Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome

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Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome (also SORAS or rapid aging) is the term used to describe the aging of a television character (usually an infant or child, but also sometimes a teenager) that is faster than they should be aging, given the timeline of the show. The process is usually done to allow for more rapid character development, and to allow the writers to develop new storylines for the character.

Although the process originated in and is most common in soap operas, it has also been used in prime time comedy and drama series. In soap operas, it is nearly always done by recasting the role after the character has been absent for a time, with a new actor appearing at the character's newly "SORAS'ed" age. In the case of prime time series, the SORAS procedure usually occurs in between seasons, with a new, older actor appearing when the show returns.

The term was coined by Soap Opera Weekly founding editor in chief Mimi Torchin in the early 1990s.[1] It's generally used to refer to cases where a character's rapid aging happens off-screen without any explanation, rather than to storylines in science fiction and fantasy series where a character is shown as being rapidly aged due to technology, magic or non-human biology.[2]

The phenomenon has led to a newer term, de-SORAS, which refers to the opposite effect – when characters remain the same age for an unusually long period of time, or even get younger.


[edit] History

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);[citation needed] 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). Her twin brother Eric Brady, (played by Jensen Ackles), who also left the show as an eight- year-old, returned in 1997 SORASed to match his now-adult sister. The characters of Belle Black (born October 1993) and Philip Kiriakis (originally born 21 February 1995) returned to Salem as 16 year olds in 1999 (changing their birth years to 1983).

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 (Thus being played by 21-year-old David Tom), while his niece Colleen Carlton (born 1991) was only 14 years old in 2001 (first 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 preschooler, only to return as a late teens/early 20s grown man 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.

[edit] United States examples

[edit] Soap operas

  • 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 immediately aged Kendall to "over 21".
  • On As the World Turns, despite being born on-screen in 1958, Dan Stewart, came back from medical school in 1966 played by John Colenback, who was in his mid twenties, when chronologically he should have been 8-years old. Colenback was about the same age as his on-screen mother Ellen played by Patricia Bruder.
  • Also on As The World Turns, Jennifer Munson was born on screen in 1990. She died on screen in 2006 having been married twice and having had a child.
  • On The Bold and the Beautiful, Taylor Hamilton-Hayes gave birth to twins Phoebe and Steffy in 1999. By 2002, the twins were aged to eight years, and in 2005, the roles were played by 16-year-olds. In 2006, MacKenzie Mauzy took over the role of Phoebe, who was now aged to 18. In 2008, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood joined the cast as 20-year-old Steffy Forrester.
  • On General Hospital, the character of Jason Morgan was born in 1982, but in 1991 had been SORAS-ed to be at least in his late teens, when he should technically have only been 9 years old. Another example on the show is the role of Lulu Spencer, who was born 1994 but was recently SORAS-ed in 2005 to be 17, when she should technically have only been 11.
  • On Guiding Light, Rick Bauer and Mel Boudreau's daughter Leah was born on-screen in 2004, but at the apparent age of 18 months was sent to boarding school in Switzerland and brought back on screen six months later in 2006, having been aged to 14. This posed a serious problem with fans who not only remembered Leah being born on screen 28 months earlier but had to accept that Leah was now 10 years older than her "older" half-brother Jude, who was born in 2001 and was only 5 years old on the show. Subsequently, the character of Leah was shown on screen only three times in three months. On this same soap, the character of Alan-Michael Spaulding was born in 1981 to Alan Spaulding and his then wife, Hope Bauer. Hope and Alan-Michael were written off the show a couple of years later, 1983, but in 1987 a teenage Alan-Michael Carl Ty Evans with a chip on his shoulder and animosity toward "favored son" Phillip, was written into the show. Then the character was aged into his early 20's a few years later and the actor playing the part, Rick Hearst literally grew into the character...continuing in the role for the next six or seven years. James Spaulding was the product of a one night stand between Beth Raines and Phillip Spaulding in 1998 when they thought they were going to die because of a plane crash. He was born in 1999 and barely made any appearances since then. Now the producers have aged him to 17 years old when he is supposed to be 10 years old right now.
  • On One Life to Live, Rex Balsom was introduced in 2002 as a 17-year-old high school senior. By early 2006, he was aged to a 26-year-old so that his character could be a potential candidate in the storyline involving Dr. Paige Miller and the search for her long lost son, whom she had given up 26 years prior.
  • Sometimes characters' ages are accelerated to be older than the actor or actress playing the role. An example is on Days of our Lives, when the role of Abby Deveraux was SORASed from eleven to 17-years-old and the role was recast with Ashley Benson. When she took over the role in November 2004, however, she was only one month shy of her 15th birthday. The role of Abby remains two years older than Benson is in real life.

