Soap Opera Subjects


Soap Opera Morality

Soaps Tackle Social Issues - 1

Soap Operas Tackle Social Issues - 2

Soap Operas Tackle Social Issues - 3

Soap Opera Medical Storylines

Soap Operas Provide Hope

Soap Opera Conclusions

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Soap Opera Medical Storylines

When it comes to medical issues, few elements of the media can compare to the impact that soap operas have had over the years. People see two-minute medical reports about mesothelioma (a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos) or anorexia (an eating disorder) on the evening news, but they often don't pay much attention because the stories are so impersonal. The audience really cares about soap opera characters so when a character has a medical infliction, the audience takes notice. When a favorite heroine on GUIDING LIGHT has breast cancer or a tortured teen on DAYS OF OUR LIVES suffers through bulimia or another young lady on ALL MY CHILDREN fights anorexia, there is a reaction. Even when viewers don't like how the storyline is portrayed, they are immersed in the details for months.

GENERAL HOSPITAL, by its very name, is dedicated to medical issues being an important part of the canvas. The show had an annual Nurses' Ball for many years during which the characters were seen raising awareness of and money for AIDS research. The same show also took the very unusual step of having its most popular young character, who literally grew up before the audience's eyes, contract AIDS from her boyfriend. The character continues to live with and manage her disease years later.

Soap opera medical storylines have literally saved lives. ONE LIFE TO LIVE once had a character die from complications from lupus. The producers received letters from viewers saying they had same symptoms similar to what the soap character was experiencing. Visits to the their doctors confirmed they had lupus and that the early diagnosis would help save their lives.

Another medical milestone also came from ONE LIFE TO LIVE. A character who was a reporter was doing a story on STD's (Sexually Transmitted Diseases). Agnes Nixon, the creator of the show, decided to actually research and write such an article in order to offer that information to the viewers. At the end of an episode, they gave an address for viewers to write in for a copy of the article. (This was before the availability of online access.) Ten thousand viewers wrote for a copy. Who knows how many lives that saved? If a soap opera writer did something similar today, the information would be placed on the soap's website. No doubt, the article would receive hundreds of thousands of hits immediately and would also be archived on the site indefinitely where it could even be found and read by people with no connection to the show.

Medical storylines also give viewers hope. Infertility frequently plagues popular characters. The latest technology and research in the field are often integrated into the plots as the characters try to conceive. Surrogate parenting and adoption have been explored on every show. These storylines show viewers that there are alternatives available. The viewers get hope and inspiration in a frustrating and seemingly hopeless situation.


What do you do with your spare time when you are not enjoying your soap operas? How about getting paid for giving your opinions in online surveys?

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This soap opera material was written as part of an academic research project.

Please cite it as you would any other source.

Original Version © 1992 Second Edition © 2006 by Matthew W. Grant

Revised & Expanded Third Edition (© 2011) Now Available At:

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