Soap

23 05 2008

Living here in Hoots in the late 70s, there was a television show that I loved called Soap. Jon is writing about watching and reliving it over at mushin no shin.

Here’s the thing. Our local ABC affiliate was located in Jackson and refused to show Soap. I don’t know what they replaced it with but it was during the antenna days so we were sort of screwed and even cable only have about 30 channels when we finally got it in 1978. Jackson’s station still wouldn’t broadcast it. We finally would watch it on from another place, and for the life of me I can’t remember where that station was from.

I was about 11 or 12, I think.

Why wouldn’t they play it?

There was a gay character and there was a biracial marriage. There were broad stereotypes and nothing was sacred. There was also some very good actors who were funny pulling the whole thing together. In retrospect from a pre-teen’s mind, I couldn’t understand what the big deal was but it was a huge thing. The station wouldn’t run it because it was racy and they said something along the lines of it was indecent. Yada, yada, yada. For the first couple of seasons, I never saw an episode of Soap that didn’t have snow running through it trying to get it from another station.

If you have never seen Soap, it was a satire, and delightfully raunchy in its comedy, mocking daytime soap operas.

I liked Soap. Finally in it’s last couple of years, the tv station finally relented because people were watching it anyway. But, boy, was it controversial in the beginning.

When you tell a 12 year-old kid that they CAN’T see something, you know hell or high water we are going to try our best to do the one thing folks told us we couldn’t.

Ahh, misbegotten television of my youth.

Jon has the rundown. Head to his place.

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12 responses

23 05 2008
Lesley

Funny, that was the only show I was not allowed to watch. I remember it coming on and my mom ushering me out of the living room. “Go to your room and play with something.” But I was allowed to watch Saturday Night Live. Even though I rarely was able to stay awake long enough to get past the monologue. I think that might be why I was “allowed” to watch it.

Not sure why my mom didn’t want me to see it, but I’m sure it had to do more with language and double entendres than any controversial characters. My mom’s a liberal, you know.

23 05 2008
newscoma

My mom let me watch it. She also took me to the Exorcist when I was 10.
My mom was a liberal as well but a bit out there. It was the disco years. I blame that.

23 05 2008
Jon

I’m not sure how to take some of the socio-political aspects of the show.

Like, is Benson a positive character / role model, since he’s generally the sane one, or by being the smart-assed-servant is he playing an offensively stereotypical role?

Or with Billy Crystal’s gay character — on the surface it seems like a positive thing to have the first openly gay character, and again it seems to be positive reinforcement since he to is generally one of the sane ones. But then, they’re constantly insulting him, calling him ‘fruit’ and such, and worse, the show treats his homosexuality as if it is somehow equivalent to Danny’s gang activities and Burt & Chuck’s equally loose marbles. So again it’s hard to tell if it’s positive, or exploitation.

Weird. I don’t mean to over analyze. I guess it’s just strange trying to see & understand something like this on the other end of 30 years of progress.

24 05 2008
newscoma

I don’t think that this show would fly in 2008 because, as you said, 30 years have changed a lot of things.
But, back in the day, we wanted to see it because of it’s edginess. Now, it’s based in nostalgia because it hit a lot of buttons.

I like over analyzing things. Let’s do it together. Heh.

24 05 2008
Jon

I was thinking about it some more and at least on the Benson thing, well I do sort of think the role could be considered offensive (“yes the black guy is smarter and saner than the white folk, but don’t worry, he’s a servant and has no power other than to quip”), but as he evolved through his own series and became Lt Governor, they more than made up for it.

So almost certainly anything which might be offensive was unintentional, they were breaking through the barriers they could, but just still carried baggage that was still so deeply rooted in the culture that they couldn’t know it was there.

Off on another tangent, it blows my mind that the Jackson station wouldn’t carry it! I guess it shouldn’t, but I just still find myself constantly shocked by how conservative *Nashville* still is, so my brain just can’t even compute the still-deeper conservatism of the rural areas.

But then, having to defy The Man to watch the show probably made it all the more fun 🙂

24 05 2008
newscoma

Jackson wouldn’t run it until the whole controversy had been depowered.
Sometimes the conservative mindset of Tennessee amazes me, but then on the other, I’ve seen a lot of progress as well but it’s far from being perfect..
The county and I live in just got liquor by the drink within the last decade.
No. Really. I’m serious.

24 05 2008
mushin no shin » Blog Archive » Confused?

[…] Update: Don’t miss the follow up discussion at Newscoma’s place […]

24 05 2008
squirrelqueen

Soap was scandalous at the time. I remember all the adults talking about it.
Like Newscoma said, with only three or four channels available the buzz was huge on this one.
It seems like there was another show the ABC affiliate in Jackson boycotted. I can’t recall now though.

26 05 2008
Russ

The county and I live in just got liquor by the drink within the last decade.
No. Really. I’m serious.

‘Coma, this may come as a shock to you, but Knox County (outside the city limits) still doesn’t allow liquor by the drink. That may change soon, but as of today, Knox County is even farther behind the times than Hooterville County.

26 05 2008
newscoma

NO WAY!
Wow. I’m really shocked.

26 05 2008
Russ

Seriously. Knox County doesn’t even have liquor stores outside the city limits, much less liquor by the drink. Here’s a recent news story about a proposal to change the law. It didn’t go anywhere.

The backwardness of Knox County amazes me sometimes, but at least our local affiliate ran “Soap” when it originally aired. We even had “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” although it came on at like 11:00.

28 05 2008
squirrelqueen

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman – That was the other one I couldn’t think of that the local affiliate wouldn’t show.
Thanks Russ, my mind is at ease.

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