[edit] Prominent exceptions

A few characters on soap operas have aged from children to adults, aging in real time during the show's process. The Patti Barron Tate character on Search for Tomorrow aged in real time from 1951 until 1986. Another example was Amy Ames Brittain on The Secret Storm, played from 1954 (age 11) to 1974 (age 31) by Jada Rowland.

A prominent current example of real-time aging is the role of Robin Scorpio on General Hospital. The character has been played since 1985 by Kimberly McCullough, who began the role at the age of 6 and has aged in real time on the show (she is now a 30-year old doctor). Also, Tad Martin of All My Children was introduced in 1973 as a ten-year-old orphan, and today (despite two casting changes), he is written as being in his early-to-mid 40s.

On One Life To Live, Kristen Alderson began playing Starr Manning at age six in March 1998. In 2001, Alderson was put on contract, making her the youngest performer on daytime television with a contract role. Though Starr was originally born on-screen on January 8, 1996, the character was aged and her birth date was retconned to January 17, 1992. Alderson is still playing the role and Starr has aged appropriately since.

In Australia, Sally Fletcher (played by Kate Ritchie), starred on the soap opera Home and Away for more than 20 years, starting in the pilot of the show when she was just 9, and leaving in 2008 at the age of 29.

In Emmerdale, Andy Sugden (played by Kelvin Fletcher), grew up in normal time, and has been portrayed by the same actor since he joined the show in 1996.

[edit] Prime time

The phenomenon of SORAS in prime time has been most common in television sitcoms, which have far shorter timelines than soap operas. The rapid aging in sitcoms is usually done from infant age to kindergarten age, as many sitcom writers feel they will have exhausted baby related storylines in the course of one season.

Among the most prominent examples of infant to preschool SORAS-ing in sitcoms are:

  • Family Ties: The role of Andrew Keaton underwent rapid aging. Born on-screen in January 1985, he remained a baby until the 1986-87 season, when Brian Bonsall took the role and he suddenly became four years old.
  • Growing Pains: Chrissy Seaver was born on the show in late 1988. Much like Nicky on The Fresh Prince, Chrissy remained a toddler for the remainder of the season when she was born and the season after. However, in 1990, Chrissy was rapidly aged to five and the twins who played her (Kirsten and Kelsey Dohring) were replaced with Ashley Johnson.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Nicky Banks was born in early 1993 in a season 3 episode titled "The Baby Comes Out". The character was aged a few months by the fourth season and by the fifth season, the unknown child/children who played Nicky were soon replaced with Ross Bagley and Nicky was aged to five years old, as mentioned (and knowingly joked about by Will Smith) in a few season six episodes.

The SORAS procedure has also occurred in older children on prime time series:

