YOU's resident soapie junkie Almari Wessels has been obsessed with Days of our Lives since she was 12 years old.
Ed's note: Now that the popular show is no longer being broadcast on SABC 3 (read more about that here), Almari needed to vent. So we let her write this column.
"This article is about a soapie, so let’s begin with a cliche: There are two kinds of people in this world – those who know who Stefano diMera is, and those who’ve never heard of the soap baddie.
I’d never in my life heard of Days of Our Lives when as a 12-year-old farm girl I suddenly found myself in a primary school where there were more than eight kids in a class. What a revelation.
Going to school barefoot, assembly with the entire school crammed into the music teacher’s prefab classroom, and hide-and-seek games at break times – all these were suddenly things of the past.
Now I had to contend with boyfriends, dance parties – and Days of Our Lives. It was in 1992 that a schoolmate introduced me to this TV show that begins with an hourglass turning dramatically as an authoritative voice announces, “Like sands through the hourglass . . . so are the days of our lives.”
And that’s when I began to follow this soapie, about the adventures of the people of Salem. It was only while at university that I learnt from a stage production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible that Salem was known for witch hunts, long before Marlena Evans, Stefano DiMera and Samantha Brady descended on the historical town with their melodramatic story lines.
Soapie haters believe these shows are a blight on television and simply a lot of outrageous rubbish. And you can’t exactly blame them – just think how a demon possessed Marlena the beloved psychiatrist, or how many times Hope Brady has risen from the dead like Lazarus, or how nearly half the characters died a few years ago, only to return when it was revealed they were actually taken prisoner and kept on a remote island.
But, rubbish or not, the critics miss the point. Soapies don’t have to make any sense, they just are what they are. For instance, one day I was relaxing on the couch watching TV at my parents’ home when my mom (definitely not a Days fan) walked in.
“No, it can’t be!” she said, surprised. I could hear her take a deep breath before she pointed at Marlena on the screen. “Is that blonde woman really still in the show?”
Yes, of course Marlena is still there, as is John Black (the love of her life), and Stefan Dimera and Jennifer Horton and Kate Roberts and . . .
In fact the thing I’m going to miss most when this beloved soap disappears from South African TVs on 20 July is the characters and their fearless immortality.
It doesn’t matter how fast the world changes, or if you feel some days that your life is a roller-coaster ride of crisis after crisis: In Salem things don’t change – super rich townsfolk drink expensive whisky out of crystal glasses at any time of day or night, witches destroy marriages and evil magnates manipulate people’s lives like a puppet master.
And that sums up the power of soapies. Somewhere, in a town far over the ocean, live one-dimensional people who help you to escape your own reality for 40 minutes a day, leaving you grateful that you’re not pregnant with twins with different fathers.
Sadly the hourglass has now run out for this soapie, but should I ever play 30 Seconds again and turn the hourglass to begin my turn, I’ll think of Days’ dramatic opening sequence – and wonder what happened to Salem and its people."
Almari Wessel: hard-hitting journalist by day, soapie junkie by night.