By Hannah Lathen/ managing editor
April marks 54 years since General Hospital’s first episode aired. I’ve spent the past 20 of those years growing up with this show.
I am a third-generation fan exposed to more than just heavily dramatic episodes but real-life issues that helped me through personal situations and educated me on many societal problems.
As ABC’s last running soap opera, General Hospital has filled those years with crazy, theatrical storylines like all soap operas do, including bringing back people from the dead and having to save their city of Port Charles from a deep freeze. While most people find soap operas to be a trend of the past, like Luke and Laura’s wedding, the storylines reflect current topics, and they are bringing light to issues that need more attention.
The show has tackled issues such as alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence, drunk driving and abortion.
One of the most famous characters, Sonny Corinthos, who has been played by Maurice Bernard since 1993, suffers with bipolar disorder, something Bernard has in real life. In 2015, Corinthos’ son was also found to have bipolar disorder. Both characters showed what it was like to have this mental illness and how families around them deal with it.
This was a storyline my family related to, having members who also suffer with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. I appreciate General Hospital for showing the audience how difficult the struggle is while helping me understand my loved ones better.
Throughout the ’90s and into the early 2000s, one of the big storylines focused on a couple who both had HIV, one of them eventually dying from AIDS. As a young kid, I had more of an understanding of HIV/AIDS without the stereotypes just because I watched the show.
General Hospital has also kept up with many social issues including breastfeeding in public and racism from police.
More recently, longtime character Anna Devane, played by Finola Hughes, was diagnosed with polycythemia vera, a rare incurable blood cancer. Her diagnosis brought awareness to this disease and other rare blood cancers.
General Hospital is boldly bringing issues to the table and educating their audience. Don’t write this soap opera off. It is making a difference, and I can attest to that.
I am not a housewife who uses the show to pass time while folding laundry. I am a college student living in 2017, and General Hospital continues to shape me.