When do you give up and walk away?

I admit it – I am a big fan of having the last word. I fight with words, not fists, and I can be very tenacious in an argument. 

My role model and narrative voice in my head when I’m in a fighting mood is Julia Sugarbaker from “Designing Women”.  Julia never screamed or swore or went Jerry Springer on her targets. She would just lower her voice, and her glasses…..and then scorch the earth around her and tell her victim to go to hell in such a way that they would whimper, nod and start digging the hole to get there. 

There’s been a lot to make me furiously angry this week. And it’s hard to walk away when you’re angry, isn’t it?

In Chicago, there’s been a big fuss over the Macy’s department stores. Macy’s took over several regional department stores in 2006, and most of those transitions seemed to be accepted by the communities they were in.

Except, of course, for Chicago. Here, we have people still protesting the name change from Marshall Field’s nearly two years after the change. And for years, I’ve been shaking my head at them. How silly can they be? What a bunch of losers! It’s done! Fields is dead!Why don’t they just walk away????

But it struck me this week that the reasons behind that controversy have some strong parallels to what I write and talk about here.

Few of us that write about soaps have had a great deal of positive things to say lately. And there’s the General Hospital paradox. I don’t think you’d find a show that is so vociferously hated, berated, and inundated with criticism from its fans as GH. (And I can’t blame them – the show is a nearly unwatchable mess.)

My question is, if we hate these shows (or what they have become) so much, why the HELL are we still watching?

The answer, I suspect, is the same as the Macy’s protestors.

For them, there’s an emotional connection to Marshall Field’s, and it’s one they want to keep alive. Never mind that department stores are a dying breed (sound familiar?) or that unless they change, they can’t be anywhere as profitable as they once were (ditto).

Never mind that some people think that a department store is outdated as a concept, or too expensive, or only for middle-aged housewives. (Deja vu yet?)

They remember a time before mergers and changes in owners, where going there was an experience, where the sights and smells and the textures of what you saw and felt would stay with you for days. When quality automatically generated quantity, and cheap, tacky fixes were unheard of.

I understand now that they want those days back. Just like those of us who love soaps, remember what they were, and know what they still can be want those halycon days back, too.

5 thoughts on “When do you give up and walk away?

  1. Oh I definitely think soap fans, while being highly critical, are also incredibly hopeful. And understandably so…sometimes it doesn’t take much for a show to turn around. So we wait, and wait, and wait some more for that to happen.

    Plus there’s just a sense of loyalty that fans have to a show (I’m guessing it might be similar to the loyalty one feels to a particular sports team?) Plus, there are some characters that I’ve become so attached to and I just can’t bring myself to say “good-bye” to them.

    GH and DAYS have been especially painful for me to watch lately, but there are a handful of characters who I absolutely adore, and they’re the reason I still tune in.

  2. Patrick,

    It’s so hard to say goodbye to something you’ve enjoyed for so long. That’s why we keep hanging on, hoping if we scream long enough, something might change. As the saying goes, Hope springs eternal.

    I just wrote on Sara Bidel’s blog about when I let go of AW. It was spring 1993 when new writers created a storyline saying the late Mac Cory had been a mercenary in San Cristobel. I found the plot sacriligeous since it went against everything we knew about the beloved Mac. And Mac wasn’t there to defend himself. I was already bored with the show — it barely resembled the show I’d loved so much in the 70s. But the fact I was getting so intensely angry about besmirching Mac’s name every day that made me realize it was time to move along. Very painful decision to make. Was so hard to let go.

    Another example, I’d given up on GH right after they sent Laura off to the looney bin in 2002. But in late 2005, I tuned into to see Robin Scorpio’s return. I liked what I was seeing, plus the mob nonsense was being downplayed, so I kept watching. And soon Noah Drake, Robert Scorpio, Holly Sutton and Anna DeVane were all back for visits. For about a year there, it really felt like the show I had loved in the 80s, so I kept watching.

    However, in the past year, GH denegrated into the mob silliness with the addition of the ill conceived Zachara family, plus killing off Alan, Emily and Georgie. So, my visits to Port Charles have been less frequent. Was about ready to delete it from my DVR, but then they bring back Laura! So, I’m intrigued again, even if it is looking more and more like Laura is a figment of Lulu’s imagination rather than really being awake.

    Response: James, thanks. I completely understand on AW. I loved AW for a long time as well, but it changed so much from the early 1980s to its cancellation that it became very hard to follow a throughline. I think unfortunately Guiding Light is in that same spiral.

  3. I walked away a year ago and haven’t looked back on the soaps. I watch Y&R sometimes, not often.
    I miss it, but I believe TV is just not great anymore. I don’t know if it’s because of Youtube, DVD’s… I just find it boring.

  4. It’s amazing the connections, isn’t it? I had a similar conversation with one of the co-founders of Peppercom about a blog post he had written on the Buick brand and how Buick was a thing of the past and the brand was slowly dying away. He talked about how depressing it must be to own or work at a Buick dealership, watching the brand still try to trade on the few remaining scraps of its cultural cache, eeking out the last bit of profit before the brand lowers into complete obscurity.

    My question to him was whether Buick was destined down that path or whether it was especially so because perhaps the people controlling the brand believed in its lack of continued relevance as much as anyone. The difference is that most soaps generate more passion than a car brand, perhaps, or at least have more concrete relevance, rather than the more abstracted nature of connection to a car manufacturer. But my fear about self-fulfilling prophecies is the same for both…If you believe you’re going to crash and burn, you probably will.

    Sam, those are some very intense, thought-provoking parallels indeed.

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