Soap viewing at its best is a communal experience. The internet has revitalized this aspect of watching a soap. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of places—fansites, message boards, blogs—to discuss soaps online every day. It’s wonderful to be able to discuss the plots and the characters with other fans, get new insights or new opinions about what is going on. This is the substitute (or the supplement) to the family living room or the college common room.
But there’s a dark side, too.
What can happen 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. It’s not the same thing as fans independently writing in to the powers that be all hating the same storyline, or the same character, because these fans have all egged each other on. This is mob thought in action.
On Days’ boards, it’s the shippers. I hate to say it, because when it comes to Steve and Kayla (and Chick—I’m still hanging in there!), I’m the shippiest shipper that ever lived. It is by no means all shippers, or even a majority, but it is within these bases that you will find the screechiest, the most short-sighted, the most ruthless posters. These are people to whom the show is a battlefield, the stakes are airtime and frontburner status, and every other character is the enemy. If a poster ventures the opinion that Kayla, as an MD, might be involved in helping Bo beat his illness, someone is sure to jump in and say this is BO and HOPE’s storyline, and Kayla should have NOTHING to do with it! (Sometimes the swarming nature of this makes me think of a B-monster movie from the 50’s like The Blob: “Look out! You’ve angered it!”)
Regarding how John and Marlena and Bo and Hope were sidelined last summer, “reading letters” has become a shorthand and a rallying cry. It cracks me up how such an innocuous activity can sound so awful—“John and Marlena were stuck READING LETTERS!”—the context suggesting something on par with “scooping up handfuls of monkey snot.”
Sometimes I wonder too if shippers are aware that they are watching what is, in fact, a soap. A soap depends on conflict, angst, suffering, and drama to fuel its stories. Some people seem to think that a character doing a bad thing means that the show is telling a bad story. Watching people screw up (believably), and get themselves in trouble (believably) is what character-driven drama—what everyone says they want—is all about. Badly done angst can be really, really bad, but if you’ve gotten to the point where any angst, any drama is inherently bad, it might be time to turn off the TV.
Speaking of turning off the TV, what really gets my goat are the people who, for whatever reason, are no longer watching the show, but feel the need to post and repost how much the show sucks. I always think of these posters as being the bitter ex-wives of the show, who can’t stop badmouthing their ex. Any viewer currently enjoying the show is like a much-hated new wife.
Of course I’m not saying that all critiquing, complaining, ranting, and making of snarky remarks is bad. Speaking for myself, there have been times that keeping up with the snark on TWoP is the only thing keeping me watching the show. But when it becomes a steady stream of venom and vitriol, when your hatred for a character spills over into hatred for that character’s fans, when your focus narrows to the point where all your posts are essentially one post, endlessly repeated, I have to wonder: is this supposed to be entertainment or what?