Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 25, 2014

Smoking hot soap operas

Filed under: Counterpunch,popular culture,television — louisproyect @ 12:01 pm

Smoking Hot Soap Operas


For most of my life I have remained immune to the dubious charms of the soap opera, either the daytime or evening varieties.

In the 1970s and 80s when shows like “Dynasty” and “Dallas” captivated the nation, I much preferred to listen to the radio. TV held very little interest for me except for football games on Sunday or shows like “All in the Family” that spoke to American social realities.

More recently a couple of evening soaps struck a chord in a way that nothing in the past ever did. I say this even as the creative team behind them would most likely disavow the term soap opera. After making their case to CounterPunch readers looking for some mindless entertainment (god knows how bad that it needed in these horrific times), I want to offer some reflections on why this genre retains such a powerful hold.

A couple of weeks ago, while scraping through the bottom of the Netflix barrel, I came across “Grand Hotel”, a Spanish TV show that has been compared to “Downton Abbey” on the basis of being set in the early 20th century and its preoccupation with class differences. Having seen only the very first episode of “Downton Abbey”, I was left with the impression that it was typical Masterpiece Theater fare, where class distinctions mattered less than costume and architecture.


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  1. We watched three episodes of this and Joan found it more palatable than I did. I fear that your description of G.H. as social commentary is compromised by the spectacle of a working class Adonis effortlessly assuming the manner and bearing of an aristocrat so persuasively as to overcome the presence of what must certainly be an off the rack waiter’s tuxedo adorning his irresistible shoulders, and, after casually seating himself to chat with the clientele, emerges safely, absent interference or censure from an otherwise hawk-eyed employer and supervisory staff J.

    Comment by Jeffrey Marlin — July 25, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

  2. We had the same reaction to this, asking ourselves how it went unnoticed. There are such implausibilities scattered throughout the series but that’s the case with soaps in general, including “Revenge”, “Dallas”, “Days of our Lives”, et al. It requires a suspension of disbelief to enjoy such fare. In any case, the character only attempts such a guise in the first episode. After he becomes part of the wait staff on a day to day basis, it would be impossible to maintain two identities. Maybe, more to the point, it would be unlikely at the outset that a working class guy could ever develop such a rapport with a rich girl like Alicia. You had the same sort of implausible situation in the movie “Titanic”.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 25, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

  3. I’ll have to check out Grand Hotel but, I am addicted to Revenge. A tangled web of backstabbing, depraved scheming rich people, murder, corrupt politicians, jealousy, beautiful kung-fu fighting heroine out for vengeance, lackeys getting their comeuppance…no attempt at a message, you might forget it all five minutes after it’s over but it was a fun 47 minutes while it lasted. On the short list of great cultural achievements the U.S. has given the world, enjoyable trash is right up there.

    Comment by Rick — July 25, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

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