By Silas Kain
Happy New Year, SoapBox1 fans!
I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve submitted an article and for that I apologize.
Anyway, there are three pieces I have in various stages of development.
One of the pieces is about James Franco and his return to General Hospital.
The events of this week have caused me to change my tune a little bit. So with all of that in mind, I’d like to throw something out there for your consideration.
In the last couple of days, it has been reported Rebecca Herbst has been fired from General Hospital.
As news of her firing spread over the Internet, the fan reaction has been a force to be reckoned with in many circles.
As I watch the Tweets, receive the emails and monitor the conversations, I’ve come to some interesting conclusions.
Now some of you may say I’m off base; others will agree.
These dynamics happen when opinions are discussed.
As difficult as it is to fathom the removal of Elizabeth Webber from the Port Charles canvas, I see this as an opportunity for General Hospital fans to do something really outside the “norm” – WORK TOGETHER!
Unlike the other soaps remaining on air, there has always been an interesting dynamic among GH fans. I call GH Fans the Democrats of soap fan groups because we consistently shoot ourselves in the proverbial feet without blinking an eye!
There are no more contentious rivalries than between “Liason” and “Jasam” fans.
When I suggested the demise of Sonny Corinthos, I received over 700 hate emails because I was being “mean” to Maurice Bernard.
As I said then, for me this is NEVER about the actors. It’s about story lines and good soap opera.
My friends, sometimes we cross the line between actor and character. It just isn’t healthy and it’s time to take that splash of cold water to wake up!
We have some great actors playing incredible roles on GH who are under utilized and virtually ignored.
Let’s discuss Elizabeth for a minute.
Here we have a character who has been through plenty. She’s a single mother. She is trying to make a home for three toddler boys. She’s a rape victim. She’s had her share of heartbreak and loss.
How different is Elizabeth from many of the women in our country today confronted by similar issues?
Elizabeth is one of the last connections we have to the Webbers and Hardys. She’s been pivotal in the lives of so many in Port Charles to the point that losing her from the canvas is almost as profound a loss as the day we buried Lila Quartermaine.
This brings me to the point of James Franco and what he has done for the genre in the last year.
I’ve seen so many negative reactions to the return of Franco.
Yet, the one key issue which never gets discussed by GH fans is how much James Franco has done, which is nothing less than positive for Daytime as a whole.
James has been front and center in entertainment media. He’s co-hosting the Oscars. He’s been on talk shows, Inside the Actors Studio and on press junkets all over the globe.
One question he is asked is “why would you want to do a soap opera of all things?”
His answers may surprise you.
He gets it.
He knows soap actors are among the most professional in their vocation. He respects the exhausting work ethic of soap cast, crew and writers. He’s fascinated by the dynamics and loves General Hospital.
OK, so the majority of fans don’t like Franco the character.
But what about James Franco – the actor?
Doesn’t he deserve a little bit of gratitude from daytime fans? Is the collective dislike for Franco the character a testament to James the actor?
Look, I’d rather be discussing plot lines and other things. But the fan wars I see heating up on the Internet have caused me to focus on this week’s news.
Like her or not, Rebecca Herbst has done a stellar job portraying a flawed character which has not received the adequate attention by the head writers in a long time.
She’s immersed in the lives of many Port Charles characters and her absence from the story will have repercussions.
The long standing feud between “Liason” and “Jasam” has created another situation which encourages fans create a finger pointing campaign at other actors.
GH fans, in some corners of your world there is a need to tone down the rhetoric and ramp up the focus. The negative energy being exerted in all directions only validates the notion that Internet soap fans just don’t count.
We’ve heard from members of the mainstream soap press that network executives find the Internet fan base to be populated by the whiners, trouble makers and are just not worthy of any attention.
Well, most of us know different.
Most soap fans who communicate using the Internet do so in good faith with no ulterior motives except to share impressions of the tales told by the “stories” we watch.
Here we are on a Friday.
What can GH fans do to show their support for Becky Herbst?
