Tag Archives: women

The Pain of Creating

From the desk of Cady McClainI’m going to be honest with you. Creating is not easy.

Making anything, even a quiche for goodness sakes, take effort, thought, concentration and caring.

Making a film? Fogettaboutit.

NOT EASY.

Since I’ve started on this journey I’ve had a handful of breakdown/breakthroughs. I’ve cried wondering why some men in show business can be so thoughtlessly dominating. I’ve cried wondering why some women can be so competitive and cruel. I’ve cried from feeling a lack of support. I’ve cried wondering why I chose such a difficult subject.

I’ve cried the hardest realizing how so much of all of this is really about my mother.

Mom… Truly, the most powerful influence in my life was that nutty, brilliant, madwoman. She who often gave up on herself, but who (despite her harsh words sometimes) never gave up on me.

Her pain at feeling like there wasn’t a place for her voice in the world sunk deep down into my bones. Her fear at putting her work out there echoed into my heart. Her loneliness, her anger at men, her wounds… they have been my encyclopedia of womanhood.

The other day I turned to Jon and said, “My mom at my age was massively overweight, fighting cancer, a heavy drinker, and unemployed. She had all but given up on herself in every way. I could hardly blame her.  Life had ostensibly beat the crap out of her from an early age. So when I live a life completely differently, without any other woman who I am holding onto for guidance or support, I am not only breaking the mold of what I was taught being an adult woman is, but I am forming an entirely new one completely on my own. And that, sometimes, is very scary.”

However, for me, there is no option but forward. Because one day not so long ago, I realized I can only go in one of two directions: toward drinking, overeating, giving up on my art and myself and getting sick; or toward health, spirituality, and continuously risking to make the art that calls to me. That’s it. One way or the other. Because it’s the way my DNA is coded, the way the story came down to me.

I can choose: one way or the other.

Sometimes I feel guilty for being a survivor, for not following her path of suffering. Who am I to succeed, to thrive, to be well?

I am my mother’s daughter. And I must believe that despite her pain and loneliness, she would not want for me what she endured.

I am my mother’s daughter. And I must believe that despite her pain and loneliness, she would not want for me what she endured.

So, I hang onto the motto: NEVER GIVE UP. Because by not quitting, by staying on the path, by gluing myself to the task at hand, I know I am evolving myself into what my soul wants me to be. I am the EVOLUTION of my mom, and all the women in my family before her on both sides. I know she, and every one of those women, would want me to be more than a survivor.

They would want me to shine like an exploding sun.

And I, in turn, want that for every one of you. Because we are all capable of great things, and of lifting up this beautiful, troubled world up, together.

We CAN ALL be heroes… one day at a time….

 

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Can You Live Without Comparison?

Me and my Co-editorAs some of you might know, for the past year I’ve been working on a documentary about women directors. It’s kept me a hella busy, so I apologize for not blogging more!

One of the directors I spoke to (Kimberly McCullough)  had an interesting insight. She said that making independent film is a lot like starting a business… over and over again.  In my experience that is absolutely right.  Every project you make is it’s own entity that you hope has a long life of it’s own from inception to distribution.  But you are always starting from the beginning, and that’s hard work.

So it’s really important if you think you want to make a documentary or any kind of film to think about the whole journey.

Ask yourself, “Who is this story for, really?”

This will guide you through every step of the decision making, and get ready because there are tons of decisions to be made.

If I’m brutally honest with myself,  I started out making this film for me, because I felt really lonely as a director that happened to be female. Every festival I took my short films to was crammed with dudes. In 2015, I didn’t see any women treated like “up and coming visionaries,” only young men were. One time I was given a “producer” tag when I was the producer, writer, AND the director, as well as costume and production design… In short: it was my vision! My film! And someone doing the tags at the film festival basically couldn’t believe it.

Winning Moment

(note: the pink sticker, qualifying me as a “producer only.”)

This, as you can imagine, sucked. And then I won an award for “Best Comedy Drama Short!”  Ironic to say the least.

I recall looking at the few women who were at these festivals. I can’t say they looked that happy about what they were having to deal with either, which was, if it boils right down to it, a basic lack of imagination.

