TV Guide's "'Nurse Skank' Strikes Again" inspires Center to announce Soap Nurse Sweepstakes!
December 12, 2004 -- Michael Logan's "On Soaps" column in this week's TV Guide is about Sarah Brown's portrayal of "needy, man-hungry nurse" Julia Larrabee on CBS' daytime drama "As the World Turns." This got us wondering about the extent to which soap operas have ever featured nurse characters that do NOT foster harmful stereotypes. As a result, we are announcing a special contest: whoever can supply to us the most examples of non-stereotypical U.S. soap opera nurse characters by January 15, 2005, will win a non-stereotypical Nurse Action Figure! Please see the discussion and contest details below.
Mr. Logan's column (p. 61) explains that the Larrabee character, which joined "As the World Turns" last summer and is slated to continue through late January 2005, has made a practice of breaking up some of the soap's most popular couples. As a result, actress Brown notes that "the fans do hate me," and Logan reports that the character's antics have "earned Brown several nicknames on the Internet message boards: 'Nurse Skank' and 'Nurse Hands' being among the printable ones." Readers may recall that Mr. Logan also mocked the Center's campaign against the NBC show "Passions"' long-term use of monkey nurse "Precious" in "TV Guide"'s February 7 issue. Needless to say, his current piece did not note that the sexually aggressive Larrabee is yet another in a seemingly endless line of stereotypical soap opera nurse characters.
But, as you might expect, it did occur to us. Though it's easy to make fun of soap operas, research has shown that they do influence health care views and actions. In 1999, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) surveyed viewers of daytime dramas and "found that many daytime viewers also report learning about health issues from TV." (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, "Entertainment Education and Health in the United States" (2004), citing CDC's "Soap Opera Viewers and Health Information) Almost half of regular daytime drama viewers reported learning something about a disease or how to prevent it from watching soap operas. And over one third reported taking some action in their lives after hearing about a health issue or disease on a soap opera. (Id.) See a complete analysis of research on the media's effect on nursing.
Thus, it's clear that soap operas do contribute to the way people think about health care, including the characteristics of health care workers, especially since so many soaps seem to revolve around hospitals and health care (e.g., "General Hospital"). We're no soap opera experts, but we believe that soaps tend to feature commanding, intelligent physician characters who are portrayed as life-savers and highly desirable romantic objects. But it's our sense that soap opera nurses tend to embody somewhat different qualities. Thus, our new contest.
To help you with our contest, we have compiled the list below of soap nurse character stereotypes that would not satisfy our contest rules. In other words, supplying us with examples of soap opera nurse characters who fall into one or more of the following categories would not get you any closer to winning that prized Nurse Action Figure:
Some Soap Opera Nurse Stereotypes
1. vacuous handmaiden
2. vacuous angel
3. "needy, man-hungry nurse"
6. really aggressive, grotesque skank
7. total battleaxe sniping at the characters who matter
8. idle nurse gossiping about the characters who matter
9. comically irresponsible loser
12. no, really, a monkey
So for the Center's Soap Nurse Sweepstakes, we don't necessarily need to hear about a heroic or even admirable soap nurse character (though wouldn't that be something?). We're just looking for characters who do not fall into any of the above categories or ones that are functionally identical.
Submit contest entries and any questions about the contest here no later than January 15, 2005, the final deadline for entries. For each character submitted, please tell us (as best you can) the character's name, the U.S. daytime drama on which he or she appeared, time and duration of appearance, and why you believe the character is not stereotypical. The Center will be the sole judge of whether each named character is non-stereotypical. Characters must have at least one line of dialogue to be considered part of a winning entry (non-linguistic sounds don't count; see stereotypes 11 and 12 above). Feel free to enter as many times as you wish, but we can award one (1) Action Figure only to the person who submits the most non-stereotypical U.S. soap opera nurse characters. The maximum total number of Action Figures to be awarded in the contest is ten (10). We will post on our web site and include in a future news alert the winning list of non-stereotypical nurse characters (if any), as well as the name of the lucky winner(s) (if any), assuming we can obtain consent. The Center is not responsible for any damages, physical, mental or otherwise, incurred as a result of attempts to compete in this demanding contest. The Center's board, staff and their immediate family members are not eligible for the contest. Good luck!
One hint to get you started--you may wish to forward this message to TV Guide's soap expert Michael Logan, and ask him to help you come up with some answers. His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org