Spoilers Spoil Soaps

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It takes a lot to make comparatively mellow moi furious about soaps these days. But a week or so ago, there I was at my local supermarket checkout, having a fit, angrily throwing pieces from a bunch of broccoli into the air. I had just read in a magazine that the real identity of the masked half-man, half-woman Blackmailer character on Passions was going to be revealed later that week to be Vincent, former lover of Chad, and long lost son of Julian and Eve.

I wasn’t mad it was Vincent; I had suspected all along he was the freak because of his idiosyncratic breathing/wheezing patterns. But I was sure mad that I had to experience The Big Reveal in my supermarket instead of in an exciting theatrical denouement on Passions itself, on my TV. I had tuned in to Passions anxiously every day for months waiting for this moment!

I hate spoilers! They spoil soaps! They are totally counter-intuitive to the whole modus operandi of soap opera, whose scenes, episodes and storylines are purposely written every day with suspense in the form of cliffhangers to get you to tune in tomorrow. Why should I tune in tomorrow if a magazine, the Internet or my blabby best soap buddy who reads soap sites twenty-four hours a day has already told me what’s going to happen?

Of course soap spoilers have been around forever (about twenty-five years) and a lot of you younger readers can’t conceive of watching soaps without them, or at least without teasers, the milder form of spoilers that give only half a soaps future storyline in away instead of all of it.

But I remember a time before spoilers, when you could eagerly watch a splendid murder mystery on Edge of Night (as scripted by the great Henry Sleasar) or All My Children (as scripted by the venerable Agnes Nixon) or even Guiding Light (as scripted by the incomparable Doug Marland) knowing that the payoff would be a beautifully written denouement episode that you’d think about for days afterward. Now all you get is the Big Reveal in a supermarket while you are paying for broccoli, or in the middle of the night from the Internet when you have gotten up to take a slug of Pepto-Bismol.

I was a young girl editor in the soap magazine business when spoilers started, so let me tell you how it all began. Soap operas were very healthy in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but network publicists decided they needed what they never had outside of soap magazines: mainstream publicity. So they gave carefully worded spoilers to newspaper columnists and later to soap magazines. Readers loved them and it was a bonanza for the whole soap press. A friend of mine who worked at the networks, but who really loved and understood the true nature of soaps, whispered to me at the time, “Marlena, these executives do not even realize they are giving away the story!” And was he president! I can’t help but think spoilers are one of the main reasons soaps have suffered such a decline in ratings over the last twenty years.

I remember asking a soap head writer at the time what he thought of spoilers and he actually growled at me like a grizzly bear. You’d growl too! The secret conclusions of all his carefully planned and written stories were being read outloud to editors by network secretaries!

All these years later, especially with the Internet now the dominant information medium, spoilers are a fact of life and sadly not only in the soap world. Why do you think J.K. Rowling is so hysterical this week because copies of the final Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows have been given out early, leaking the final secrets of Pottersville? Even with her imagination, she never could have invented a Big Reveal as bizarre as Julian and Eve’s long lost son Vincent being the half-man, half woman who has been roaming Harmony all these months behind a multi-colored Phantom of the Opera mask.

By Marlena De Lacroix

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