Well, we can all start by discontinuing the finger pointing and declaring a cease fire in the perpetual fan wars.
Flooding the email boxes at ABC Daytime will accomplish nothing. Such communications are a waste of time and only result in your indignant letters being delegated to the Trash Bin.
Phone calls to ABC Daytime could help – but I’m not convinced that’s the best approach.
The most effective mechanism to state your case as a General Hospital fan is to write a letter. Keep it brief, logical and ultimately respectful.
Make three copies.
Send one to Brian Frons, a copy to Anne Sweeney, and the last one to the editor of your preferred soap magazine.
I’m going to leave you with a sample of a letter I am writing to Brian Frons. You can take away from it any content you wish. The gist and tone of the letter is what’s most important!
So, here goes:
Dear Mr. Frons:
This week your network announced the termination of Rebecca Herbst from General Hospital citing storyline dictated reasons.
While I am not qualified as a member of ABC management in judging the decision, I am quite qualified as a consistent, loyal viewer of the show. In the last year it’s been obvious that ABC Daytime has experimented in many areas to reinvigorate the gradual decline in soap viewership. The firing of Ms. Herbst seems, on the surface, to exacerbate viewer dissatisfaction.
Since the inception of soap opera, the genre has consistently been denied the respect it deserves. Daytime actors’ capabilities have been marginalized – in studios, among actors and by entertainment media. Yet soap actors defy the odds in employment longevity, payment of union dues and delivering for their respective network five days per week.
The lack of respect for the genre has reached out to the soap viewership as well. Advertisers and studio heads afford minimal respect to their soap fan bases. Soap fans, you see, suffer from a flawed image. The truth is the typical soap viewer is more engaged in all other dynamics – casting, writing, set design, direction and producing. We understand the nuances of what sets producing a soap apart from prime time programming.
Your soap fan base is your greatest focus group which has always been available and never used because those in management are completely misinformed as to the incredible bounty of information which could be forthcoming if a serious, respectful dialog were to take place.
The character of Elizabeth Webber, at the very least, has several potential story lines, which could encourage a resurgence for General Hospital. I understand that soaps are not as profitable as they once were. That being said, you may want to consider something that is completely outside the box of conventional wisdom.
If ABC Daytime management reached out to the very fan base which has kept them in business all these years, they may learn a few things. We understand the dynamics, especially with all the new cable stations which have risen in the last decade. We understand that reality programming and/or talk shows are far cheaper to produce. But these programs do not serve a network well in maintaining viewer loyalty which, in turn, reduces the rates your network can charge for commercial advertising.
In closing, I can only urge you to reconsider the decision with regard to Ms. Herbst. A demonstration of good will on the part of ABC Daytime would be a good step in reaching out to hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised ABC Daytime fans who are concerned about the product. Remember, sir, you are the producer, we are the consumer.
When ABC Daytime broadcasts a quality product, ABC reaps the rewards in ratings, viewer loyalty and Internet chatter. Woven in that tapestry of viewers is a growing resource in Blogs and Podcasts devoted to the genre. If ABC Daytime management took a moment to gauge the true spirit of Internet soap fans, I would refer you to SoapBox1.com, Buzz Worthy Radio or Stardish Radio. What you will learn dispersed through these sites is the sentiment that cheap, low quality programming does not necessarily translate into long term profitability. Listening to your Daytime fan base and asking for our input may very well teach you about who and what we are as typical soap viewers.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
And that’s it, folks. That’s my model letter. Let’s just cease the fan wars and work together in an intelligent, professional manner.
Let’s encourage our fellow General Hospital fans to get involved and write their own letters. In the end all it takes is a paper, pen, envelope and stamp to get your message heard. The firing of Rebecca Herbst is an opportunity to show ABC Daytime once and for all, what genuine soap fans are made of! I believe we can accomplish our mission.
End of sermon.
Until next time stay safe, stay healthy and celebrate life!
Where there is life, there IS soap!