  • Boy Meets World: In the first season, Cory (Ben Savage), Shawn (Rider Strong), Topanga (Danielle Fishel) and the rest of their classmates are in 6th grade (11 to 12-years-old), but by the third season, however, Eric is a senior but no grade is given for Cory, Shawn or Topanga, but Cory and Topanga claim to be 14 and Shawn says he is 15. The ages stayed consistent for the rest of the series, but then they spend four years in what should be a six year high school. After Eric leaves high school, he stays at his parents' house as a layman. However, when Cory finishes high school and enters Pennbrook University, Eric is suddenly an upperclassman at Penbrook.
  • The OC: Marissa had a 10-year-old sister in the first season, but with few lines and a very minor role. After having disappeared in the second season, although referenced, the younger sister returned in the third season and aged to fifteen with Willa Holland taking over the role.
  • The Star Trek series have had several recurring child characters undergo SORAS (generally aliens or hybrids). It is generally assumed or implied that these occur because of developmental differences between the species.
    • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 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 a toddler. Similarly, one episode in the second season of DS9 implies that her parents Miles and Keiko have been married for five years, even though their wedding took place on-screen in the TNG's fourth season, less than three years earlier. The half-Bajoran, half-Cardassian character Tora Ziyal had three actress of three different ages play her, ultimately settling on the oldest Melanie Smith in order plausibly to represent a relationship between her and another character.[3] Worf's son Alexander was born on TNG in 2366 and was initially played by Brian Bonsall of Family Ties (and thus, already SORAS'd beyond his natural toddler age), yet he appears as a young adult in 2374 on DS9, as a young recruit serving in the Klingon military (although Klingons develop faster, he would only be 8 years old[4]).
  • On My Two Dads, Nicole Bradford turned 14 towards the end of the second season. But at the start of the third season, she was now 15, and turned 16 toward the end of the season.
  • In the fourth season of Grace Under Fire, the character of Quentin Kelly was aged from 12 to 16 years.

[edit] United Kingdom

SORAS was traditionally not widely utilized on British soaps with their purported realist tone. In recent years UK soaps have increasingly begun to age some characters for storyline purposes. This occurred with Ian Beale on 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. On EastEnders Ethel Skinner claimed to have various ages and birthdays on different occasions. Coronation Street has also used 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 enemy Ken Barlow was a teacher. In Hollyoaks in 2006 Kathy Barnes aged a whole seven years in one year, in time for her 40th birthday. The characters of Josh and Carly Hope in Emmerdale were first seen as a baby and young girl, respectively, in 2001, but when they were seen again in 2006, Josh was older than Carly and both were teenagers.

On Emmerdale, Terence Turner was originally written as the younger brother of Steph Forsythe, but was later written to be several years older than her.

On Casualty, Louis Fairhead aged from around 11 to around 16 in just under a year from 2006 to 2007.

[edit] Australia

The two Australian soaps to have run longer than a decade have occasionnally changed the age of characters for storyline purposes, usually by only one or two years. In Home and Away the character of Duncan Stewart was aged by three years from nine to twelve, during a hospital stay for several months. In 2005 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.

On Neighbours, Hannah Martin was aged 8 on her arrival in 1992, but was aged 14 by 1996 and remained so until 1998 when she turned 15. Her parents Philip and Julie had left the series in 1985 shortly after becoming a couple.

2005 also saw the arrival of Lucinda "Elle" Robinson on Neighbours and later her brothers, identical twins Robert and Cameron. The three siblings, who were triplets, were now 19 years old, even though the characters would really have only been 16 years old in real time (while the birth of the triplets was not an on-screen storyline, their mother Gail left the show pregnant with them sometime in 1989). Louise "Lolly" Carpenter returned in 2007 as a 15 year old, despite being born in the show in 1994.

Also, Serena Bishop (Lara Sacher) was 15 when she arrived in 2003 and in Year 9 at Eden Hills Grammar school, but in 2004 she was in Year 11 along with her cousin Sky Mangel at Erinsborough High.

A few other Neighbours characters also had small leaps in age. Charlie Hoyland was said to be 4 years old in January 2009 but Charlie was born in March 2006. Summer Hoyland (Marisa Siketa) went from being 10 years old in 2003 to being 14 years old in 2005, whilst Jack Scully's age was moved a few years downwards (and the character revised from an FA Premier League footballer playing for fictional "Barnsford FC" to a talented schoolboy soccer player) when the character was recast from Paul Pantano to Jay Ryan in 2002. Ben Kirk was born in 2001 but was said to be 9 in 2008.

