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Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome

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SORAS or Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome (less commonly called simply rapid aging) is a term for when an infant or young child in a soap opera is aged very quickly by the writers. It is nearly always done by recasting the role after the character has been absent for a number of weeks, months or years, with the new actor of the age the character has been SORASed to. This is done to permit an older actor to portray the character and to involve the character in different - usually more adult - storylines.

The term was coined by Soap Opera Weekly founding editor in chief Mimi Torchin in the early 1990s.

In the early days of the soap opera it was not uncommon to age a character right into his or her 20s; for example, this happened to the character of Tom Hughes on As the World Turns in the late 1960s. One day he was a preteen, and the next he was shipped off to Vietnam. (This caused the actress playing Tom's mother, Eileen Fulton, who was then only in her late 30s, to have it written into her contract that her character could never become a grandmother; a noteworthy by-product of this is parents of SORASed characters -- often portrayed by actors in their late 30s or early 40s -- becoming grandparents or even great grandparents.) However, in the past few decades as soap producers have introduced more and more teenagers into soaps in order to attract the lucrative teen audience, it is now common practice to only age a character into the mid teens, with 15 and 16 being the most common ages that a character will be "SORASed" to. Eight-year-old Sami Brady on Days of Our Lives was aged to a 15-year-old when she was reintroduced in early 1993 (played by 16-year-old Alison Sweeney).

Some child characters literally mature faster than others. For example, Billy Abbott on The Young and the Restless was born on the show in 1993, yet was 16 years old by 1999 (played by 21-year-old David Tom), while his niece Colleen Carlton (born 1991) was only 14 years old in 2001 (played by 14-year-old Lyndsy Fonseca), meaning that Billy had changed from being two years younger than his niece to being four years older. Perhaps the character with the biggest impact is Nicholas Newman. He was born at the end of 1988 and was sent off to a "Swiss boarding school" as a preteen, only to return as a late teens/early 20s grown man only a few years later in 1994, and has since been featured as a prominent character. On the other hand, Phillip Chancellor IV, a child born several months prior to Nicholas remained at his real age until he was finally aged in 2000. Phillip however, was only aged by about two years.

On All My Children, Erica Kane's daughter Kendall Hart was retconned/SORASed at the demand of fans. When Kendall (played by 16-year-old Sarah Michelle Gellar) arrived in Pine Valley in 1993, she was a waifish teen, despite the fact that she was the result of Erica's rape at the age of 14, before the show even began in 1970, 23 years earlier. Fans protested, and so the show's producers's immediately aged Kendall to "over 21".

One of the few American soap children allowed to age in real time was Patti Barron Tate on Search for Tomorrow, first played from 1951 to 1961 by Lynn Loring. Her character did not have any jumps in age from the first episode until the last (in 1986). Another was Amy Ames Brittain on The Secret Storm, played from 1954 to 1974 by Jada Rowland (although she was off the show from 1971 to 1973). Her character was eleven years old when the show debuted and thirty-one when the show ended.

Rapid aging also occurs in other television genres, especially in situation comedy and science fiction series, usually to age an infant character to a four or five year old to allow a greater range of storylines involving the child. This transformation often occurs between seasons.

  • On the show Star Trek: Voyager the character of Naomi Wildman rapidly ages from infancy to preadolescence, however in this case the rapid aging is explained as a genetic trait from interspecies parents. On the other hand, no explanation is given for the rapid aging of Molly O'Brien between her birth in the fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and her in the following year of that show and on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where the character (played by Hana Hatae) is already several years old. Further, Worf's son Alexander was born on Next Generation in 2366, yet he appears as a young adult/late teenager in 2374 on Deep Space Nine, as a young recruit serving in the Klingon military (he'd be only 8 years old, though this could be loosely explained away by saying that Klingons age faster).
  • At the end of season two of The 4400, the character of Isabelle (as of season three played by Megalyn Echikunwoke) instantly aged from an infant to a young woman approximately twenty years old.