Men aren’t the only people who can have a vision and execute it. What’s so hard to imagine about that?

Because of these experiences I realized that I couldn’t just make the film for me or even just for women in the field, because the issue isn’t relegated to women directors.

It’s much, much bigger than that.

The issue is one of perception. How we as a culture SEE women.

Sometimes it feels like any time a woman really steps out and stands up for something, like crabs in a barrel, there are thousands of people (men AND women) who are ready to tear her down for her smallest faults or imperfections.

This really needs to stop. We are all so much better than this.

One woman’s success does not mean your failure.

In fact, it means there is a strong possibility that YOU COULD DO THE SAME THING.

Bethany Rooney, a director of over 200 episodes of television, gave me this wonderful quote: “Can you live without comparison?” Think about it. Instead of comparing, how about we get inspired by great women? Instead of thinking, “Oh I’m not good enough,” saying, “What do I need to do in order to be my greatest self?”

Here’s a fantastic video to help you start to see just how powerful and amazing women can be! Yes, someday, YOU could join this amazing list of women who have overcome incredible obstacles.

And how wonderful would that be?

 

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Women: Like Men Only Cheaper

Part 3: Money Changes Everything

Sorry this post is so long in coming.  I really had to think about it for a while.

WHY is it almost every woman I meet who USED to watch soaps tells me she stopped because she had to go to work?  What does that MEAN exactly?  Why did so many women seemingly go to work at the same time, changing their lives and viewing habits?

Important note: Many of these women also told me they started to DVR it, or watch on Soap Net, but as their views were not counted in the ratings system, they were sadly not able to have an affect on the future of daytime TV.  See two previous blogs for more of my thoughts on this subject.

Anyway… I had to go back to the 1970’s, the hey day of soaps, to understand why so many women started shifting their ideas about work in the 1990’s.  It came down to two things: economy and divorce.

It turns out that in the 1980’s, divorce started becoming quite popular.

Here are some “Divorce Rate Facts” I thought were pertinent to the issue:

  1. Since 1970 marriages have declined 30%.
  2. Since 1970 divorces have increased 40%.
  3. Women are the first to file for divorce 65% of the time.
  4. Premarital cohabitation increased 70% in the 1990’s.

Now (perhaps obviously) I am not a philosopher, a professional sociologist, a trained psychologist or a statistics guru.  All I am is an interested bystander who likes to figure out why things happen and what they mean.  When I look at these few facts about divorce since the 1970’s, it says to me that I am right about a trend I’ve been suspecting.  This “trend” (if you will forgive the choice of word) is one of women becoming more independent, more self sufficient and more economically aware.  The mold of the 1950’s woman at home has been broken.  We are still defining it’s replacement.

Women have discovered at least one important truth: if they are in an unhappy marriage, they can leave and be okay as a single person.  The stigma of the divorcee has slowly but surely been slipping away.  Personally, I think this is a good thing.  I believe marriage can make you really happy if you are with the right person, but is a hell on earth if you are with the wrong one.  Simply being married does not guarantee you safety, security or happiness.  The women’s liberation movement of the 1970’s was an important moment for a lot of women to realize this.  Soap Operas, especially the one’s written by Agnes Nixon, were at the forefront of recognizing this change in our culture.  She used the medium to reflect the changing dynamic between men and women, and to explore both women’s ambition and men’s confusion towards this change.

However in order to have an audience to speak to, Soaps needed to have an audience at home or somewhere watching the show when the TV show aired.  In the 70’s and 80’s many women (and college students of both sexes) organized their day around one show or another, making sure they were somewhere they could watch at 1 or 2 or 3PM.  In the 1990’s, this audience began to slip.  Why?  What other than the VCR and the DVR attributed to the loss of this audience?  Remember- this would be the audience the advertisers cared most about- one that had to WAIT through the TV commercials, insuring those commercials messages had a chance to make an impact.

I think one reason was there were just not enough hours in the day for a woman to do everything society was challenging her to do.

