A Yankee Notebook, Columns

Nothing Else More Than Soap Opera

Share article

by Willem Lange

“Super Suds, Super Suds!

Lots more suds with Super Suds.

Richer, longer lastin’, too!

They’re the suds with super-doo-oo-oo.”

EAST MONTPELIER – I have no idea why that jingle has remained quiescent, but vital, in my brain all these years (probably eighty), like a desert seed waiting for a rain shower. This past week, as I marveled at CNN’s seemingly endless fascination with the legal and political troubles of former President Trump, it burst into life. Call it free association, but as it occurred to me that Mr. Trump’s troubles and the avid interest with which we follow them resemble nothing else more than soap opera, the traditional genre that once dominated the daytime radio waves, I harked back to the days when they were popular and how they got their name.

This unearthed, of course, Super Suds and its jingle. There’s no telling how many housewives washed their dishes in Super Suds as they listened to episodes of “Painted Dreams,” which premiered in 1930. I never listened. I wasn’t born till 1935, and my parents were deaf, so we never had a radio till my grandfather gave me a little Bakelite Arvin around 1941. But I remember that jingle, as well as another for Hot Ralston sung by Tom Mix during his daily radio show in the wintertime.

Soap operas became big business – when big business, viz. Procter & Gamble – jumped aboard as soap operas migrated from radio to daytime television. It’s probably safe to say that as the term, “housewife,” became unfashionable, fewer homemakers kept working while their favorite soaps aired. During the early days of this century our house became very quiet when “Days of Our Lives” came on. A seemingly never-ending succession of improbable domestic disputes, it was, in my wife’s words, her “daily escape from reality.” I fell in the driveway one winter day years ago while “Days” was on, broke my leg badly, and like to froze to death down there till the daily escape from reality finally ended and she heard me hollering.

We love our soaps, don’t we? They’re not unique to the United States. They’re huge in Mexico, the UK, and Europe. Apparently a lot of folks need to escape, however briefly, from reality.

The media’s current fascination with the twists and turns of the Trump investigations, subpoenas, grand juries, battling high-priced attorneys, and various judges of different leanings are a story made for sponsorship by some soap manufacturer. Even those of us who deplore the man’s existence and/or think him deranged find our eyes ineluctably drawn to the portion of any page of news that displays his name. What, we wonder, has he done or said now? Michael Bloomberg, able to soar financially above the messes that envelop Mr. Trump like a cloud of black flies, dismisses him by saying all New York City businessmen know he’s a conman and a grifter and won’t deal with him. But I’ll bet that even he reads the news Trump generates.

Two of our most venerable and visible institutions – the popular media and law enforcement – seem to have only a passing acquaintance with common sense when it comes to dealing with (shall we say?) nontraditional individuals. Remember David Koresh, the clearly psychopathic leader of the Branch Davidians? Holed up with his followers in his stronghold in Waco, he declined all invitations, no matter how imperious, to emerge for discussions with the feds. Then some genius suggested playing music on loudspeakers to drive him nuts (which he already was), totally misunderstanding the nature of psychopathy.

Likewise the Donald. His greatest need is to be the center of attention. He’d prefer it be of the adoring kind, but any kind is to him better than none. Thus the outrageous comments (Jack Smith, the special prosecutor, is deranged, a thug, a lunatic) and the assumed victimhood (which, unfortunately, many grumpy white American guys seem to have adopted as their refrain). Without constant media attention he’d wither like an unwatered house plant. So I made a solemn pact with myself yesterday not to read or watch anything more about him. That’d fix him. Then I reflected that, unlike poor Mike Lindell, the My Pillow guy, or Bud Lite, he’d never know the difference; he’s too wrapped up in himself. So maybe I might just sneak a quick peek tomorrow morning to see what his soap opera is up to this week.

Comments are closed.