5 Soap Opera Plot Twists That Never Get Old

Daytime soap operas provide hours of salacious entertainment for viewers. These classic series crank up the melodrama by putting incredible characters in unimaginable scenarios. While most soaps boast their own signature storylines, there are some common narratives that are widely used throughout the genre. With that in mind, here are five plot twists used in soap operas that never get old.

'General Hospital'
‘General Hospital’ | Rick Rowell/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

1. Split personalities

Soap operas have employed multiple personality storylines as a way to amp up the on-screen conflict. For example, the classic soap, One Life to Live, featured two major characters who suffered from the condition. When a person has dissociative identity disorder, according to Web MD, “Different identities have their own age, sex, or race,” with their own “postures, gestures, and distinct way of talking.” One Life to Live expertly reeled in viewers with two gripping split-personality storylines.

Both Victoria Lord and her daughter, Jessica Buchanan, exhibited symptoms of the disorder. Prim and proper Vicki’s primary alter ego was Nicki, a brazen party girl. But her psyche was also split into other personalities, like the control freak, Jean, and the destructive firebug, Tommy.

Jess’ personality was fractured to create Tess, who could become the life of any party, and Bess, who was buttoned-up and unemotional. Both Vicki and Jessica entered treatment in order to integrate their alters. But, in times of stress, there was always the risk of relapses for the dynamic characters, which meant more meaty material for both talented actresses.

2. Back from the dead

Soap operas are a revolving door of talent, and sometimes when actors leave, their characters meet an untimely end. However, dead right now doesn’t mean dead forever, especially if a body was never found.

One famous back-from-the-dead storyline also involved an epic love story. On All My Children, Dixie Cooney and Tad Martin had a passionate on-again, off-again relationship beginning in the late 80s. But in 2002, after recommitting to their future, Dixie, who was pregnant with Tad’s child, had a devastating car accident.

Authorities located the car wreckage and assumed that Dixie perished along with her unborn child. With Dixie presumed dead, Tad and the town of Pine Valley grieved and moved on. But years later, Dixie resurfaced along with the daughter she shared with Tad.

3. Amnesia

One fresh way to reboot a character’s story is to wipe the slate – and their memory – clean. That is just what General Hospital did with Jason Quartermaine. On the soap, Jason was a strait-laced rich boy with a bright future ahead of him. But after a car accident, a brain injury, and a coma, everything shifted.

When Jason woke up, his personality had been drastically altered. The former golden boy changed his last name to Morgan, began working as a mob enforcer for Sonny Corinthos, and suddenly became the most interesting character on the show. Jason may have lost his memory, but fans gained so much more.

4. Evil Twins

On soap operas, it is not uncommon for an actor to pull double duty and play two different characters. On All My Children, David Canary flexed his dramatic muscles when he played both the ruthless tycoon, Adam Chandler, and his naïve brother, Stuart.

In some of Canary’s most memorable scenes, he played Stuart pretending to be Adam and vice versa. From his body language to his facial expressions to his vocal inflections, Canary pulled off some of the most complex performances seen on All My Children, and arguably on any soap. As a result, he earned 16 Emmy nominations and five wins for his work as the Chandler twins.

5. Paternity mix-ups

Baby mama drama and baby daddy tragedies are classic themes within the world of soaps. Sometimes the paternity of a child is a mystery, and other times the truth is concealed purposely. On rare occasions, DNA samples are swapped by one of the potential parents, a meddling medical worker, a jilted lover, or other outside parties with a motive. At times, the baby’s parentage is revealed early in life, and other times the bomb is dropped in adulthood.

Whatever the case, paternity mix-ups are always riveting storylines, like on General Hospital when Carly asked Jason to claim paternity of her baby, Michael, even though he was Jason’s brother, AJ Quartermaine’s biological child. To make matters even stickier, Jason’s mob boss and Quartermaine nemesis, Sonny Corinthos, adopted Michael and raised him as his own.

Split personalities, bogus deaths, memory loss, twin characters, and paternity snafus are just some of the compelling stories told by classic soaps. Although All My Children and One Life to Live have ended, fans can catch General Hospital weekdays on ABC.

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