If you’re not a fan of the soap GENERAL HOSPITAL, then the names Jason, Sam and Liz — when used in conjunction with one another — probably don’t mean all that much to you. (After all, the days when GH’s Luke and Laura or ALL MY CHILDREN’s Erica were household names are, sadly, long gone).
But for those who follow the escapades of the residents of Port Charles, New York — where guns are handed out at the city limits and a stranger is just someone you haven’t yet slept with — the names Jason, Sam and Liz are extremely well known. And in certain circles, mentioning the hunk’s name in connection with the wrong lady could get you in a whole lotta trouble despite the fact that Jason is now dead and his portrayer has moved on to play THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS’ Dylan.
Earlier this year, in my role as executive editor and Tweetmaster General of Soaps In Depth magazine, I found myself engaging with fans who’d gotten an early glimpse of a cover which happened to feature Jason and his former-lover, Liz. For those hoping the pair would reunite, this was good news. For those who wanted Jason to reunite with his then-estranged spouse Sam, news of this cover was greeted about as joyously as would be word that they’d be dipped in honey at dawn and staked beside an active beehive.
This happens periodically. Soap fans are a passionate bunch. And sometimes, for reasons quite inexplicable, certain triangles inspire a level of loyalty that is practically unheard of amongst viewers of primetime shows. GH’s Liz and Jason. GH’s Jason and Sam. DAYS OF OUR LIVES’ EJ and Sami or Sami and Lucas. THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS’ Phyllis and Nick or Nick and Sharon. Occasionally, things can get mighty heated among the more devoted of their followers… and when I say “heated”, I’m using a polite word for nasty. Names are called, conspiracy theories are spun, accusations are hurled.
On the night in question, I spent an hour or more dealing with fervent fans of Jason and Sam who weren’t happy about the about-to-go-on-sale cover. After sending out so many tweets to so many followers that I wound up in what’s called “Twitter jail” (meaning the system will not allow you to continue interacting and forces you to take a break), I decided to head home.
And that’s when it happened.
Barreling down the road came a silver SUV going incredibly fast when suddenly, the vehicle left the road and jumped onto the sidewalk… where I just happened to be walking. With what I have no doubt was a horrifyingly unmanly shriek, I literally threw myself out of its path and onto a patch of grass as the SUV plowed across the sidewalk exactly where I’d been standing only seconds before. I was now sprawled out on the grass, hyperventilating and watching in shock as the driver corrected course and, without even slowing down, continued merrily along his way.
For five minutes or so, I couldn’t stand up. My knees were weak and I thought I might vomit. I can honestly say I had never — and have never since — come so close to death.
And that’s when it hit me.
Soaps matter. A lot. For fans, they are an escape. Many people say they live for their soaps. For me, the editor of a magazine that covers the genre, they are literally my living, so they mean a hell of a lot.
But as I sat there in the grass, trying to catch my breath, my mind racing, it wasn’t Jason or Sam or Elizabeth or Phyllis or Nick or any other character I was thinking about. It was how glad I was that Charlie, the co-worker who often walks home with me, wasn’t by my side. It was the fact that I was happy not to have been plowed down two days before my upcoming vacation. It was, “Geez, I’m amazed I didn’t piss myself.”
All of which is to say this: It’s good to be passionate about movies and television and games and books. To be invested in the hours we wile away with various forms of fiction. But if that car had hit me and the last hours of my life had been spent trying to talk people out of being upset about the romantic entanglements of fictional characters, that would have been a tragedy. Not only for me, but for the people who allowed themselves to get so worked up over characters on a television show that they were willing to disrespect other human beings — whether it was other fans, me, the actors who portray the characters or the writers who put words into their mouths.
They matter to a lot of people in a lot of different ways. But they shouldn’t matter more than being respectful to one another. And they shouldn’t matter to the point where our blood pressure rises and we hide behind anonymous message board profiles just to take cheap shots at others because they don’t see things the way we do.
There’s so much negativity in the world. Wars, poverty, political campaigns… soaps are designed to be an escape from all of that. They’re the daily equilvalent of saying, “Calgon, take me away!”
Pleasures, be they guilty or otherwise, are meant to be a part of our life that brings us joy. We’re meant to revel in them together, not snipe at one another because of them.
I’m fairly certain that if you find yourself sprawled in the grass along the side of the road having been nearly run down by a speeding SUV, your last thoughts will not be about Jason, Sam or Liz. Nor will they be about Phyllis, Nick, Sharon, EJ, Lucas or Sami. At least — as much as I love my soaps — I sincerely hope not.