Agnes Eckhardt Nixon Stephanie Harrington - Essay

Stephanie Harrington

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A report in The Times heralding ABC-TV's new soap opera, "All My Children," was headlined: "Social Activism Grips Soap Opera; Heroine of Serial on ABC to Be a Mother for Peace."

Well, the show has been on the road for well over a month now, and the grip is still rather tentative.

The heroine, Amy Tyler—described in an ABC press release as "a liberal political activist dedicated to the peace movement, who married into a conservative family with considerable wealth and stature in the community"—has so far stuffed approximately one and a half envelopes. And the only other indications of her dedication to the peace movement have been her political arguments with her conservative in-laws … and the solicitous observations of Amy's own family, friends and doctor that all that exhausting peace work seems to be getting her on edge and that maybe she ought to take it easy for a while.

Well, we may not yet have seen very much of Amy's peace work (following the classical rules of Greek tragedy, all those unspeakable things, like gouging out one's eyes or working for peace, are accomplished offstage). But we do know what is really wearing her out. And it isn't the Moratorium. For, while she is for peace, and she is a mother, no one, not even her husband or the child himself, knows she is a mother—except for her sister and brother-in-law who adopted her illegitimate son when he was two weeks old.

Phillip, the son-nephew, is a high school senior of draft age, and he, his mother-aunt, father-uncle and aunt-mother are all very concerned about the war and his possibly having to fight in it. But his going into the Army is presented … as a ramification of his family problems rather than vice versa. (p. 21)

Everyone is, of course, horrified at the idea of his enlisting—particularly Aunt Amy, who has nightmares about it. Nightmares are one of the repetitive gimmicks that pass the time on soap operas and thereby enable them to drag on over the days, months and years....

(The entire section is 842 words.)