Katy E. Shrout, over at Religion Dispatches, reflects on the role of morality and religion in the classic American soap opera, as one of the classic series comes to an end.
This week, the world will stop turning; or at least it will for the daytime soap opera As The World Turns, which officially ends after 53 years. With its ratings plummeting for more than a decade, As The World Turns is only the most recent casualty of a changing daytime market. The American daytime soap itself, that long-maligned and much-loved genre, seems to be on its deathbed.
For those interested in the relationship between religion and American popular culture, the soap opera has been a fascinating case. Soap operas, like most media marketed to women, have long been preoccupied with right and wrong.
And while the soap has tended to promote a conservative emphasis on continuity, heterosexual romantic love, family, and Christian piety, the explicit use of religion in soaps (while certainly notable) is generally subservient to questions of morality.
Even when the plot seems ludicrous, characters are frequently put into situations that raise questions important to their audiences: Do I choose my true love or my career? Is it right to pursue a relationship with someone my family doesn’t approve of? Are there times when it is right to be dishonest? Is good behavior always rewarded with happiness? Can evil people truly be redeemed?