Soap opera rapid aging syndrome
Soap opera rapid aging syndrome (SORAS) is the practice of accelerating the age of a television or film character (usually a child or teenager) in conflict with the timeline of a series and/or the real-world progression of time. This allows, for instance, storylines around a pregnancy and birth to be relatively quickly followed by storylines around the travails of that child as a teenager or young adult. This is usually accomplished by recasting the actor playing the part, although in some cases the character is not shown onscreen, only mentioned, until after they have been "rapidly aged".
The process originated (and is most commonly used) in daytime soap operas, though it is also sometimes used in prime time shows. On sitcoms, a newborn infant character is sometimes aged quickly into a kindergartner, for greater comic potential, as was done with the character Chrissy Seaver on Growing Pains in 1990.
The term was coined by Soap Opera Weekly founding editor-in-chief Mimi Torchin in the early days of the magazine, which began publishing in 1989. It is now widely used in the soap opera media and is sometimes used as a verb as well ("the character was SORASed"). Torchin has jokingly called it "my one greatest contribution to the world of soap operas."
The practice of rapidly aging characters dates back to the early years of television soap opera. In As the World Turns, Tom Hughes was born onscreen in 1961. By 1970, he had been to college and fought in the Vietnam War. Subsequent recasting exhibited a reverse phenomenon, keeping him in his 30s for 20 years, with Tom hitting his 40s in the 1990s. Dan Stewart, born onscreen on As the World Turns in 1958, reappeared as a 26-year-old doctor in 1966.
On the situation comedy Family Ties, Elyse Keaton learns that she is pregnant in an episode aired in September 1984. Later, she gives birth to her and Steven's fourth child, Andrew (or Andy, for short) in an episode aired in late January 1985. The Keatons consider preschool for the child in an episode aired 13 months later (season four, 1985–86). In September, four-year-old actor Brian Bonsall began playing the character, Andy, for the last three seasons (5-7).
Similarly, on Growing Pains, the character, Christine "Chrissy" Seaver was born in October 1988. She was an infant for the remainder of season four (1988–89) and a toddler (played by twin sisters Kelsey and Kirsten Dohring) in season five (1989–90). However, for the final two seasons (6-7), Chrissy was nearly aged to five. She was played by seven-year-old Ashley Johnson.
A 1993 secret history storyline on All My Children established that lead character Erica Kane had been raped immediately before the series' 1970 debut. In this retcon, Erica represses all memory of the assault until 16-year-old Kendall Hart, the child conceived during the rape and put up for adoption by Erica, appears in 1993. Viewer reaction to the discrepancy created by Erica having a 16-year-old daughter as the result of a 24-year-old rape prompted the series to immediately adjust Kendall's age to 23.
Further examples can be found in the Australian soap opera Neighbours. In 2001, newlyweds Libby Kennedy and Drew Kirk gave birth to son Ben. Ben returned in 2007 as an eight-year-old. The primary reason for this was that a child actor playing the part of Mickey, age 11 at the time, had a younger brother whom the producers wanted to cast in the show. It was much easier for the writers to write storylines for an eight-year-old than a six-year-old. Now, when referenced, the show states than Ben's year of birth is 1999.
Examples in British soaps include Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) in EastEnders, who was seen celebrating his 18th birthday in 1988 and his 21st two years later in 1990, as producers wanted the character to be older due to his love triangle storyline with wife Cindy (Michelle Collins) and Simon Wicks (Nick Berry). Liv Flaherty (Isobel Steele) in Emmerdale was aged by four years - her mother Sandra Flaherty (Janet Bamford) was pregnant in 2006, but when Liv first appeared in 2016 she was 14 years old and her year of birth had been changed to 2002.
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On daytime soaps, children often jump ahead in age, suffering from SORAS -- 'soap opera rapid-aging syndrome.'
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