by Mala Bhattacharjee
Soaps and romance novels have a lot in common -- and not just that ATWT's Ewa Da Cruz (Vienna) seems to be on the cover of every other book on the shelves these days. Genres geared towards women have long been cause for ridicule, for stigma. While male sports fans are given free license to paint their bare chests and dance around on TV in below freezing temperatures, women get funny looks on the subway for reading a novel with a scantily-clad heroine on the cover or talking about their "stories" at the water cooler. I can't tell you how many times I've actually gotten sympathetic looks when I tell people where I work, with people clicking their tongues and going, "Oh, this means you have to watch soaps every day?" Why, yes. It does. And guess what? I happen to like it! Gasp. The horror.
Well, if you're me, you launch into a diatribe about how empowering it is for women to have this kind of creative outlet. You point out that romance novels are an expression of female sexuality and sensibility that doesn't really exist anywhere else… and that Kathleen Woodiwiss wrote the infamous and ground-breaking THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER years before The Tudors' Jonathan Rhys-Meyers was even born. (So much for Showtime cornering the market on trashy period drama, hmm?) And you also note that soap operas tackled difficult social issues like passing for white (Carla Gray on One Life to Live), the AIDS crisis (Cindy on All My Children and Robin and Stone on General Hospital) and abortion (Erica on AMC, The Young and the Restless' Ashley) when other TV shows were loath to touch such heavy material. And you say, "It's mine. This genre is for me… and it could be for you, too, if you actually gave it a chance."
Then, you crack open Tessa Dare's ONE DANCE WITH A DUKE, switch on The Bold and the Beautiful, and say…"Screw it!"♥
Mala Bhattacharjee is currently news editor, columnist and blogger for Soap Opera Weekly magazine. While not exactly young or restless, she's working on her first young adult novel. Some day soon she'll have a book out; for now, find her at her blogs at badnecklace.wordpress.com and soapoperaweekly.com, or pick up an issue of SOW her weekly column, The Soapbox, and the latest daytime dish!