[edit] Other places

In the Canadian series Degrassi Junior High, Spike Nelson gave birth to Emma Nelson between the second and third seasons. By Degrassi High, Emma also rapidly aged into a toddler. However, by Degrassi: The Next Generation, the rapid aging seemed not to have happened.

In the Finnish soap opera Salatut elämät four children have grown up in a short period of time. In the year 1999 a boy named Sauli Kiviranta was introduced. He was about 10 years old. Two years later he was an adult replaced with a different actor. Three babies: Sofia Salin, Oona Kiviranta and Niko Vainio, born in 2001-2003 have grown to teenagers in year 2007.

In the Dutch soap Goede Tijden Slechte Tijden ("Good Times Bad Times") eight year old Nina Sanders went to a clinic after she survived a kidnapping and a fire. A year later she returned from the clinic as a sixteen-year-old. In order to keep the same age difference between Nina and her younger brother Lucas, who was born in 2000, Lucas was aged to 15 years in 2005, after which he left with his dad to New York. Since Nina, other kids on the shows have been SORASed; Jack van Houten was born on-screen in 1992, then disappeared and returned in 2005, now a 27-year-old businessman. This means Jack was now actually born in 1977, 15 years prior to his original birthdate.

In the New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street, Tuesday Warner was born onscreen in 1995 but upon her reappearance in 2007 she was aged 14.

In the Spanish soap Cuéntame cómo pasó ("Tell me how did that happen"), which was first aired in 2001 with a 1968 setting that advanced in real time – thus placing an exact 33 years gap between the show's events and real life – the character of Mercedes Alcántara became pregnant at the end of the 4th season as a result of actress Ana Duato's real pregnancy. The action jumped then from 1971 to 1973, betraying the series original premise of reproducing the entire Spanish transition to democracy and introducing a 2 years old girl as the new daughter of the Alcántaras.

Telenovelas typically avoid SORAS since they usually only contain one story arc. Instead, sometimes the entire show will jump weeks, months, or even years ahead in time. This allows the show to jump forward through pregnancy, a jail sentence or the growth of a child. In a similar vein, several Indian soaps have become known for incorporating 20 year jumps into the storyline, thus allowing entire generations of child characters to be reintroduced as adults. The parents, however, continue to be portrayed by the same actors and never seem to age.

[edit] "De-SORAS"

[edit] Soap operas

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 said to be 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 de-aged twelve years since first appearing on GH. Justus was later killed off by a mobster in 2006.
  • On One Life to Live: in the early 1990s, Rachel Gannon was said to be the same age as her college peers Kevin Buchanan, Todd Manning, and Marty Saybrooke—all stated to have been born in 1970. In 1996, however, Rachel (now interacting less with the aforementioned characters) was stated to be 21 years old.
  • Another unusual de-SORAS/re-SORAS occurred in 2004 on The Bold and the Beautiful: twins Phoebe and Steffy Forrester were aged to fourteen, and then played by Chandler and Jordan Mella. Several months later, Keaton and Kylie Tyndall took the parts and the twins were de-SORASed to pre-teens. However, this was only a temporary de-SORASing. In 2005, Keaton and Kylie Kendall were replaced by Addison and Alex Hoover, and Phoebe and Steffy were aged to approximately fourteen again. Eventually, almost a year and a half later, the Hoovers were let go from the show and only Phoebe was brought back three months later. When Phoebe was brought back however, now played by MacKenzie Mauzy, the character was SORASed once again to 17½ years old (which corresponded to Mauzy's own age at the time).
  • 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 (portrayed by then 22-year-old Jennifer Landon). 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 already been married three times, and had given birth to a stillborn daughter), she was only 16. To make things worse, Parker's birthdate was revised to 1992, when he was SORASed to 15 years in 2007, making Carly even younger, being only 11 years when she gave birth to Parker.
  • In 2007 on the daytime drama Guiding Light, Harley's daughter came back as 17-year-old "Daisy", played by Bonnie Dennison. The last time the character was reintroduced on the show in 1999, then played by actress Brittany Snow, she was 14 years old. She left two years later in 2001 as a 16 year old, suggesting that the character aged only one year between 2001 and 2007. Guiding Light also de-SORASed the character of Alan-Michael Spaulding. Born in 1981, Alan-Michael returned to the show in 1986 as a teenager, then was aged with an actor change (from Carl Tye Evans to Rick Hearst). When the character left the show in 1997, he was in his early 30's. However, when he returned to the show in 2005, he was played by actor Michael Dempsey, who was about a decade younger than his counterparts. The character was also portrayed as being in his late twenties or early thirties.
  • From the 1970s through the 1990s, 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 rapidly SORASed in the 1970s, he and Carrie Brady (introduced as a child in the '80s) later supposedly grew up together as children.
  • An unusual de-SORAS occurrence happened when General Hospital's Maxie Jones was SORASed from a 15-year-old played by Robyn Richards to a woman in her early twenties, played by 19-year-old Danica Stewart. The change was very unpopular and criticized by fans and press, partly due to dislike of the new actress and partly because Richards had portrayed Maxie since childhood and through a very memorable heart transplant storyline. GH de-SORASed Maxie back to her high school age and re-hired Richards. Eventually, General Hospital SORASed Maxie once again when they fired Richards a second time and hired Kirsten Storms to portray a more grown-up, troubled Maxie.[citation needed]
  • General Hospital provides us with another case of de-SORAS/re-SORAS in the character of Edward Quartermaine. David Lewis, born in 1916, originated the role in 1978. After Lewis left the role for the second and final time in 1993, John Ingle, born in 1928, assumed the role. In 2004, Ingle left the show and Jed Allan took over the part. Allan was born in 1937, making him 21 years younger than originally cast—the same age as his on-screen son Alan Quartermaine. Allan only stayed with the show for two years, at which point Ingle resumed the role.