Do you remember the ad’s for “Engelie” body spray?  “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never let you forget you’re a man- ’cause I’m a woman, Engelie.”  Women were being told (and still are, frankly) that they could “do it all,” which in my opinion is a fool’s errand. There is simply NO WAY you can do it all.  I have worked all my life, and coming home to a man who has not made dinner for me when he didn’t work all day makes me pretty pissed.  In a relationship, you gotta divide up the responsibilities.  The point is, after the women’s liberation movement, women were told they could have their liberation and assuage any guilt they may have of achieving said liberation by continuing to take care of their men.

Many women were feeling guilty for not being super mother and super wife and super professional and super friend and anything else she felt she had to be perfect at.  Most women were getting super tired.

Here is where Soaps started becoming irrelevant.  They did not follow closely enough the shifting trends in women’s views about home, family and work.  In a way, women’s frustration with being asked to “do it all” was too much of a hot issue to handle.  It suggested they might not WANT to take care of their men anymore.  I know Soaps tried to get into this issue, I really do.  I was there day after day during this decade, trying to truthfully play out the stories I was given.   I remember specifically a line my character said, “I’m more than a mom, I’m more than a wife, I’m more than Dixie Cooney Martin Martin Martin!”  There it was- a 1950’s dilemma right in the middle of the 1990’s.

It may sound odd, but one thing I think Soaps really did right in this era was to focus a bit more on the men.  The male reaction to women working- their excitement or repulsion about the change in women’s identity was the next phase of story to tell, and IMHO nobody did this better than Michael E. Knight as “Tad Martin.”  Our character’s divorce was both painful and popular, as it reflected what was going on in the culture.  To recap: Tad thought he had married a little homemaker but was attracted to Liza the businesswoman… Dixie also needed more but didn’t know what more was going to look like.

Dixie, like many women, learned the hard way- divorce did not necessitate economic freedom, only physical.

Money changed everything.

What has been one of the foremost struggles in the workplace between men and women in the last 50 years?  Equal pay for equal work.  Yes, every man I have ever worked with has made more than me, even if I worked longer hours, speaking more lines, saying them backwards and in high heels.  Why?  I would say it had to do with an old tradition that has been slow in changing.  As a culture we don’t want to let go of the idea that men are the providers for the home, even if they aren’t always.  What this has done to women, however, is pretty sad.  Single women, especially those with children, often have to suck it up and work two jobs.

How the heck are you going to have time to watch TV if you have to work that hard?  I didn’t with one job!  If you needed money to raise your kids, and had to work two jobs to do it, you were probably NOT going to be at home at that vital hour the Neilson’s and therefore the advertisers counted as the most important.

The women that did have time to continue to watch the Soaps, (whether on VCR, DVR or at home) I believe did so mostly because of the ritual- the comfort of consistency they provided.  The stories often reflected their world in part, but there was always the fantasy to fall back on: the man would return redeemed and help her, rescue her and protect her OR she would suddenly become like Erica Kane and come up with a fabulous business idea that would make her millions.  It was (and to some degree still is) an “either-or” fantasy.

Either way you chose to fantasize- MONEY was more and more becoming an important factor.  The man will love you and TAKE CARE OF YOU, or you will come up with a way to FINANCIALLY liberate yourself.  (Hey, I’m not above this fantasy!)  However in the 1990’s, this fantasy began to shift in ways nobody could have predicted.

Here is an interesting quote on the subject from the National Bureau of Economic Research:

Going back decades, women were perceived as secondary earners within the family, more likely to be affected by their spouses’ wages. Now the traditional division of labor between men and women is breaking down. Men and women are more equally sharing home and market responsibilities, although women still bear a larger share of housework and child care than men do. These changes in gender roles are likely to help explain the authors’ finding that the responsiveness of women’s labor supply to economic incentives is becoming more like men’s.

In other words: in the 1990’s women’s decisions ABOUT work were changing.  They were thinking less about how much their husbands were making, and more about what they wanted to do with their own time and money.  They were becoming independent thinkers, able to conceive of a life without a man to support them.  Women’s new attitude towards money affected the soaps in a profound way, I believe, as soap operas were considered a “throw back” to the 1950’s and not reflecting the modern woman’s dilemma.  This dilemma sounded something (to me) like this: “Who am I now that I know I don’t need a man to survive, that love is a choice, not an economic imperative, and how does this change my view of romance?”