"SORAS" in international soapsEdit

SORAS is traditionally unheard of on British soaps, where the added degree of realism allows babies born on the show to age in real time. Occasionally, though, producers will alter a character's age for storyline purposes, such as with Ian Beale on British Soap EastEnders who gained an extra year so that his character would be more mature in a plot involving his discovery that his wife was cheating on him and that his child was not his. His original birth year was 1970 and he celebrated his 18th Birthday in 1988, but this was subsequently changed to 1969 and he celebrated his 21st in 1990. Coronation Street has also experimented with SORAS for storyline purposes, with the character of Mark Redman being aged by two years so that he could attend the school where his father Mike Baldwin's worst enemy Ken Barlow was a teacher.

Australian soaps have recently begun the trend of SORASing characters for storyline purposes, although like their British counterparts they usually only age characters by two or three years as opposed to the five plus years that is quite common in American soaps. For example, in 1999, the character of Duncan Stewart on Home and Away was aged by two years. Recently, Duncan's niece Martha (who was a year older than Duncan) returned to the show. She too was aged, having originally been born in 1988, but coming back as an 18 year old in early 2005. 2005 also saw the arrival of Lucinda 'Elle' Robinson on Neighbours, who was now a 19 year old, even though her character would really have only been 16 in real time (while Elle was not born on the show, her mother Gail left the show pregnant with her and her siblings in 1989).

A few other Neighbours characters also had small leaps in age. Summer Hoyland (Marisa Siketa) went from being 10 years old in 2003 to being 14 years old in 2005, and Jack Scully (Jay Bunyan) who was about 23 or 24 when he arrived in 2002, was said to be 21 years old in 2004. However these small jumps are probably due to scripting or continuity errors and do not seem to be deliberate attempts to age the characters, and these cases have not featured the character being recast with a much older actor.

"de-SORAS"Edit

A similar fan term, de-SORAS, occurs when writers make a character younger. One character that has been "de-SORASed" is Erica Kane on All My Children. When the show debuted in 1970, Erica's date of birth was 1954. In 1993, it was changed to 1956. And in 2002, the year was changed again to 1962. Actress Susan Lucci, who plays Erica, was born in 1946.

The General Hospital character Justus Ward has been de-SORASed as well. The role was originated in 1994 by former Cosby Show actor Joseph C. Phillips, born in 1962. Monti Sharp, born in 1967, assumed the role in 1998. In 2003, the role went to M'fundo Morrison. Morrison was born in 1974. Thus, if it is assumed that the character's age and the actor's age are approximately the same, then Justus has de-aged twelve years since first appearing on GH.

The One Life To Live character Sam Rappaport was de-Sorased in 2001, when actor Kale Browne, age 50, was replaced by actor Laurence Lau, age 45. Although there was only 5 years age difference between the two actors, Lau has often looked far younger then his true age. The recasting was done in an attempt to breathe new life into romance between Sam Rappaport and longtime flame Nora Buchanan, played by Hillary B. Smith. Many fans found it difficult to accept the recast, noting that Lau did not look old enough to be the father of Sam Rappaport's children, Will and Jen, both of whom were in their early twenties.

In 2005 on As the World Turns, the character of Carly Tenney Snyder, then assumed to be in her mid-thirties (portrayed by then 33-year old actress Maura West) was revealed to be the half-sister of 17-year old Gwen Norbeck. The storyline suggested that Carly was around seven years old when Gwen was born, thus making her 25. This now meant that when Carly's son Parker was born in 1997 (by which time, she'd alredy been married three times, and had given birth to a sillborn daughter), she was only 16.

A minor example of this occurred in the prime-time soaps The O.C. and Beverly Hills 90210 when the characters, who in the first seasons were implied to be juniors in high school, were allowed to spend an additional two years in high school.

From the '70s through the '90s, the character Mike Horton on Days of our Lives repeatedly returned to the show as a young man in his twenties. Even though he was born on the show in 1968, and had been married in the '70s, he and Carrie Brady (introduced as a child in the '80s) later supposedly grew up together as children. Primetime soap Knots Landing halted the clock on one character, Jason Avery, son of Laura and Richard Avery. Originally played by Justin Dana, Jason began as contemporary of Olivia Cunningham (played by Tonya Crowe). Recast with a succession of younger actors, Jason remained a child as Olivia grew into her teens and adulthood.

It could also be extrapolated that the characters in "That 70's Show" experienced de-Sorasinization as well since all of the actions that occurred during the 8 years that the show aired were supposed to have occurred from 1977 to 1979.

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