Soap Operas: Highlighting Social Issues
Day 56 of 100 days of Blogging
I was 19 years old. Home from college for the summer and in need of a summer job. After exhausting all possibilities at the King of Prussia Mall, I saw a sign: Hiring Maids for the Summer at a large Motel chain in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Little did I know the gift that job would be for me and the impact of shaping my life.
First, I learned about following up for a job. I was one of over 100 applicants for a few jobs. After filling out the form, I came back the next day to let the manager know that I was ready, willing and able to work starting that day. She pulled my application out of the middle of the stack, interviewed and hired me on the spot.
Second, I was a TERRIBLE maid, but my attitude and determination helped me receive extra training and I learned how to really clean a room. I received the support I needed to do a good job.
Third, I had no idea how much I needed time to think and feel. This was the summer between my first and second year of college. I was a sponge soaking up all of the information presented to me on TV. Listening to Phil Donahue in the morning and soap operas in the afternoon, I had a whole summer to explore relationships, personal growth and activating my inquiring mind.
Seeing the news of the death of David Canary, an actor, yesterday brought a whole wave of memories about the summer of 1976 and the impact of soap operas. David reminded me of the soap opera, All My Children. (He did not join the cast until 1983 and later became one of Erica Kane’s eight husband’s.) Before David arrived on All My Children, it was Susan Lucci, as Erica Kane who was my greatest teacher. She was independent, powerful, imaginative and brilliant. She had so many feelings and was not afraid to express them! It was inspirational to observe a woman like that.
Soap operas, especially All My Children, played out in my life during times of transition. The summer I worked as a maid. Five years later as a new bride in Baltimore and unemployed for the winter. With each childbirth in 1983, 1985, 1991 and 1993. During the summer my son had open heart surgery and I lay around in an air conditioned room with him during his recovery. The winter I was sick with an autoimmune condition and all I could do was rest. That is when I caught up on “my soaps,” and had another dose of exposure to social issues demonstrated through dramatic acting.
My background as a social worker gave me an interest in watching people interact in relationships. I didn’t sink into soap operas as a way to live my life. I saw them as highlighting the dysfunction and they encouraged me to go to Al-Anon, therapy, and take personal growth classes, to become a minister and a coach. They were food for thought. Soap operas opened me to explore social issues. Erica Kane wanted a career and independence. She did not want to be a homemaker. She had an abortion not for health reasons but because she was a model. (It was the first legal abortion aired on American television.) Other topics were presented in a way that I could learn and also see the challenges. Homosexuality, Drug Use and Alcoholism, Interracial marriage, Anorexia, Same-Sex Marriage. The topics presented in the shows inspired me to read and learn more, to engage in conversations and to explore my own thoughts and ideas; to form my own opinions.
Although I haven’t watched a soap opera in about 20 years, the impact on questioning and exploring social issues is still with me. My writing self emerged during that time in the form of journal writing which led to writing blog posts and stories in Heal My Voice books. The characters and episodes inspired me to speak up and to have a voice.
It is interesting to look back 40 years and see the root of my voice being encouraged and cultivated. The soaps made some of the years with my greatest challenges more manageable and expansive. Getting lost in a character’s life for an hour gave me greater perspective when I returned to my own life. Each episode activated the wheels to spin faster, to open my eyes wider and to inspire me to make conscious choices about how I wanted to step out of the drama and live a bigger life. I used the characteristics represented by Erica Kane to wake up to more of who I really am and to not be afraid to be controversial.
It is one of the reasons I started Heal My Voice. For women to share their stories, their challenges, their dramas to demonstrate and inspire others to use the challenges, see the gifts and use them as
Andrea Hylen believes in the power of our voice to usher in a new world. She is the founder of Heal My Voice, an organization that inspires women and men to heal a story, reclaim personal power and step into greater leadership. Andrea discovered her unique gifts while parenting three daughters and learning to live life fully after the deaths of her brother, son and husband. In addition to serving as Heal My Voice’s Executive Director, Andrea is an Orgasmic Meditation Teacher and Sexuality Coach.
She is following her intuition as she collaborates with women and men in organizations and travels around the world speaking, teaching and leading workshops. Her passion is authentically living life and supporting others in doing the same. To connect with Andrea and learn about current projects go to: www.andreahylen.com and www.healmyvoice.org.