Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Thoughts on SoapLife DVD
Last week, I received my SoapLife DVD, as I gave money to them during their Kickstarter campaign. Here are my thoughts on the DVD.
The documentary was a little over one hour long and gives a good overview of the genre. I would recommend it for people who enjoy daytime soaps in general. While there is more ABC related footage, than other networks, shows from all three networks and online are discussed. That said if someone isn't extremely soap knowledgable at times they may be confused.
I'll give a few examples, but this is meant to be constructive. Not everyone who will watch this documentary may know things about actors on numerous shows. Basically I would have appreciated, when showing certain people from both in front of and behind the camera, that more than just their most recent credit was listed. Gary Tomlin has been more than just an executive at Days of Our Lives, he also was the head writer for One Life to Live during the writer's strike among other credits. If someone wasn't a fan of General Hospital or The Bold & the Beautiful and saw Rick Hearst, they may recognize him from his past roles on Days of Our Lives, Guiding Light, or The Young & the Restless. This would have been a good place to mention the soap opera hopper concept, which is unique to the genre. None of these things distracted from the documentary, but it would have made it flow more easily if this had been included.
A few times they showed clips with voiceovers without explaining what was going on, or it wasn't an exact fit. Perhaps part of that was due to licensing issues, but I wish at times the clips would've shown additional information. For example, it was mentioned how General Hospital changed soaps with adventure stories, they had some Luke and Laura clips from the rape. What happened at the campus disco, wasn't what made Luke and Laura popular, but their falling in love on the run. The Another World clip they showed from 1999 with Cass and Lila didn't mention AW by name, and I wish it had been for those who never watched the show.
At one point in the film, they showed various shirtless men and the famous "slut of Springfield" speech from Guiding Light, when mentioning attractive people in the genre. The reason this cracked me up is that scene is all about Reva having enough of being objectified by Joshua. I don't know if it was intentional, but I liked that little dig.
I also appreciated how Agnes Nixon mentioned how everyone forgets about Irna Phillips, and that they mentioned both her and Bill Bell's ties to Irna. Many of the long lasting soaps were created by Phillips or one of her proteges. I liked how Bell's Days was also referenced. It was also good that they had interviewed actors who had long careers in soaps and also showed the fan event of Sean Ringgold from One Life to Live, who started in daytime in 2006. I liked how Eileen Fulton talked about her early days on As the World Turns as Lisa in the 60s.
Having the fan perspective is something you don't always see on documentaries. Fans weren't made fun of either, though the topic of just soap viewers would be a possible topic for a movie. That said, I would have liked to see what parts of the country the fans shown were from and what shows they watched again this could have been done with an on screen note beyond the term fan. Events were shown on both coasts, but were just related to ABC fans, it is too bad they weren't able to get that kind of footage with fans and stars from other networks. Prospect Park's failed attempt to relaunch All My Children and One Life to Live in 2011, was also mentioned, and that made me frustrated over again. The explanations from all corners about the Nielsen ratings was apt, as those of us who follow these things have raised the same criticisms. I also liked how they spoke to people both from online sites, and those who've been involved in traditional print media.
The timeline part of the show also was informative, though for someone like me I could have expanded it to the point of ridiculousness. For example during the longer clips shown in the background later in the doc, I'd have loved if they had included popups. When they showed clips of GL's Roger and Holly marital rape plot from 1979, unless you knew what you were watching you wouldn't know why this was a groundbreaking story. That said, just using the timeline on the DVD, would be a great infographic. The SoapLife group could use it to promote the documentary once it is for sale to the general public.
What I appreciated most while watching SoapLife was the amount of respect they showed for the genre. This was a serious documentary, not a "OMG look at all the crazy things that happen on soaps, we can't believe anyone with any sort of intellect would waste their time watching these shows."
If you get the opportunity to watch SoapLife, you should. Depending on how much you know about the genre, it may make you interested in researching some stories and characters you may know little about. To learn more about the SoapLife project visit their website.