The light in the window

This idea for a blog post has been floating around in my mind for a while, but it’s decided to come out today.

I haven’t been posting much, and am probably at the point again where this blog goes back on hiatus, probably permanently. We’ve lost Jerry ver Dorn and Lee Lawson in the last few weeks, and I wanted to write about their work. I wanted people to remember all the great work that was done by those telling these stories. But I seem to lack the energy to keep going with this.

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When ATWT left the air, part of my willingness to continue here (in fits and spurts) is that I felt like somehow, someday, our stories and our shows might come back to life – or at least something like them.

But I don’t think the soaps most of us fell in love with can ever come back, in any form. Yes, all the factors we’ve been told about are true – women working outside the home, ratings plummeting, too expensive to produce, and so on.

But I also think the thing that’s in my memory about so many of those shows, the nearly invisible, hard to pinpoint ingredient of them, was the sense of community and a feeling of working for the common good.

And I don’t think America has that feeling any longer. We have, in many ways, lost the common good.

It’s happened over many years and for many reasons. The belligerent leader we had a few years ago didn’t help, but there were many factors that led us to where we are now. Some economic, some political, and some matters of faith or a lack of faith. All things far more complex and detailed than this blog can support. All leading to the conflict and chaos we have now.

But I think of the idea of Guiding Light, and Irna Phillips writing about the light in the window, the reverend’s home where a lost soul could always find a helping hand, or someone to listen.

There may be a Bert Bauer in your neighborhood, a Kim Hughes in your apartment building, a Cass Winthrop ready to dispense advice – someone, anyone there with a warm meal or a fresh cocktail and a shoulder to cry on. If so, cherish them for as long as you can.

But I think those people, those ideas may be gone in some places, as obsolete to some as a rotary dial telephone.

Does TV and media reflect the world, or does it influence how we think? Probably both – certainly some of the uglier moments are reflected in disproportionate amounts. Conflict sells. I guess that’s why we’ll likely never see the likes of these stories again. Not enough conflict. Not enough darkness. (Ah, yes, my old enemy – darkness.)

I make no apologies for my focus on the past, my video powered time machine that, with one click, takes me back to those warm memories.

Soap fans often get ridiculed for being so immersed in their stories. We’re called “total nerds” and worse.

Well, everything that’s been said about me on that front is true. I was a bullied kid with parents who loved me but had no idea what to do with me and only slightly more knowledge about what to do with themselves.

I learned about relationships, about family and about love, loss and what to wear from those figures on screen. The particulars of the script of story didn’t matter as much as how those shows made me feel.

And now, in my fifties, as I try to mesh together years of joy and growth with years of trauma, those stories, even in abbreviated forms online, are a comfort to me.

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This is the morning after yet another school shooting. I should be doing something somewhere, but the trauma trigger in me makes me want to run and duck for cover.

So, a hat tip to you, as I continue on my journey.

Feel free to stop by here any time to say hi. I mean, I can’t cook (I burn water) and can’t bake as well as Bert Bauer, I’m sure, but my kitchen table is always open for a chat.

May we all find (or make) a corner of calm, and maybe, somewhere, a light in the window.

One thought on “The light in the window

  1. i’ve had your post in my browser, waiting for a chunk of time when i could collect and share my thoughts. forgive me if this is a little all over the place.

    re the recent losses: every time i see a new ‘world turns or guiding light post on son’s cancelled soaps thread, i hold my breath, praying it won’t be someone else who’s passed. in addition to kathryn hays and jerry ver dorn, both of whom understood so well how soaps connected with viewers, there’s ray liotta, who said in a 1994 interview, “i loved the soap. i had an opportunity to make dialogue that wasn’t good seem bearable. the acting challenge was greater than if i was doing tennessee williams.” some people might take that as a knock, but i think what he expressed was an appreciation of what soaps are, and an understanding of what they are not.

    like you, patrick, i don’t think the soaps we grew up are ever going to come back in any meaningful way. part of it is how to make the money work — ain’t it always. i guess the current shows are, but from what i hear it’s not pretty.

    and sadly, i agree that it feels as though as a country we have lost the common good that connected us. although perhaps the contemporaneous combined horror of uvalde and the january sixth hearings may move the pendulum back a few degrees — she said, hopefully.

    but it’s more than that. while current and recent soaps never made the transition to streaming (a lot of moving parts here — bad timing among them), serialized storytelling certainly has — so much so that the sheer volume of content is utterly overwhelming. i once added up all the episodes of all the series on my hulu list. i forget the exact number — let’s just say it was well north of 100 hours. i look at all these shows — many of which are iconic — and know that if i start, well… will the show live up to expectations? and how many hours will it take to know?

    it’s funny. back in the day, sam ford and i had many conversations criticizing the broadcast networks for being so quick on the trigger, cancelling shows or moving them around before they had a chance to find their audience. these days, if a series hasn’t grabbed me in the first five minutes, i’m out; too many other shows — so many it feels like homework — and i’m so far behind i’ll never catch up. then i look for a movie — an hour-and-a-half, two, tops.

    another thing i miss is how the soaps became part of my routine — the structure of each day. there was new show every day; i didn’t always watch live — and yes, there were times when the recordings piled up — but i never felt out-of-control and i could keep up. sometimes i wonder if we’ve lost more than we’ve gained being able to watch what we want, when we want, where we want. has having so much choice actually limited choice? it feels that way to me — or maybe it’s just a generational thing.

    so i, like you, am focused on the past — less an emotional exploration than historical — figuring out how a genre that’s been around for more than ninety years could be as ubiquitous, influential, not to mention lucrative, as soaps, and yet, at the same time, be so invisible.

    i hope you and i can continue our conversation over an occasional virtual pot of tea — or perhaps an adult beverage. i’ll keep a light on…

    Thanks as always for your comments, Lynn. I’d love to continue our conversations and be in the loop of any avenues of exploration – re the past, or the future!

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