It’s a big question.  One that Soaps, a medium whose origin was steeped in 1950’s rhetoric, was not created to deal with.  A big white wedding was not going to make the modern woman feel like she had attained the ultimate goal.  In fact for many women, it was a disaster.

Next blog: OJ Simpson: How One Angry Man Reflected A Societies Rage Over Shifting Gender Roles and the Birth of “Reality” TV.

 

 

 


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Part 2: The Promise and Poison of Demographics

Let’s just say it: things are not what they used to be.

Everyone seems to have heard the news: advertisers want to sell to a younger consumer to buy their products.  Why is this?  Some folks over 40 feel like their hard earned dollar is worth just as much (if not more) than a 20 year old.  (We certainly remember working hard for it.) What’s going on?

I’m no economic expert, but I know a few things.  One of those things is the effect of advertising on a child as opposed to an adult.  As a child, I loved commercials so much I wanted to live inside the big TV box where the happy Mr Kool-Aid guy was.  I wanted to eat hamburgers and pretend to be a cheerleader with girls my age, shouting, “you deserve a break today!”  I really believed that products like these were making people happy, making their daily life better.  I was eventually hired for over 30 commercials by the time I was sixteen years old.  You could say my belief had an effect on my ability to get hired.  I truly BELIEVED MacDonald’s loved the world, oh yes I did.  I was a kid!

After sixteen, I began to develop a sneaking suspicion that advertisements were not the world I thought they were by virtue of the fact the products I sold were not buying me, or anyone I knew, happiness.  My parents spent my money and the kids at school called me “Katie the Cleaning Lady” after the Dawn Dishsoap spokesperson, which I laughed off but did not enjoy.  I found myself moving further and further away from “normalcy” and deeper and deeper into show business, as if show business were simply hiding the joy I once found in it.  I also felt a bit betrayed by Tampax and Maybelline.  As I got older it bothered me more that the products didn’t always live up to their ad line.  Sometimes my tampon was not so comfortable and my mascara flaked.  This led me to a state of confusion.  I saw these products were flawed, but the ad’s still were pitching the same line: “Be Loyal To Us, We Are America.”  What to think?  I tried hard not to.

My last commercial audition was for Oil of Olay.  I was twenty-two and my mother was dying.  I was working on All My Children and feeling a fair amount of stress, which no doubt played a part in what was about to happen.  At the audition, I was to take a plastic tulip out of a glass and softly place it on my face while telling the camera how nice Oil of Olay was.  I looked at the tulip and could only picture a penis.  This is an absolute fact.  I could not get the image of a penis stroking my young cheek out of my head.  I believed the advertisers wanted the audience to see me as “sexy” and they were using this phallic symbol to push the message “Oil of Olay Will Make Men Want (A Younger) You.”  I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t even get through the lines.  I burst into tears and the very kindly casting director offered to get me a cab.  I had reached the statute of limitations on my suspension of disbelief.

Think about it: I, a child actor who grew up around advertising and once believed every promise it made, was in my 20’s finding it impossible to buy into the advertising world.  That was almost twenty years ago.  How much harder is it these days?  How can the 20-somethings of today in our culture of maximum exposure to violence and sex, believe the sweet lies that ad’s sell?

The fact is, they generally don’t, and that is why their dollar matters more than mine.  The younger generations KNOW they are being sold to but they buy stuff anyway.  Watching what they spend and HOW they spend it is like putting your finger on the heartbeat of a generation.  Look at what they buy and you know what they value, who they are and possibly what they think.  I think these many of these young people know the advertisers want their attention and resist much more strongly than I did.  Once they buy a product, that company can feel pretty confident their sales pitch did a good job that day.  So we get more aggressive advertisements to capture a more resistant (younger) audience.

