God and the Soaps

Adultery! Feuding heirs! Corrupting power! Battles over babies! They're all found in the Bible and in soap operas.

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"You'd have preachers talking from the pulpit overtly talking about issues [on soap operas] in the '50s, but going away in the '60s and' 70s," Logan says. "Now it would be really out of place to lecture the audience like a minister or priest would. In the old days, there was comeuppance for evil deeds-- they were real morality plays."

Foreign soaps are more likely to include actual religious leitmotifs. Popular Hindu soaps serialize epics including the Ramayana and the Mahabarata, and at least one Latin American telenovela takes place during the time of the Inquisition. But American soaps haven't fully abandoned religious narratives, sometimes radically religious ones.

Beginning in the Spring of 1994, the leading lady on NBC's "Days of Our Lives"--psychiatrist Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall)--became a succubus. She desecrated St. Luke's Church, she levitated above her bed, she even ignited the community Christmas tree on fire while possessed. Viewers were possessed by the controversial storyline and the show achieved extraordinary ratings.

Jim Reilly, who was head writer for the show, soon moved on to "Passions," bringing Hell to the town of Harmony.

Charity, Miguel, and Kay are caught in the typical angst-filled love triangle. Charity and Miguel are the happy couple, but Kay longs for Miguel. What makes this love triangle atypical is that a witch, Tabitha, just happens to live next door to Kay. After Kay sells her soul to uber-witch, Hecuba, in an effort to win Miguel back from Charity, all three are eventually trapped in Hell, literally.They escape, and, praying for Kay, Charity is able to set Kay's soul free. Technically, Tabitha's living doll Timmy, who has a crush on Charity, sets the soul free from a bottle--but still, good triumphs over bad.

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  • In the same series, when Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald, a fiercely devout Catholic, is convinced that the only way out of all her problems is to commit suicide, we see her thrown into Hell only to have her sell her soul to Satan, then returns to the earth to wreak havoc in the lives of the citizens.
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