Soap Operas: Not Just For Selling Soap!

I love TV.  So much.  Especially shows with selfish, relatively one-dimensional characters and amazingly dramatic plot lines.  Hence my affair with Gossip Girl.  It’s terrible in the greatest way.  But it could be so much better.
In the 1950s, the soap opera was developed–you guessed it–to sell soap.  It was a simple and ingenious plot from Don Draper (or whoever actually made ads then) to capitalize on housewives’ “free time.”  My mother is a housewife and I know that this “free time” is virtually non-existent, but it was the ‘50s.  Misogyny was ok and men didn’t really know what went into the day of a housewife anyway.  But this is not the point.  Drama-rama plus ads selling household products was a hit.  And the days of our lives got a lot better.
Jump to 2003 when the best thing ever happened.  The soap opera got younger and jumped to prime-time.  I was 16 and The OC had just debuted.  My life was about to change.  I watched Ryan, Seth, Summer and stupid Marissa religiously.  There were fights, parties, Julie Cooper-Nichol-Cooper and even a drug overdose in Tijuana.  The most important thing, though, was the music.  The OC was a music selling machine!  The combination of a soundtrack that spoke to our generation and compelling, complicated plot lines had us running to the stores–to buy CDs (remember that?!).
What I want, so desperately, is for Gossip Girl to channel the spirit of The OC and its daytime predecessors.  The show already has the insanity, the backstabbing and the love triangles of a good soap.  They even brought back a character from the dead recently!  But what are they selling me?  The only clear message is that expensive, ugly clothes are really important on the Upper East Side (see:  Serena van der Woodsen).  The designer wardrobe isn’t something their demographic can afford, I’m pretty sure (see:  me).  And while the music is alright, it isn’t featured as heavily as it was on The OC.  I can’t remember the last time I was compelled to go to the store for a CD.  This may not be entirely Gossip Girl’s fault, but the argument stands.  They’ve got everything else, it’s time to sell, sell, sell!

Minnie has been researching TV relevance for 25 years through intensive field work.

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