[edit] Prime Time

  • In the prime-time soaps The O.C. and Beverly Hills 90210, the characters were juniors in high school at the time of the show's debut, but were still in high school in the third seasons, when they should have already graduated. In the case of 90210, the characters are specifically stated to be juniors in both the first and second seasons.
  • Prime-time 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.
  • Eric Forman from That '70s Show and his friends (save for Michael Kelso, who was older, and Jackie Burkhart, who was younger) went from being 17 years old to 19 years old in four years. Eric celebrates his 17th birthday in an episode set in 1976, and his 18th birthday in an episode set in 1978. The characters of Donna, Hyde, and Fez may be assumed to have followed a similar timetable.
  • None of the young or old characters in The Simpsons seems to have grown older, even though the (uncounted) birthdays of several characters have been portrayed. Homer Simpson has aged, albeit extremely slowly, being 34 in Season 1, 36 in season 7, 39 starting in Season 10 (with Marge aging along with Homer, albeit being one year younger). Bart, Lisa, and Maggie have remained the same ages (10, 8, and 1, respectively) throughout the series. They also had several birthdays at which they turn the same age, and have celebrated countless Hallowe'ens.
  • In Family Guy the only character who appears to have aged is Meg Griffin, whose age was given as 15 in the start of the series and was most recently given as 17. None of the other characters seem to have aged, particularly Bonnie Swanson, who was pregnant from her character's debut in season 1 to very recently in season 7. The show even references this in the episode "Road to Rupert" in which Stewie mentions he is one year old, and Brian responds, "Still?", as well as the episode "Blind Ambition" in which Peter says to Bonnie that she's been pregnant for six years, and to "either have the baby or not."
  • In Nickelodeon's Drake & Josh although In Season 4, the events of Season 1 are referred to as having happened three years ago, the characters are always aged 15 or 16.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Post by "Daniel R. Coleridge"[dead link] in the comments under "Is the Evil Sheila Returning to Young and the Restless?" at (note: as of February 2008 the comments may take several minutes to load after the article)
  2. ^ SORAS at The TV Tropes Wiki, as retrieved on February 9, 2008: "SORAS (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome) is...different from Plot Relevant Age Up in that the latter is at least explained via magic or Applied Phlebotinum, or the transformation is actually shown on-screen."
  3. ^
  4. ^

[edit] External links

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