Now these young people are bound to grow up and when they do they will act just like us older folks did.  They will stop following the trends so much and start spending less.  They will develop brand loyalty and not risk so much on newer products.  Some people I know only buy Tide because their mother bought Tide and that’s that.  Life has changed since then.  Many young people will take into account the new environmental issues we have and break from tradition to only buy detergent that is proven not to hurt the water system.  Advertisers watch these trends- the trends of older spenders and the trends of younger ones.  It’s not that the younger dollar is more valuable, it’s that it is harder to get.  ONCE YOU HAVE IT, you can exploit it for what might be a reasonably long period of time.  Nostalgia plays it’s part.  Think about Proctor and Gamble and how many people of the past few generations BELIEVE in their products and use them out of a sense of loyalty to their once more mobile past.  That is one major thing advertisers want out of young people.  Loyalty to their product which will last over a generation or more.

How has this affected Soap Opera’s?  A few years ago, this new awareness in the advertising world of the long range promise of the young consumer led them to start paying attention to a new system of rating: THE DEMOGRAPHIC.  Many of the soap opera viewers were sticking loyally by their soaps, but their children weren’t always following, partly because of other factors which I will talk about in other essays- economy, the internet, the culture of choice.  The audience for soaps was not only getting smaller but the bulk of the audience was getting older.  That isn’t to say there weren’t younger people watching, but they were harder to capture and not always as loyal.

Since advertisers changed their idea of what was the most worthy audience, soaps, a medium that was built to sell a product like SOAP, was asked to change in order to accommodate their advertisers new focus.  For example let’s say Tampex wants to get more young people to buy their tampons.  They tell the network it is worth it to them to pay MORE if the shows appeal to a younger audience.  So the network told their shows to make them more appealing to the younger generations.  It’s about making money, right?  This is how a change of emphasis on a ratings system  heralded a change of programming.  Where once the Neilson rating (how many people on average are watching in what areas) reigned over all,  now there was a new focus: a focus on AGE, with higher ad rates for viewers 18-49.

The New York Times made an interesting point when they stated, “When a show has a disproportionate number of women over 50 in its audience, it simply cannot charge as much for commercials. That is not because advertisers do not like older women, but because they are so easy to find all over the rest of television.”

Although this seems slightly arrogant and insulting, it is a significant point for those viewers over 50 who feel slighted their viewership isn’t counted as valuable as the younger generations.  Because of two customs that come in spades with age- habit and loyalty- many people over 50 watch more TV.  They are used to being sold to, and often watch the commercials.  Many are making the shift to DVR’s and the Internet, but slowly.  This means they are still a willing audience for ad’s, which means advertisers can tell the Networks they won’t give them a lot of money to sell to them.  It’s a strange logic, but it’s the latest “truth” in advertising.  Your willingness is not as valuable once it is gained.  Now what relationship does this remind you of?

It seems that advertisers (or perhaps the agencies that cater to them?) have convinced themselves they do not want what they have because they have had it for so long it DOESN’T FEEL as valuable anymore. Like the older man who leaves his wife to date a younger woman, advertisers are going to where they think the grass is greener and will grow for longer.  It’s certain one day that man will look at the ceiling and say, “I miss my wife.”

“Focus on the young, because the advertisers will pay more for that dollar,” is what soap opera producers had to hear and follow if they wanted to keep their jobs.  This is why you saw, starting around 2002, a huge shift towards younger storylines, which (you know it) started to piss off the loyal, older audience.  But guess where the younger audience was really going?  Where there were no advertisements or cable bills at all.  The Internet.

The loyalty of longtime, older viewers was left in the dust while young people were chased using any and all of the latest trends (websites, blogs, v-logs, instant messages, “behind the scenes” videos online, etc.)  When those didn’t help raise the demo score, they resorted to altering the look of the medium (Hi-Def cameras, new sets, more location shoots) and increased sexuality (girls in bikini’s, girls kissing girls, more topless guys), and over the top violence.  Even onscreen torture became acceptable if it got the attention of the young folk.

It is only in the last two years, when soaps are at the very end of their tether, that networks desperate to keep the audience they have are allowing producers to do what they think will save their show.  Save them from the awful fate that so many good soaps have fallen victim to: replacement.  In a effort to bring back the audience whom they ostracized to an almost infinite degree- they are bringing back the actors, writers and production values that once captured millions.

