Are Fan Wars Good for Soap Operas? Weigh in your opinion.

May 17th, 2016

When was the last time you visited a soap Twitter thread? I warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart anymore.

Soaps —one or another—have been a part of my life, a part of my memories since I was about five years old.  I remember my mom watching All My Children in the front room, while I’d go in the kitchen and watch The Monkees on our little kitchen TV.  I remember watching All My Children as I got older – falling in love with Greg and Jenny. Getting drawn into the suspense of the storylines.  I still, to this day, remember the Police song Every Breath You Take played with a stalker storyline on All My Children.  So in some ways, soaps and their suspenseful stories of the 80s had a lasting affect on me.

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Then, I found Days of Our Lives when I was in junior high school, as many of my friends watched. It was on at 3pm, and my brother (don’t tell him I told you. He’ll deny it.) and I used to watch as soon as we got home.  The amazing 80s — the golden era of soaps.  I feel in love with Path and Kayla.  Jack and Jennifer.  Bo and Hope. Shane and Kimberly.   came into play later. But the families of soaps — the Kanes, the Martins, The Bradys, the Hortons, the Quartermaines… have long been a part of my entertainment family. And I love the fact that I can connect now with so many other fans on Twitter and other social avenues where we can connect with the people who like the couples we like, the characters we love.

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What I don’t particularly like are the fan wars.  I’m all for a little fan rivalry. I’m a hockey fan. I get it.  We have our loves, and we’re loyal to them.  But in today’s fan wars, it seems that fans turn ugly more often than not. Against the characters, against the actors who play them.

And against each other.

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A current example in General Hospital…

One prime example is the warring fanbases of two couples of General Hospital:  Sam and Jason vs Jason and Elizabeth.  Both couples have loyal, big fan bases. Both couples have a history of their own.  Sam and Jason are together now, after a story arc of amnesia that took a looooooong time to resolve (and also involved him falling in love with Elizabeth when he didn’t know who he was; she fell too, then found out he was Jason, kept it to herself. Soapy story arc all around).  Both couples have their good points and their bad points.  Both have had moments their relationship was crashing and burning, and also when their relationship was the story of the moment.  Sam and Jason are the story right now.  They’ve found their way together and are finally happy again after years of being kept apart. (Fake soap opera death will do that to a couple.) Just recently, Jason recovered his full memory- a huge turning point in a story that has taken years to unfold.

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A lot of soapy, soapy goodness in the triangle that has been revisited time and time again —likely because of the passion and loyalty of both fan bases.  That very passion is what makes it soap opera gold.  And that very passion is what makes fans of each couple hate the triangle and want to squash it like a bug. From a show perspective, it’s gold.  People have very, very, very strong feelings about these characters. It’s usually one extreme or the other, not a lot in between. Fans spend just as much time talking about the couple/character they hate as the one they love.  That’s Fan War at its best : strong passionate emotions based in how invested they are in these stories and these characters.

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But 80% of the time when I go to visit the thread, I see fans of both couples insulting, mocking, and whatever other bullying tendencies you can think of at the opposing fans.  And while I can go along with a little respectful ribbing when your characters are the current story, I don’t get the need to bully each other.

Not every fan is painted with the crazy bully brush. There are lot of fans who have a favorite couple in this game (myself included) and stay respectful. And fans who don’t care about either couple but love the characters.  And everything in between.  Lumping all fans into one group is part of what drives me crazy on these threads.  The fans who insult the actors, who spend their days trolling threads to beat up on the opposing fan sides are everywhere.

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Disinterest is death

Loyal, passionate fans watch soaps for the couples and characters they most love and fan wars certainly aren’t new.  Think Sonny/Brenda/Jax for instance.  For soaps, the absolute worst thing that can happen is disinterest. People who don’t care enough to post, to talk, to share.  So on the whole “no press is bad press” concept, it would seem that fan wars are good for soaps.

Yet, we’re also at a point where soaps are a dying breed.  From the dozen or so we used to have, we now have only four left.  I love visiting twitter feeds about prime time shows that I watch, and read, connect and chat with other fans about the show. Twitter has become a very active way to pull in new users and connect people through a show they all love.  Connected.  Together.

But if you look at soap Twitter feeds, all you see is insults. Fighting.  Bullying.  It makes me sad, and I don’t see how this, in any way, helps this genre that I love.

What do you think?

Do you think fan wars help keep soaps alive? Or are they doing a tremendous disservice to a genre desperately in need of some TLC?  Do you feel the need to defend your favorites or does the less enjoyable side of the threads turn you off? Add your comments below.

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