The Social Justice Stories Daytime Television Shows Are Tackling

General Hospital

There are any number of reasons daytime television fans stay so loyal to their shows. Some come for the super couples, others stay for the legacy characters. But something Daytime doesn’t get enough credit for is its willingness to address the tough topics. Back in the day, it was up to daytime to tackle topics that primetime wouldn’t touch. General Hospital‘s 1996 heartbreaking and educational AIDS storyline, as well as One Life To Live‘s prostitution and gang rape stories, come to mind. Nowadays, most of the honor of breaking this ground goes to primetime, and/or the many digital platforms that have grown exponentially in the last decade. However, Daytime still has the power to amaze. The big four on the major networks, The Bold and the Beautiful, The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, and Days of Our Lives, are all pulling their weight in asking the tough questions. Which one is the most impactful? You decide.

-The Bold and the Beautiful

The Bold and the Beautiful

The Pass: This is kind of a cheat because B&B doesn’t currently have a storyline that doesn’t involve a love triangle, or a business rivalry, or someone throwing punches. They get a pass though, because this show broke ground with Maya Forrester’s transgender reveal the last few years. We cannot undersell how massive a move that was, particularly for a show that airs all around the world! B&B triumphed with the story of Maya’s coming out, and then milked it for all it was worth for the next few years. From Maya and Rick getting married, to her family’s acceptance (or lack thereof) of who Maya is, to Nicole being a surrogate for her transgender sister. No, Bold has earned the right to stick with some good, old-fashioned soapy material for awhile. And after everything Maya and Rick have been through, we’re perfectly happy just watching them play with little Lizzie on the office carpet.

Bullying: The closest story I could possibly see as coming close to a social impact, when it isn’t mixed up in the rest of the soapy stuff, is the rivalry between Ridge and Thorne. I now see why the show needed to make a Thorne switch with General Hospital veteran Ingo Rademacher. The way that Ridge acted from the second his brother walked in the door was condescending, childish, and rude. Rademacher is the type of actor who can hold his own against anyone, and that’s what needs to come out in Thorne right now. A lot of people can call this sibling rivalry, since these boys are going to give as good as they get, but Ridge’s behavior borders on bullying. Yes, we all know bullies exist in the workplace and within our own families. But when do you say enough is enough? When do gentle teases cross the line into being so selfish that you put down people you are supposed to love, just for the fun of it? You can’t call it fun and games when the impact of your words keeps people from being able to speak up in environments where they should feel most confident and safe.

-Days of Our Lives

Days of Our Lives

Racial Profiling in Police Shootings: At first, I couldn’t believe Days went there. Even when I knew it was coming, including the characters involved, I prayed it wouldn’t get that far. And then the shot rang out. With that one shot, the entire canvas changed. This is how it looks on paper: a young, white cop shoots a black teenager in a hoodie when he mistakes the cell phone in his hand for a gun. Except, the white cop is JJ Devereaux, who is apart of Salem’s oldest, most respected family. Except, that Theo Carver is the Mayor’s autistic son, who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Now Theo is in a coma, JJ is suspended and punishing himself, Theo’s sister/JJ’s ex-girlfriend Lani is in the middle, and Mayor Abe has fired the Commissioner for lack of objectivity (as if he can be trusted to be objective). These are just a few of the people affected, but this story has rocked nearly all of Salem, and it’s only going to get worse.

If I’m being perfectly honest, and if JJ is perfectly honest, I think he did racially profile Theo. This doesn’t make JJ evil, but it’s just an ugly truth that JJ won’t let himself see because he feels so much guilt for shooting a kid he’s known his whole life. It puts the viewers in a very uncomfortable, but necessary, position. We all make judgments when we see a story like this in the newspaper. Some always blame the cop. Some always blame the kid. Some try to stick their flag somewhere in the middle, knowing that there is no good outcome. But until this is your town, and your child is either the shooter or the victim, you can’t really know.

Suicide: Before the year is up, JJ Devereaux will consider taking a very drastic step in the wake of shooting an unarmed man. In true soap fashion, the only person who can reach JJ will either be the man in the coma, or a familiar ghost (we see you there Matthew Ashford). The only topic that could be more serious than taking a life, is taking your own.

-General Hospital

General Hospital

Veteran’s Healthcare: Truth be told, I’m really disappointed that this storyline isn’t continuing. If it is, someone please tell me so that I may breathe a sigh of relief. This is one of the most powerful stories GH could have undertaken. It was introduced in such a bizarre, creative way that I absolutely loved. Gossipy Nurse Amy has a secret blog where she poses as a man giving advice to other men. When she gets a book deal that would help cover her veteran brother’s medical expenses, she needs a face for the book cover. Detective Nathan West, being the stand-up guy that he is, steps in (also because his wife was away and he needed more to do than sulk around the PCPD). The story ended with Amy’s brother Chet discovering just how far his sister went for him, but it also dabbled in a little bit of the following storyline…

The Opioid Crisis: This has been an interesting storyline that is weaving together several characters who otherwise would be repeating the same things they’ve been doing for the last year, or else would have nothing else to do for the remainder of 2017. How much longer did we need to watch Valentin stew over his co-parenting with Lulu, or Anna hang out with Mac & Felicia every day? Not that those haven’t been great moments, but we needed to move forward. This case is especially important and dangerous for Dr. Finn, since it puts him directly in conflict with his sobriety.

I thought it was a bit of a stretch for Anna to compare this case to what Robin and Stone went through during the height of the AIDS epidemic. I only accept this statement because it’s yet another epidemic only being addressed when it hits people outside of the “norm”. With AIDS, no one really paid attention until it hit outside of the gay community. With opioids, no one really paid attention until it hit outside of the minority communities. But I digress.

Chet Driscoll made an appearance because he got caught up with synthetic opioids, and here’s where GH could hit a home-run with this story. By pulling together the need that injured veterans have for pain relief, emotional or physical, with the easy access to deadlier drugs, General Hospital could potentially pull off something amazing. Nothing could possibly come close with what was done with Robin and Stone, but at least a serious issue would be showcased in unique and powerful way.

-The Young and the Restless

Young and the Restless

Sex Trafficking: This story had a lot of potential, and though most of it has been wrapped up, the issue is nonetheless important. People don’t like to think things like this happen, let alone in the shadows of otherwise reputable companies run by reputable people. Though Newman Enterprises was unaware that they were complicit in a sex trafficking ring, they still had to deal with the fallout. This arc may not have gone as deep as it could have, but it’s still something ugly that needed to be addressed. The proof of that is in the way the show’s more affluent community chose to deal with it.

Alzheimer’s: When Dina Mergeron returned full-time for a reconciliation with her children, viewers didn’t really know what to expect. This was a woman who was once the matriarch of the Abbott family, and caused a heck of a lot of damage to her family before taking her leave. It was a tough road with many jagged edges, but Dina did find forgiveness and peace with her children. Then the Abbott children were struck a terrible blow-their mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s since over a year prior. Now it’s not a matter of if they should get to know their mother again, it’s a question of how much time they still have to get to do so. With help from the Alzheimer’s Association, Dina and the Abbott’s struggles have a platform. What’s more, this story shows the power of this disease because Y&R is taking the time to develop the anguish and courage associated with Alzheimer’s.

Daytime may not be able to pack the same social punch as it used to competing with so many other different platforms, but it’s wonderful to see these stories play out, and be able to do so with characters we’ve loved for generations. After all, that is a power only daytime televison has.

Start a Discussion

Main Heading Goes Here
Sub Heading Goes Here
No, thank you. I do not want.
100% secure your website.