Will it be enough?  Who knows.  Sometimes the betrayed wife can forgive, sometimes she can’t.  But now you know (at least my thoughts on) what part demographics played in the demise of what once appeared to be an invincible medium.

Next Essay: Money Changes Everything

 

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Part 1: The Strange Decline of The American Soap Opera

“Derided by critics and disdained by social commentators from the 1930s to the 1990s, the soap opera is nevertheless the most effective and enduring broadcast advertising vehicle ever devised. It is also the most popular genre of television drama in the world today and probably in the history of world broadcasting: no other form of television fiction has attracted more viewers in more countries over a longer period of time.” –Robert Allen, Museum of Broadcast Communications

It has become painfully clear: the American soap opera is going the way of the dinosaur- dying a slow, painful, and to some, mysterious death.  In 2002, there were eleven American daytime “soap operas” on the air and now, less than ten years later, only four “soaps” remain.  What is happening to this “effective and enduring” medium?  If, as Allen states above, “no other form of television fiction has attracted more viewers,” why is it disappearing from our televisions?

I invite you to join me in my attempt to try and tackle what is no doubt a multi-layered and complex issue.  From the obvious to the ridiculous to what may seem outright mad reasoning, I think you will find here a number of ideas in this series of essays of which you will be able to relate.  Perhaps there will even be something to give you an “ah-ha” moment.  I am certain some of you will think my ideas are super obvious, and I apologize to those of you who feel perhaps I have wasted your time.  Thank you for reading and commenting all the same- I am a fan of spirited (but polite) conversation, so feel free to share even if you disagree.  It is the heart of the matter which counts, something that often takes more than one person to discover in full.  On a certain level, these essays exist for those of us who either made our living in this now disappearing medium, or those that once loved and lost it as a fan.  If you fit into either of these categories, welcome!

My investment in understanding the answer to the question, “what happened to the soap opera?” is both personal and professional.  As some of you in the TV viewing public might be aware, over the last twenty-three years I worked as a full time contract player on two soaps, As the World Turns and All My Children.  To the audience of All My Children, I was (and probably forever will be) “Dixie,” a clueless romantic who went on to fall in love with the town’s bad boy/local hero “Tad.”  I am very proud my contribution to “Tad and Dixie” helped my co-star Michael E. Knight and me to make the list as one of the top soap opera “super couples” of all time.  (Thanks Entertainment Weekly.com!)

However, All My Children was more than just a job to me.  It was my home during some of the worst years of my life.  I was a pretty stressed out teen- my father abandoned my family when I was twelve and five years later my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  Making a living by pretending to be someone else provided an important escape for me at the time.  Simultaneously, it allowed me to channel the enormity of my feelings onto a format that lauded melodrama, and my feelings were pretty darn humongous.  As a result, I ended up working on All My Children over twelve years, winning a daytime Emmy only two years after I began the show.  I left AMC in 2002 with the idea of going to college but was quickly lured back to play the role of bitchy businesswoman Rosanna Cabot on As the World Turns, culminating in a second Emmy- a proud moment for me.  Approximately seventeen years of employment gave me a fairly solid base financially (economy notwithstanding) and the ritual of meaningful work served to comfort me emotionally.  Long story short: I have spent a lot of time working to understand the medium of daytime soap operas.

I knew I was not alone in my need for the unique combination of consistency and fantasy soaps could provide.  For years I was daily joined by millions of viewers who embraced my characters make-believe life: her romances and family drama (with touches of adventure on the side) were fodder for conversations around the water cooler, campus and the living room.  The soap opera story structure was (and still is) a potent one: in 1995 the ratings for All My Children floated around 7.5, each point in that number representing 1% of the total number of television viewers for the year.  In 1995, there were approximately 100 million TV viewers for both daytime and nighttime television, so for the mathematically disinclined (of which I am one) this means in 1995, All My Children (which had already been running for over thirty years) had an audience of approximately 7.5 million.  That’s a lot of people, even in today’s world of 115.9 million television viewers.  So what happened?

 

Part One: NEILSEN.

