SPOTLIGHT: Death on Soaps Has Become Meaningless
Posted by Roger Newcomb
"Back from the dead" story lines are a staple of soaps. They've been around since almost the beginning. But things have changed in recent years. There was a time that a return from the dead was shocking for the audience. Will any longtime AS THE WORLD TURNS fan ever forget the first time James Stenbeck turned up alive and said, "Hello, Barbara," to his former wife? Since then James has died numerous times and just this week returned from the dead yet again.
On DAYS OF OUR LIVES, Stefano Dimera has died just as many times as James, probably more. Heck, half the town died a few years ago, including Alice, and they all turned up alive. John Black's funeral in late 2007 was a masterpiece but then he rejoined the living only a few months later.
The "Back from the dead" twist was supposed to be a rare, but exciting turn of events for soap audiences. Now it is used so frequently that it is completely meaningless. And almost as bad is when characters are presumed dead and the audience has to sit through a funeral for someone we know is coming back. SPOILER AHEAD. Holden Snyder will "die" yet again on AS THE WORLD TURNS soon and no doubt the audience will be forced to watch Lily and the Snyders grieve. Does anyone actually believe Holden is dead? If he hadn't "died" before, and James hadn't just returned from the dead, it might hold more weight. But it doesn't unfortunately. At least we'll get Judi Evans for a while as part of the latest non-death.
And why should any soap character really get that upset if their lover or child or friend dies? They should all know by now they'll be back with the same or a new face in a matter of weeks or months.
The only soap deaths with any weight recently have been DAYS OF OUR LIVES' Grace and Victor Newman's dog on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. Earlier this year GUIDING LIGHT had a very sad storyline when Coop unexpectedly died. Soap death can be meaningful and powerful but the person dying needs to stay dead so that the audience can feel something.
"Back from the dead" stories are no longer shocking, interesting or worth the audiences time so please stop them now!