What pisses you off?
This is an odd time for me to write this post, because actually I’m enjoying the show quite a bit right now. And even when I think the show is subpar, call me an apologist, but I’m just not a basher. I’ve always taken the viewpoint that there is plenty of cyberspace being taken up with people bitching and moaning about the show. And there are other blogs written by people far funnier than me who can snark at it. My philosophy is, if I can’t enjoy the show, why watch it?
Occasionally, however, I can be roused to anger. But first, let’s take a look at some of the things I’ve noticed that piss viewers off.
Some people get mad, and stay mad, at a certain character, for a particular action. Nick sleeping with Billie. Billie “raping” Bo during Pit!Sex. Chelsea the baby killer. Carrie the adulterous whore. To be honest, I find this kind of thing tiresome. This is what drove me away from many message boards, especially the “one-point posters” who think Carrie is a whore/Hope is judgmental/Billie is a rapist/Chelsea is a child-killer and never tire of making their point. I simply can’t feel this sort of visceral hatred for fictional characters.
I certainly get frustrated with characters for acting stupidly or unsympathetically. (Nick keeping yet another secret from Chelsea comes to mind.) However, I think the only time I felt truly angry was when Steve had conflicted loyalties after Jack raped Kayla. I still think it was a great storyline overall, but that’s as close as I’ve come to considering a character “ruined.” (I took things more seriously back then).
My knee-jerk opinion is that characters can’t be ruined, at least not forever, because they can always recover with a new storyline, a new writer. That’s the beauty of a soap’s longevity. But I must reluctantly admit that this isn’t true. If you try hard enough, for long enough, you can do pretty extensive damage. It’s easier to ruin a couple than a character. I found it difficult to root for Abe and Lexie, for example, knowing that Lexie had cheated on him on three different occasions. (I thought they were a mismatched couple anyway, but even if I hadn’t, I think that would have cheapened the relationship for me.) EJ and Sami? I’m not saying I would stop watching if they put them together, but it would stick in my craw, definitely.
Speaking of EJ and Sami, another thing that gets people riled up is missed opportunities like EJami, or not showing Kayla and “Nick Stockton” falling in love. Not pursuing Shawn and Mimi is another one that gets tossed around. When I let myself think about these things, I start to get mad, too. So I take the coward’s way out and I try not to think about them.
Then there’s those factual mistakes—for example, in geography, timeline, medical terminology, or legal procedure. Days has been pretty bad lately about these kinds of things. Here are some off the top of my head:
1. The cruise ship speed of light (two days, I believe, from Canada to the south Pacific)
2. There was no opportunity for EJ to hide the gas can in the bed
3. “Hypo-allergenic biotoxin antidote”
4. Claire doesn’t seem to need her immunosuppressants
5. How did Belle manage to salvage an unbroken framed picture of John and Marlena, between jumping off a cruise ship and being shipwrecked on an island when she couldn’t even hang onto her own daughter?
6. The Salem PD (where do I start?)
Each of these things, by themselves, generally don’t bother me. They can be amusing. However, there’s a line over which it becomes distracting, not to mention that it smacks of laziness. Show some lowly drudge how to use Google.
This laziness is related to the one thing that really gets my goat, and that’s sloppy execution. It’s like I’ve said to the show, “Okay, Days, I try to like the characters you parade in front of me and I try to forgive and forget when they act like fools, and I won’t question the stories you’re not doing and the couples you’re not pursuing, and I’ve put up with your medical mumbo-jumbo and your geographic impossibilities, but this is where I DRAW THE LINE!”
I’m not talking about the instances where a character is forced to do something questionable in order to further a plot point. My oft-repeated example of Steve breaking up with Kayla for Jack and Kayla marrying Jack is a case in point. In that case, the show did its best to give them each a believable motivation, it was just going to be a difficult pill to swallow no matter how it happened. And the subsequent story made it worth it—eventually.
I’m talking more about actions and plot twists that could very easily be made understandable and believable, but the show doesn’t take the time to do it. If they were really dying to get Shawn and Belle onto that island, they didn’t have to jump overboard. They could have been hiding in a lifeboat when a sudden storm came up. Lucas going to work for EJ could have been an interesting exercise in desperation and humiliation. He was blackballed by Victor, and Sami’s not bringing in any money right now. They needed an episode or two for the desperation to build—or at least one scene that showed him trying to get work elsewhere at the same time a bill for his hefty COBRA premium arrives in the mail.
Kayla should have tried harder to find an alternative to taking out John’s kidney. A few more reasons for Abe to believe Lexie really left him, like a planted note by EJ, would have better explained why no one is looking for her or talking about her. Stephanie turning on her father needed a little more buildup. Sami should have had a few qualms about selling Shawn out to EJ.
Then there’s what I can only call WTF? moments. I don’t know if these count as sloppy execution because they seem quite deliberate, but they definitely add to the lack of realism of the show. Shawn, with a recent bullet wound, jumping out a plane into a typhoon. Marlena jumping out of a plane to reduce the weight (I guess). The aforementioned cruise ship jump. (Jumping seems to be a problem.) And don’t get me started on EvilEJ’s “plot” to have Sami try to kill him with drugged lipstick and a fire in order to prove her supposed love for him.
Another issue is the lack of fallout, the lack of reaction to things. Back to John’s kidney: there should be consequences for Kayla. Shawn and Belle have been wandering around like village idiots waiting for people to bail them out—and someone always does. When Marlena jumped out of the plane, she only hurt her leg a little teeny bit (and Smokey was immediately there to help her). Phillip’s face transplant was smooth and scarless as soon as he took off the bandages. All this turns the Salemites into a bunch of Wile E. Coyotes—crush them into the ground with a rock, blow them to smithereens with dynamite, don’t worry, they just pop right back up again.
Also, we need to see that characters are aware of what’s going on in each other’s lives, especially the family members they supposedly care about. Maybe it’s not that exciting to show everyone reacting to Lexie’s disappearance, or Shawn and Belle’s supposed death. Or maybe you have to delay the plot a little to establish a good reason for Stephanie’s anger at her father, or to show Sami’s crisis of conscience in selling out Shawn. But you have to do these things. It’s the sum total of these little moments that establishes character and realism, allows us to suspend our disbelief, and most importantly, adds emotional weight, so that we care when Shawn gets shot, when John loses a kidney, or when Lexie disappears.
Because when I don’t care, I don’t have anything. And that pisses me off.