 

The decline of the Neilsen ratings number for American soap operas usually tops the list of reasons as to why they are disappearing and for good reason.  According to the Washington Post, in 2005, “General Hospital averaged 3.4 million viewers, less than a third of the 11.8 million who typically tuned in during the year of the Luke and Laura wedding (a popular event marking a record ratings high in 1981.)  The Young and the Restless saw its ratings share drop from 10.3 million during the 1991-92 season to 5.3 million in 2005, while All My Children tumbled from 8.2 million to 3.1 million during the same period, according to Nielsen.  Today, the Young and the Restless is earning a 3.4 share of the viewing audience, a record low.  That said- in the Neilsen equation (which considers the overall number of viewers) they still pull 4.5 million viewers.

Unfortunately that number is not high enough for the networks or their advertisers.  They want to bring back “the good ol’ days.”  I can’t tell you how many times in my daytime years I heard an executive reference the “Luke and Laura” phenomenon and how their latest new idea was going to bring back the magic “eleven million.”  It was almost a chant, a mantra formulated to elevate those who signed the check.  Now I consider myself a practical woman.  I am aware I must consider this soap opera dilemma from the point of view of what might be called in economics class a “business conundrum.”  Certainly a company must grow and expand or the shareholders question its value and their investment in the aforementioned business.  This is why there are board meetings and charts and graphs and sales pitches- all to hold the interest of the original investor, aka the person who holds the purse strings.  Once upon a time, this investor could be counted on to employ within themselves a certain amount of flexibility and patience with their wavering product.  A compelling argument might’ve even been, “For goodness sake, even plants take a certain amount of time to grow!”  But times have changed, and oh boy have they.

The sad fact is, no one seems to want to ride out tough times anymore, which leaves us in a tough corporate environment- an environment that cannot call on loyalty or even quality as a factor used to convince shareholders or investors to stay put.  To illustrate: there are some in the business sector who deride the government bailout of the most American of businesses- the auto industry.  This is, in my opinion, a painful example of the current business ethos.  A certain sector (I’m not saying ALL, mind you) of the business class has somehow lost its connection to our shared humanity.  Greed and “slash-and-burn” tactics are rewarded while the very foundation of a business (or town) is left to rot and ruin.  I’m not saying life is easy and if we all just hugged each other at the end of the day everyone would have enough to eat.  However it seems no one wants to hear we cannot have what we once did, that the past is in the past and we must look at who we are now to make positive choices about how to proceed- how, in my opinion, adults deal with life.  Conversely, many of the corporations of America are behaving like impatient, indulged, greedy children caring very little about those they wound in their wake.  In psychological circles this kind of behavior is often defined as sociopathic… but lets not call one another names.  Let’s just agree it’s poor behavior and get back to the topic at hand.

The Neilsen rating, which is an outmoded, outdated way of judging the worth of a television show, is still considered viable despite huge technical errors and the invention of the DVR.  There are several arguments for its lack of viability, the main one being the chance for basic human error.  It’s a reasonable possibility some Neilsen families (those who fill out the report of viewing habits) may err deliberately or simply make a mistake.  Let us also consider these families are only a tiny percentage of the actual viewing public.  If you think about it, the Neilsen scores are basically a poll.  Watch any news program for a half an hour and you are going to hear at least one poll that makes you shake your head and wonder, “Who the heck did they talk to around here?”  Another factor is how easily these scores can be manipulated to create the desired effect- numbers can be skewed depending on what market you are looking at.

In short, the Neilsen’s are basically a flawed polling factory.  As far as I know, there have been no other companies whose polling efforts have even been able to compete with it.  This is an important point.  It is interesting to note how the Neilsen scores are used by the networks to make a case to cancel programs that had existed for decades (yes, the soaps.)  I wonder about this.  I am hesitant to say lest I be labeled a conspiracy theorist (of which I am one, okay, lets be honest) that this relationship smells dicey.  It is a relationship easily misused to benefit an individual preference.  Whose preference is a question I will leave up to you.  I wouldn’t mind working as an actor again one of these days.

My bottom line: TV is not a democracy.

Look for Part Two: Demographics, coming soon!  Whoop whoop!

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