I walked by the dilapidated Baja house with the window open and heard it.
I visited Porvenir friends in the middle of the afternoon and saw it.
Almost every time we ate tacos early, like old people, we saw it again—at our favorite stand, just above the raw meat.
Ask any woman in most Latin American countries what rules the mid-mornings and afternoons at home and they’ll probably say the same thing: Novelas.
Known as Soap Operas in English, the name originated from the squeaky clean stuff we call soap.
Since most women worked at home in the 1930s, daytime dramas targeted them and their cleaning needs. The networks required advertising revenue, and Proctor and Gamble stepped up first to run their new ads during the shows. In the following decades, the soap company sponsored 20-something Soap Operas on radio and television.
Housewives flooded the grocery stores for P&G’s products, and the Soap Opera title stuck.
This Is the West Abbey
In almost 24 years of marriage, only three prime-time shows hooked my husband and me as a couple. I’m not a big TV watcher, but Doug loves all things football, action-packed bloody stuff, and suspenseful thrillers. Solo.
If a girl’s walking in the woods at night or someone’s coming around a dark corner, wrap my order to go and call me gone. I have zero interest and you can’t convince me otherwise. Ever.
But in the past two decades, three dramas sucked me in and held me for keeps. Are they rated G? No. Do they tell the truth in awkward, funny, and relatable ways? Yep—and then some.
1999: The West Wing
I’m far from being a political addict but thoroughly intrigued by anything behind-the-scenes. Especially at the White House. Maybe that’s why I put up with the occasional affairs and language in this intelligent political drama.
The few times I felt a tad guilty for loving this show got overshadowed by the fact that it sparked conversation. My economics-minor, history-teacher-husband explained things about war, the Middle East and filibusters I never knew. Not the most romantic bedtime talks, but we bonded regardless.
2010: Downton Abbey
“Isn’t it just a modern-day Soap Opera?” a friend asked.
“Oh no,” I replied. “It’s much classier.”
Ok, fine—she was right. Why did it feel classier than a Novela though? Did the fancy jewelry, long gloves and ball gowns worn at every formal dinner keep us from remembering the inappropriate betrayal across the table? Did the Dowager Countess dish enough snark to distract us from her granddaughter’s affair?
Maybe, yes. Even though we’re worlds and years apart, Great Grandmother Violet and I had a few things in common. Including this quote: “I’m not a romantic, but even I concede that the heart does not exist solely for the purpose to pump blood.”
The writers sparked conversation on our couch when they made us soften toward the arrogant gay butler, respect the wisdom of the elderly, and love the underdog sister.
2016: This Is Us
It’s not just a feel-good conglomeration of insecure singles, hurt children-turned adults, honest couples and a passive-aggressive mother that keeps us coming back for more.
It’s sticky truth, superb acting, and raw candor, making us shake our heads and mutter things that strike a chord (or nerve) in our own families.
Pre-marital sex, chillin’ with Mary Jane, alcoholism, Jack’s bare booty, and plenty of potty words are sprinkled throughout the show that grabbed America by the feelers and hasn’t let go. So as much as I’d like to defend it and make excuses for why I continue to watch… they get a classy smut award too.
Like the first two, this addicting show sparks new conversation. They confront health, challenge beliefs, grapple with death, and tackle marriage issues—even the ones we tend to ignore.
I typed this list of shows and then sat back. In a close tie between intriguing and embarrassing, I found my sliding scale sliding toward ‘pathetic’ faster than I could whisper “double standard.”
Am I a hypocrite? Am I messing up my kids? Why do I teach them to avoid the said list but then grab a cozy blankie and plant myself next to my man for 42 minutes?
Because the upper-middle-class characters tend to handle their drama with sophistication? Because their stories remind us of our own humanity? Because the writing is brilliant?
D, all of the above.
So what’s the difference between me and the posh broads who read lowbrow novels?
Junk in, junk out, right?
Christians are held to a higher standard, right?
Avoid trash, lest you turn trashy.
Missionaries should not indulge in such smut.
You are what you watch. (Not really. I made that up.)
Most of us know ridiculously legalistic people who won’t touch certain worldly entertainment with a 20-foot stick. We also know those who play the liberty card, giving themselves permission to take in anything and everything, all in the name of freedom in Christ.
Those of us who float around in the middle are mostly a bunch of well-meaning mortals simply trying to get through Monday mornings and forget fat disappointments.
We bury our relatives, yell at the imbecile in the fast lane, pray about the same thing for nine-and-a-half years, and wonder if God went out for a smoke.
Please don’t get caught up in the fact that those last nine words might sound disrespectful. My metaphor is nothing new in the minds of friends waiting on God and dealing with way more than classy smut.
So even though I’ll never be a fan of the melodrama Soap Operas produce, my research tells me oodles of today’s successful actors got their start there.
- Brad Pitt – Another World
- Demi Moore – General Hospital
- Tommy Lee Jones – One Life to Live
Regardless, they can keep their Novelas. I’ll stick with Jack, Rebecca, Kevin, Kate, and Randall. Not in an effort to condone questionable content… just in an effort to live a balanced life and bond with my husband over gut-wrenching choices, offended siblings, unexpected beauty, jerky comments, committed love, and sizzling crockpots.
Photo by Pawel Kadysz on Unsplash
You can watch questionable content and still love Jesus. Just don’t throw out your filter and proclaim freedom in Christ while mindlessly plowin’ through nasty shows and Flamin’ Cheetos.
Dear Legalistic Christians,
I occasionally watch questionable content and I still love Jesus.
What do you define as classy smut?
Do you have any exceptions to your own rules?
Do you think the line should be the same for everyone?
Tell me in the comments for a chance to win Brave Friend of the Week!