially experienced by both sexes. These feelings are not special, unique, or original; they are, in a sense, as formulaic as the plots that inspire them. And yet we who feel them experience them as nonetheless intense.



  1. See Jane Feuer, "Narrative Form in American Network Television," in High Theory/ Low Culture: Analysing Popular Television and Film, ed. Colin MacCabe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986), 101-114. As Feuer has demonstrated, primetime episodic television adopted many of the conventions of serial form during the 1980s, including "a more developmental model" allowing basic situations of episodic shows to evolve (111). Feuer sees serial and episodic form as "two different responses to television's dual ideological compulsions: the need to repeat and the need to contain" (114). Given the enormity and complexity of the story lines that develop over time, I would say that soap operas do indeed enact the compulsion to repeat, and are probably the least "contained" of all television forms. back
  2. See Teresa de Lauretis, Technologies of Gender: Essays on Theory, Film, and Fiction (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987). As de Lauretis argues, gender is "the product of various social technologies, such as cinema, and of institutionalized discourses, epistemologies, and critical practices, as well as practices of daily life" (2), and not "a property of bodies of something originally existent in human beings" (3).back
  3. Carol Traynor Williams, It's Time for My Story: Soap Opera Sources, Structure, and Response (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1992).back
  4. Martha Nochimson, No End to Her: Soap Opera and the Female Subject (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).back
  5. Tania Modleski, Loving With a Vengeance: Mass Produced Fantasies for Women (New York: Methuen, 1984).back
  6. Ellen Seiter, E. Borchers, G. Kreutzner, and E. Warth. "'Don't treat us like we're so stupid and naive': Towards an Ethnography of Soap Opera Viewers," in Remote Control: Television, Audiences and Cultural Power, eds. Seiter, et. al. (London: Routledge, 1989), 223-47.back
  7. See her Soap Opera and Women's Talk: The Pleasure of Resistance (Thousand Oaks, London: Sage Publications, 1994) as well as "Motley Moments: Soap Operas, Carnival, Gossip and the Power of the Utterance," in Television and Women's Culture: ThePolitics of the Popular, ed. Mary Ellen Brown (London: Sage, 1990), x.back
  8. Charlotte Brundson, "Identity in Feminist Television Criticism"Media, Culture and Society 15 (1993): 309-320, 313.back
  9. Christine Geraghty, Women and Soap Opera (Oxford: Polity Press, 1990).back
  10. Robert Allen has remarked that "by conflating audience and gender address we might be obscuring important differences among audiences for types of programs as well as differences in the relationships between audience groups and the spectator positions inscribed within texts." See "Bursting Bubbles: 'Soap Opera,' Audiences, and the Limits of Genre," in Remote Control: Television, Audiences, and Cultural Power,eds. Ellen Seiter, Hans Borchers, Gabriele Kreutzner, and Eva-Maria Warth (London & New York: Routledge, 1989), 44-55, p. 52.back
  11. See, for a more detailed analysis of soap opera's formal revision of dominant cinematic narrative models, Sandy Flitterman-Lewis's "All's Well That Doesn't End: Soap Operas and the Marriage Motif,"Camera Obscura 16 (January 1988): 119-127, which argues that the resolution of the marriage-plot in daytime soaps functions not as a device for closure, but rather as a "knot" that introduces further complications in the story. Though Flitterman-Lewis makes no claims for the "femininity" of this formal difference, the gendered implications are striking.back
  12. "The Role of Soap Opera in the Development of Feminist Television Scholarship," in To Be Continued. . . Soap Operas Around the World, ed. Robert Allen (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 49-65.back
  13. See, for instance, "Soap Operas at Work" in Remote Control: Television,Audiences, and Cultural Power, eds. Ellen Seiter, et al. (London & New York: Routledge), 1989.back
  14. See my essay, "As You Stand, So You Feel and Are" in Tattoo, Torture, Mutilation, and Adornment: The De-Naturalization of the Body in Culture and Text,eds. Fran Mascia-Lees and Patricia Sharpe (Albany: SUNY Press, 1992), 100-125, as well as Chapter 8, "Direct Address and the Critics: What's the Matter with You?" in my Gendered Interventions: Narrative Discourse in the Victorian Novel (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989).back
  15. See "As You Stand" for a detailed demonstration of this usage in the popular press and in literary criticism. The essays in The Culture of Sentiment : Race, Gender, and Sentimentality in Nineteenth-century America, ed. Shirley Samuels (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) represent a recent move toward more serious attention to the sentimental tradition in 19th-century American literature, though strong traces of distaste for the mode linger in many scholarly projects.back
  16. See Lynne Joyrich, "Going through the E/Motions: Gender, Postmodernism, and Affect in Television Studies," Discourse14.1(Winter 1991-92).back
  17. Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991).back
  18. See, for examples, the work done in the mid- to late 1980s in such projects as Alison Alexander, "Adolescents' Soap Opera Viewing and Relational Perceptions, "Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media 29.3 (Summer 1985): 295-308; Ronald J. Compesi, "Gratifications of Daytime Serial Viewers,"Journalism Quarterly 57 (1989): 155-158; Alfred P. Kielwasser and Michelle A. Wolf, "The Appeal of Soap Opera: An Analysis of Process and Duality in Dramatic Serial Gratifications," Journal of Popular Culture, 23.2 (Fall 1989):111-124; and Alan Rubin and Elizabeth M. Perse, "Audience Activity and Soap Opera Involvement: A Uses and Effects Investigation," Human Communication Research 14.2 (Winter 1987): 246-268; as well as Hobson, Brown, and Seiter in Seiter, et al. cited above.back
