Watching the world turn

By Jackson Cooper

While my roommate sat in her room watching “House of Cards,” in my room, Ellen Lowell was realizing that Dan Stewart is really her son, Jimmy. See, the Stewarts just moved to Oakdale and once they got there they meet the Hughes family, who we’ve been following for the past four years and, well, none of this really makes any sense.

It occurred to me while watching re-runs of the 1956 soap opera “As The World Turns,” during my two-and-a-half snow days, that I began to care more about the Stewart and Hughes family than I did my own friends.

Good literature, be it in the medium of film, television, or even just the literature of everyday life, manages to stay with you. It’s been countlessly chronicled that there is an “other thing” with a story that manages to make you feel a connection with its characters and plot. Perhaps this is universality. Perhaps it’s just good writing.

Writing is hard. The ability to cleverly put words into a formulaic structure to get emotions from people who choose to read it is fascinating. The monologue of a repressed housewife could be more moving than a friend’s thank you for letting them use your AAA membership to fix their car.

I watched nearly ten episodes of “As the World Turns” (or ATWT as the kids are calling it), and by the April 16, 1961 episode, I began to feel a sense of kinship to Ellen Lowell.

Much like the film “Boyhood” or the stop light near the Carousel Cinemas on Battleground, not much really changes in the span of thirty minutes. That’s the point, I guess. Ellen and her husband fight in one episode about whether or not the boy is adopted and I realized, thinking about the fights I’ve had with friends, exes, and peers, that my problems really aren’t that terrible at all.

I get enormous relief watching Ellen Cole became engaged to Jim Norman only for him to find out she was marrying him just to get custody of her son he left her. I like it because it grounds be back to reality. Of course this is all fiction, but ATWT targets an audience of working class Americans who wanted a form of escape and to remind them along the way that life’s problems are not as bad as those that are on their television screen.

My homework, lack of funds, car troubles, selfish friends and frequent bouts of melancholy are small compared to the Stewart’s and the Hughes’.

After the snow days, I listened to a friend rant about how their boyfriend hadn’t been giving them enough attention and how she is thinking of breaking up with him because she wants to feel appreciative. She gives and gives and gives in the relationship but his actions speak louder than his words.

“At least your father didn’t ostracize you from the family because you were an underage girl in love with a married man,” I laughed into the phone, thinking of the last episode I watched. She was un-amused.

By no means do I mean to say, “Live life by soap operas” or, “Netflix teaches you life’s greatest joys and hardest sorrows.” In fact, with as much advertisements pushing us to get into the world and out of our streaming sites, these shows seem a gentle reminder about the world you go out in every day. How small the problem of a “I got a Venti when I asked for a Grande” guy is, or how forgiving the woman who nearly hits you in the Harris Teeter parking lot can actually be.

Perspective. That’s what it’s all about.

Categories: Features, Jackson Cooper

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