I miss the 80’s. Not because the stories on Days were better, or the characters more grounded, or the emotions more genuine (although they were). No, I miss the 80’s because of the innocent ignorance with which I watched the show. My mother wasn’t watching the show then. A friend I watched with moved away. I didn’t read SOD because I couldn’t stand how they called Steve “Patch.” The internet, obviously, didn’t exist.
So it was just me.
What I miss is getting completely swept up in the story, just giving myself over to it. I hardly noticed inconsistencies because the story was pulling me along. I rooted for the good guys and I hated the bad guys. I used to read the phrase “the character you love to hate” with bafflement. I hated Victor, period, because of what he did to the characters I loved. (That’s not to say I was slavish about it. I had my opinions, of course, but for the most part I let the show pull me along.) When Steve and Kayla were apart, I suffered. I didn’t think “I can’t believe the writers are doing this!” or even, “It’s a soap, nobody is happy,” which is what my mom always told me. I saw what Steve was doing and reacted to it, not what “the writers” were making Steve do.
Some might say this is because the stories and characters were better. I agree. But being on the message boards, even a wonderfully sane, intelligent board like TWoP, makes me a more distanced and critical viewer. I remember a scene like the one where Steve breaks down during the Adrienne storyline and sobs loudly on Kayla’s shoulder while she comforts him. I know now that had I been able to go to a message board then, there would be some people who would sneer at it, some people who would think it was over-the-top, and some who would love it, as I did. I can picture myself getting on the board and saying, “Steve has always been a larger than life guy, so it worked for me.” That’s not the same thing as just swooning, which is what I did back then.
I miss swooning.
I also miss the suspense of not knowing what was going to happen. I’m spoiler-free, as is obvious from my blog title, but it’s impossible to avoid them entirely (and spoiler junkies, don’t worry, I’m okay with it). Casting spoilers are pretty much impossible to avoid, and really big spoilers have a way of leaking out. Also, it’s different just knowing that I can find out what’s going to happen. These days you have to go out of your way to avoid spoilers, but back then, when I can remember several times when I would have killed to know what was going to happen, all I could do after Friday’s cliffhanger was bite my fingernails and wait until Monday.
I don’t go to any board but TWoP anymore, but I used to. And you can find intelligent people on any board, don’t get me wrong. But what can happen on message boards is that people of similar opinions gravitate to one another and mirror and amplify each others’ opinions until they become “facts” which any idiot knows. Then mob thought takes over and they scream at people who don’t agree with these “facts.” It’s not the same thing as fans independently writing in to TPTB all hating the same storyline, or the same character, because these fans have all egged each other on.
The idea of couple-fanbase factions clawing each other’s eyes out over airtime and “propping” issues, or even just “my couple is better” bickering, is something that would have been completely alien to me, in the 80’s. (I do have to admit, I experienced a spark of jealousy at the way the focus of the show shifted to Jack and Jennifer’s developing love story in 1989—even though Steve and Kayla were still getting plenty of airtime. That didn’t stop me from falling in love with Jack and Jennifer, though.) A TWoP poster said recently that now that Steve and Kayla’s storyline is picking up (and she doesn’t have the “stuck in a rut” frustration), she has to worry about S&K hate—which apparently is running rampant on certain message boards—infecting TPTB and endangering Steve and Kayla’s airtime and SN’s and MBE’s jobs. I think that’s a shame.
Now that I’ve said all this, though, at the same time I wish the internet had existed back then, because of TWoP. I think about the characters I didn’t care for, like Emilio, Pete, Lars, and Justin, and I imagine being able to snark on them. Just thinking about the field day we could have with Emilio makes my mouth water. Occasionally we’ll get to talking about past storylines over there (and here, too, with my wonderful commentators), and it’s added to the depth of my understanding of Steve and Kayla, and others, in retrospect.
I’m imagining the level of analysis there applied to a show where the characters have layers and the stories are working, to a show that’s actually clicking on all (well, most) levels. I think I would gladly trade the benefits of innocence for that.