‘Soap’ and Controversy

Soap_066-067

(Click for readable PDF)

I’m indebted to Soap fan Lee for his kind words, and for pointing out something about the book that, having been so close to it for so long, I was completely blind to: it explores both sides of the series’ legendary controversy. (This he noticed in the single spread from the chapter on Soap‘s controversy I posted yesterday.)

This is something that grew organically from the research phase of the book, and from its thesis, which has always been “Why, at a time when the U.S. and the world was torn apart by a plethora of horrible events, did people concentrate their anger on one gentle television show?” The answer is a complicated one, and took the better part of a chapter, and five years, to explain.

More importantly, what became an issue du jour for armchair moralists and political opportunists became a direct threat to the livelihoods, pride, and reputations of producers, cast and crew.

After months of hard work, wrangling with network censors and breaking new ground, all involved thought they would have the chance to enjoy the rewards of a job well done. What they received was a public drubbing and the very real prospect of losing their jobs if ABC caved under the pressure.

I’ve posted a new preview spread from the “Controversy” chapter above to give you a taste of the Soap people’s perspective on this. (I still love stage manager Carl Lauten’s reaction to it, and admire his grandmother immensely. I think you will, too.)

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6 comments on “‘Soap’ and Controversy

  1. What I find interesting is how “Soap” was so controversial even though audiences had almost a decade warm up with shows like “All in the Family”, “Maude”, etc. They didn’t seem to have a problem with the “loveable bigot” Archie Bunker (well, on occasion). I guess it was the front and center sex aspect that let them draw the line in the sand.

    • Funnily enough, the book does actually suggest a reason for that on the last page…I’ll just leave you in suspense on that one 😉

  2. Honored to have inspired a blog post! Thanks for the mention. The one semi-serious engagement with the “other” side I have heard was from Bea Arthur, who always said she was moved by the thoughtful responses from both sides to Maude’s Dilemma. She said she had always been pro-choice without thinking about it and that, although she remained pro-choice, she was glad to be better able to understand people’s feelings from the opposing point of view. (She did also express the suspicion, that she may have been protected by Tandem from the more unpleasant correspondence.)

    • I don’t recall if it was in either of the excerpts from the “Controversy” chapter I posted, but Tandem actually set up a department that did nothing but talk to pressure groups to at least listen to their thoughts before, or immediately after, episodes aired – sort of an emergency valve system.

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