Deep Soap: Revenge of The Nerds

by | March 6, 2009 at 9:32 AM | Deep Soap

Freaks And Geeks

Pity the poor nerds.  With their thick glasses, social insecurities, computer skills,  and unabashed displays of intelligence, it’s no wonder they’re social pariahs.  At least that’s what you’d think if you watched nothing but soaps.  While primetime has reflected societal changes by putting nerds front and center — and occasionally letting them find love — on shows like Chuck and The Big Bang Theory.  This reflects how our society has changed.  Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are the real life equivalents of Victor Newman and Adam Chandler.   People want to be them, not kick sand in their faces.  I wish daytime would get this memo.  I am tired of watching All My Children’s Petey, General Hospital’s Spinelli and The Young & The Restless’s Kevin social ineptitude linked to their computer skills.  And vice versa.  According to daytime, knowing how to program makes you some sort of freak.  Moreover, soaps tend to link geekiness to pathology.  Kevin’s initial storyline portrayed him as a sexual deviant straight out of an episode of To Catch A Predator who seduced underage girls via chat rooms.  He attempted to murder Colleen then developed an unhealthy fixation on Lauren.  Though Kevin has been Redeemed via Lousy Childhood, the link between his computer skills and his social awkwardness persists.  (I’ve got to give Y&R for balancing things out a bit by making sexy Phyllis a web designer.) Similarly, Days of Our Lives Nick, joined the show as a recent college grad with a great job and an outgoing personality who was awkward with women.  That’s plausible, since it takes a lot of guys, especially those who attend a heavily male engineering school, a few years in the real world to come out of their shells.  But his improbable descent into a murderous stalker was portrayed as a side effect of his quantitative gifts.

Pete, Spinelli, and his female counterpart Winnifred are the other side of soap opera geekdom, childlike and asexual.  The audience roots for them because of their sweet personalities, but understands why the object of their affection treat them with disdain.   On GH Spinelli’s orange soda addiction and penchant for weird nicknames are deal breakers, not the fact that he works for the mob.  (Although, I must admit, I don’t think I’d be able to handling Spinell’s unique take on the English language for extended periods of time in real life.)   I find Colby’s continual rejection of Petey preposterous.  The guy in conventionally handsome, a snappy dresser whose glasses enhance rather than detract from his appearance, has a great job, is the heir to a vast fortune, and has proved himself to be wise beyond his years.   In real life, he’d have girls all over him.   But because he is Pine Valley’s designated geek he has no better luck with romance than the show’s old school nerd Alfred Vanderpool.   Daytime has missed the boat on geek chic.  I think in part it’s a generation gap issue.  The majority of soap writers are of the pre-internet generation.  They harbor old-fashioned views about techies.  In addition, there are plenty of technologically challenged writers.  (Remember, this is the medium that employed script typists well into the 1990s.  There were still some writers who used typewriters!)  So I’ve got a challenge for daytime’s writers: make the next sexy hunk (or vixen) you create a software engineer.  It will be fresh, fun and might even get a few of those newly laid off Google millionaires watching.

The Rites Were All Wrong

Greenlee’s memorial service on All My Children was the least moving funeral for a beloved character that I’ve ever seen.  Her return was bungled, her cliff dive was ridiculous, but I was sure I’d tear up as I watched all her loved ones say good-bye.  Almost everything about it seemed off.  The only genuine emotion came from Greenlee’s mother Mary, thanks to the always sublime Anna Stuart. I wish AMC would bring her back full time for a triangle with Jack and Erica and to get revenge on Kendall for causing Greenlee’s accident.  The rest of the episode was marred not only by lackluster writing and performances but the show’s dismissive attitude towards the event.  Instead of centering the entire episode around the service, the show devoted a great deal of time to Reese’s sudden cheap redemption ploy… I mean blindness and Zach’s new determination to win the World’s Biggest Douchebag contest. I had to rewind to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating his complaint that Kendall wasn’t making enough of an effort to understand and forgive him.  Yes, the woman who just picked you up from the police station should understand why you’re skipping out on her best friend’s funeral to visit the woman you kissed.   Kendall’s speech about her relationship with Greenlee was touching.  Ryan’s reminsices about her were serious revisionist history.  I would have loved it if he said, “Greenlee was initially completely obsessed with me.  When I rejected her she went psycho and tried to hack up my living room with an axe.  But in time she came to realize that Leo was 10,000 times the man that I am, and they fell in love.  Then, years later, we got married.  I emotionally abused her before I faked my own Death by Motorcycle.  But for some reason she decided to come back to me instead of making a play for the snarky new Jake, who is a good height for her, and might have actually made her happy.”  When the episode concluded with Opal’s ominous foreshadowing that Greenlee’s spirit was restless, I wasn’t thrilled that Greenlee might be alive.  My first thought was, “The show’s hedging its bets in case Rebecca Budig doesn’t book a pilot.”    I can’t believe the same people who wrote Myrtle’s touching funeral couldn’t come up with some genuine emotion for the death of one of the show’s most popular characters.