OUR OPINION: How To Tell A Good Cancer Storyline


For decades soap operas have been telling cancer storylines. They’ve covered everything from breast to prostate. Some have been compelling. Others…, well...., let’s just say they’ve left something to be desired. Sure, a cancer story can be hard to tell. But, today, Daytime Indulgence is here to tell those soap writers how to do it right!

BE REAL!
One of the things soap writers try to do during a cancer story is be as real as possible. Remember on Guiding Light when Kim Zimmer (Reva) actually got a mammogram on screen? Or on General Hospital when Monica gave Alan a stern talk about what her new breast would be like? That’s right! Those things actually happened! And, why did they happen? Because, our writers wanted to take fans on a realistic, yet emotional roller coaster.

Those writers did their homework. Nowadays, it seems like they are just saying a character has some form of cancer and not doing any research. Take General Hospital for example. One person might think that the show with the word hospital in its title would actually make the story as real as possible. But, that doesn’t seem to be the case this time around. The character of Anna has just been diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer. And, what do they do? Oh, yeah, they devote a week to telling us that she has to be careful not to lose any blood. They didn’t tell viewers hardly anything else. In fact, they could drop the cancer story altogether. At this point, they haven’t really done anything with it. So, what’s the point of having a cancer story, if you aren’t even going to tell it to its fullest potential?

GIVE US THE REAL EMOTIONAL SCENES
When handling a story of this caliber, there needs to be emotional scenes galore! There needs to be scenes that rock a soap fan to their core. There needs to be scenes where we can’t stop reaching for the tissues. Now, usually there are scenes like this. But, we only put this topic in this article to talk about one soap in particular. That soap is Days of Our Lives.

DAYS is wrapping up its most recent cancer storyline. Fan favorite Adrienne Johnson has been battling breast cancer for a couple months now. But, the story doesn’t seem to have any emotional pull. It seems like this is due to sloppy writing. The only time I felt emotional during this story was that scene she had with Kate pre-breast-reconstruction. I’ll admit it, I cried during that scene. But, that was it.

Also, the whole story felt like more of a drive by. Hell, it almost made a joke out of the disease. Every DAYS fan knows the only reason they gave Adrienne cancer was so Lucas and Justin could fight for her affection. Emotion doesn’t come from Lucas and Justin racing to bring Adrienne soup. The only emotion that comes from that is a slight laugh.

ADD LAYERS TO THE STORY
For the past couple of years, soaps have fallen victim to poor writing. Remember the good ‘ole days when writers took time with a storyline? It took a year and a half for Lillian to fight her cancer on Guiding Light. That is because the writers didn’t skip a beat. Writers have to know that this is the genre where you can stretch out a story for a very long time. After all, you do get 260 original episodes a year to air!

If you are going to skip beats throughout a cancer story, then there is no point in telling it! That’s right, we’re talking to you Y&R! We still haven’t forgotten that prostate cancer storyline with Michael. Oh, did I say storyline? How about lack thereof. I think Michael had a couple fights at the coffee house and the cancer was gone.

Now, I’m not saying you have to stretch their cancer out for 25 years, like DAYS did with that one paternity story. I’m just saying that you have to take your damn time. Don’t be afraid to. Us daytime viewers are patient. We like a good payoff!

SO, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF TODAY’S COLUMN? HOW WOULD YOU IMPROVE HOW WRITERS TELL CANCER STORIES? TELL US ALL YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

Article By: Casey Hutchison
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