I was unprepared for the fervor surrounding General Hospital‘s 50th anniversary this week.
Well, that’s a lie.
What I mean is that I was unprepared for the show’s enthusiasm to match my own. I didn’t expect a 20/20 special. I didn’t expect the return of the Nurses’ Ball. I didn’t expect Lucy Coe. And even after GH started making promises about the Nurses’ Ball and Lucy Coe, I still didn’t expect to see it happen.
Back when One Life to Live and All My Children got canceled (though they are back from the dead starting online at the end of the monthâ€”don’t even get me started), I declared that all I wanted was for GH to reach its 50th birthday. Well, here we are.
I know most of my GH posts are just trips down memory lane, just me yearning for the Port Charles of yore, for the way things used to be. When it comes to the soaps, I am a damn Republican. At least this time it is appropriate. Anniversaries are for looking back, waxing nostalgic, and celebrating the past. Last week, GH asked its Twitter followers for our favorite GH memory. I knew instantly what mine was. Even though there are now sixteen years between myself and this moment, it remains my favorite. It is the first time Ned kissed Alexis. I think they were on the docks. (Where else?) He said something like, “I’m going to kiss you right now. You could probably stop me.” She just stood there so he kissed her. You probably had to be there.
Part of what keeps me watching GH is the idea that this kind of a moment could happen again, that Ned and Alexis could happen again. All you need is one snow day or one last-second three pointer to put the possibility of miracles permanently in the back of your mind. That kind of hope is hard to shake for people like me. Suckers, is what I mean.
These days, the show certainly isn’t helping me learn to ration my hope. So many of my wildest dreams are coming true. I mean, did I mention Lucy Coe is back? That isn’t even the most exciting part. Emily was on on Tuesday and the Ball starts today so for all I know, the most exciting part hasn’t even happened yet. I’m looking at you, Robin.
Last week, I wrote about how Dancing with the Stars is forcing me to be sixteen again. Well, this week GH is doing that times a million. Not only are Brenda and Jax back separately, they are back together. Regardless of how older-and-wiser Katie feels about Brenda’s eternal inability to choose between Sonny and Jax, when I see Brenda with Jax, I go all sixteen inside. They were my couple, and I remain their faithful servent. Adult Katie is all Ned and Alexis, but teen Katie was often distracted by the drama and the glamour of Brenda and Jax.
Surely some of my continued fandom is just habit. Part of me must simply not know how to stop liking GH. Because I have stopped watching it more than onceâ€”taken these long breaks out of protest or boredomâ€”I know that it isn’t that I can’t stop watching it. (Though I did start watching again after each break so maybe it is partly that.) Even when I wasn’t watching it, I still liked it, or at least I liked what it used to be. And when I finally returned to the show, I slipped easily back into it each time. It’s comfortable.
So there’s a strong case for habit here, or something like habit at least, something that makes GH into a security blanket. We have been through a lot together, after all.
Usually, the pop culture form people lean on is music. When people say a certain album or song got them through a hardship or a rough patch, they usually mean one of two things: 1) the music articulated their feelings for them, made them feel less alone in their misery or 2) it provided a distraction. GH is mostly the latter for me. I don’t know that it taught me much, except for a few vocabulary words courtesy of Alexis and Stefan. I used to love watching them talk to each other in the early days. I suppose it also taught me how to love something that can’t love you back, which hasn’t turned out to be a useful life skill.
My life can pretty much be divided into pre-GH and post-GH because in the first fifteen or sixteen years, nothing bad really happened. When my grandmother died when I was sixteen, I watched a lot GH on her old TV. Her death seemed to pop the bubble of childhood happiness I’d been living in, and then the typical bad stuff started happening. Break-ups, dead cats, dying grandfathers, crippling lack of directionâ€”the usual. GH became my emotional crutch.
Sometimes it’s so common, so exactly the way the world thinks soap operas function that I can’t stand myself. The fake drama distracts from the real drama of real life. But isn’t that how TV in general works? Whatever. I suppose I’m extra sensitive because I’m pretty much the only person still watching soap operas. Maybe I could explain it better if I weren’t so emotionally attached to it, but if I weren’t emotionally attached, I wouldn’t care enough to try to explain. So I’m stuck with these silly sentences.
It’s kind of great that GH has been on for 50 years, though, isn’t it? That’s a lot of years. I’m pretty glad that it is still kickingâ€”high kicking, a la Molly Shannon.