Decoder Ring

The Soap Opera Machine

Soap dish.


Episode Notes

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Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every episode, host Willa Paskin takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians, and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means, and why it matters.

On this episode, we investigate the wild world of soap operas through the lens of one legendary, decadeslong, ripped-from-the-headlines storyline. The rape of One Life to Live’s Marty Saybrooke* dared to combine the melodrama of soaps with a serious examination of sexual assault, and over time it morphed from an award-winning story about believing victims into a redemption arc for the rapist at its heart. This is the story of the people who made it happen: the producers, actors, writers, and the soap opera machine itself, the perpetually moving, forever-churning, complex system that creates the miracle that is the daily soap opera.

Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include One Life to Live producers and writers Linda Gottlieb, Susan Bedsow-Horgan, Michael Malone, Jean Passanante, and actors Roger Howarth and Susan Haskell-Kaye. We’d also like to give a special thanks to Mara Levinsky, Hillary B. Smith, and Kassie DePaiva for their help this episode


This episode was produced by Willa Paskin and Benjamin Frisch.

Correction, June 15, 2021: This piece originally misspelled the name of One Life to Live character Marty Saybrooke.


About the Show

In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

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