  19. Robert Allen, Speaking of Soap Operas (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985).back
  20. This problem for scholars occurs in the opposite direction, too, in that pronouncements about a particular soap's plot–or the ideologies it tends to uphold–may be undermined by future developments in the story. For example, see Gilah Rittenhouse, "The Nuclear Family is Alive and Well: As The World Turns" inStaying Tuned: Contemporary Soap Opera Criticism, ed. Suzanne Frentz (Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1992), 48-53, whose generalizations about the nuclear family on As the World Turns do not hold up in the light of events on the soap since 1992.back
  21. Marilyn Matelski's book contains these summaries in addition to a history of the production of soaps since radio days. See The Soap Opera Evolution: America's Enduring Romance with Daytime Drama(Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1988).back
  22. For an interesting analysis of the semiotics of re-casting in soap opera with special reference to Meg Ryan in As the World Turns, see Jeremy G. Butler, "'I'm Not a Doctor, But I Play One on TV': Characters, Actors, and Acting in Television Soap Opera," inTo Be Continued. . . Soap Operas Around the World, ed. Robert Allen (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 145-163.back
  23. Indeed, Dorothy Hobson's interviews with regular soap viewers have already established that "the process of watching soap operas is in no way a passive operation and it continues after the viewing time and is extended into other areas of everyday life" (Seiter et. al., 150); Louise Spence, too, argues that "feelings for a character are certainly other than simply feeling at one with that character; they involve both psychological processes and critical ones." See "'They Killed Off Marlena, But She's on Another Show Now': Fantasy, Reality, and Pleasure in Watching Daytime Soap Operas" in To Be Continued. . . Soap OperasAround the World, ed. Robert Allen (London and New York: Routledge, 1995) 182-198, p. 189. Recent work on the electronic bulletin-board (EBB) discussion of television serials has begun to characterize the activity of viewers who participate in such discussions. See Nancy K. Baym, "The Emergence of Community in Computer-Mediated Communication" in Cybersociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community, ed. Steven G. Jones (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1995), 138-163. Baym says such EBBs "provide information about what has happened and what will happen on the shows, to interpret the shows, to negotiate private issues in a public space, and to sustain relationships" (147) among daytime soap opera viewers; Denise Bielby and C. Lee Harrington observe similar phenomena among viewers who post to EBBs devoted to primetime serials; see their "Reach Out and Touch Someone: Viewers, Agency, and Audiences in the Televisual Experience" in Viewing, Reading, Listening: Audiences and Cultural Reception . eds. Jon Cruz and Justin Lewis (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994), 81-100.back
  24. Hobson's subjects "discuss the events on television in relation to the fiction, the accuracy of the fictional representation, and also in relation to criteria within the 'real world'" (167). The America On-Line group's preoccupation with the production and political implications of the soap adds extra dimensions to what Hobson observed.back
  25. A long-time viewer of All My Children tells me that this particular configuration of dominant emotions, especially the emphasis on worry and anxiety, is peculiar to As the World Turns, and that he believes other soaps have different dominant emotions. To test the wave pattern against another daytime soap, a critic would need to have access to the affective response generated by decades of backstory, as well as the reports of other viewers in a forum such as America On-Line; I would be very interested in the results of such an inquiry.back
  26. In the 1994-95 season, the wave pattern has been continually interrupted by the O. J. Simpson murder trial's preemptions of episodes, which has varied by region. CBS's spokesperson assured me "you won't miss anything" when I called in January of 1995 to ask about the network's preemption policy; they had resolved to postpone entire episodes but not to interrupt episodes in progress. Local networks had policies of their own. This has meant that the usual pattern built around Friday "cliffhangers"–not to mention the emotional impact of following a daily diegesis–has frequently been disrupted, making the collection of a longer-running study sample impractical for this year. The televising of the Simpson trial is also responsible, of course, for putting to rest forever the notion that events unfold more slowly on soap operas than they do in "real life."back
  27. Daniel Gerould, "Russian Formalist Theories of Melodrama,"The Journal of American Culture 1.1 (1978): 152-68. Reprinted inImitations of Life: a Reader on Film & Television Melodrama, ed. Marcia Landy (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991), 125.back
  28. Baym (in Jones, Cybersociety) has demonstrated that soap opera EBBs observe less aggressive, more polite, more stereotypically feminine standards of etiquette and interaction than typical cyberspace discussion groups do (159-160).back