A non-Soap Opera
narrative with special interest in the relationships of the characters rather than their heroic exploits. This trope can apply to any work of fiction: a Vampire Detective Series
, a Humongous Mecha Anime
, a historical thriller
, or what-have-you. Movies and television which invent all-new superheroes quite often take this route (either that or they go the "realistic" route, without costumes
). Usually it has a "softer"
feel and much more screen time devoted to getting to know the characters and their individual strengths and foibles and on their "civilian" activities. Relationships change and develop over time, and much of the show's driving force comes not from plot but
It's not uncommon for such series to "take a break"
from the normal heroics to have an episode of pure characterization (Comic Book
fans have long nicknamed these "baseball issues") or to eschew the heroics/doctoring/detecting entirely in favor of other soap opera staples like the Soap Wheel
and Four Lines, All Waiting
. In the case of superheroes, part of the drama will derive from separating hero and civilian identities with romantic complications. Anime beach episodes
, when not entirely devoted to Fanservice
, can be a form of this trope.
- This is something often mentioned about Neon Genesis Evangelion - that it was unusual for a mecha series to be so focused on characters and interpersonal relationships. Maybe it's part of a broader trend?
- Some would say yes. Eureka Seven's first half certainly thinks so, and the middle section of RahXephon also has these traits.
- Rinne no Lagrange is definitely more about the relationship between Madoka, Lan and Muginami than about outright mecha action.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED; to the point where it was practically formulaic to have one episode with action followed by an episode with nothing but soap.
- A lot of Anime fit this description. Cardcaptor Sakura comes to mind, quite a few episodes of the Anime had no action at all.
- Rozen Maiden. Given that this is pretty much a Moe series, it's not surprising.
- Code Geass. In there with all that mecha fighting and political intrigue and overacting, they manage to squeeze in all sorts of high school drama and comedy, leading to sometimes-incredible Mood Whiplash.
- Gunslinger Girl is somewhat like this.
- The Love Triangle plots that are a staple of the Macross franchise.
- Captain America tends to get all angsty about young sidekicks (particularly regarding Rick Jones) because Bucky "died" (Winter Soldier is a long story for another time) while his sidekick. This also explains his early animosity towards the Young Avengers. Similarly, Cap's own comic book made commentary on '40s vs. "modern" (whatever time period we're in) American values.
- Peter Parker is the posterboy of this, apt considering he's probably the tropemaker.
- Empowered and Ultra come to mind.
- Noble Causes is a Soap Opera where the characters just happen to have super powers.
- Runaways. Yes, the plot really is the driving force, but we wouldn't have the whole Nico/Karolina/Xavin subplot if it wasn't at all Soaperheroes.
- Watchmen, although the theme seemed to be "costumed adventurers" didn't have any life outside of fighting crime.
- Young Heroes in Love, a short-lived DC Comic.
- Exemplified by Chris Claremont's work on the X-Men.
- Likewise, Marv Wolfman's work on Teen Titans, especially in the 80s.
- Preacher had long stretches where the story took a break from the overall Rage Against the Heavens plot to focus on the relationships between the three main characters. This is most evident in the arcs later collected in Dixie Fried and All Hell's a-Comin'.
- Marvel Adventures: Avengers turned away from saving-the-world plots to focus more on filling up lazy afternoons with activities like showing up at a country fair, chasing down spammers, dating, and pestering each other. Maybe not melodrama so much as passing the time.
- Plenty of Astro City stories are more character studies than they are superhero epics.
- Incredible Hulk, especially in The '70s and early Eighties.
- Done regularly in Strikeforce: Morituri, given the character-driven nature of the series.
- Scott Pilgrim has a lot of character drama for a mostly action series.
- The Incredibles.
- Sky High.
- Parodied in The Specials. There is no actual super-combat or rescuing on screen at all.
- The Scream series is notable for this in the slasher genre, with a heavy focus on the characters, their relationships, and their backstories. The first film actually saw Executive Meddling to add a death to the middle of the film, as outside the two opening kills, there were no deaths for the first hour in the original script.
- Soon I Will Be Invincible.
- Wild Cards, in places.
- The third and fourth series of Warrior Cats have been described this way by fans, since there's really no antagonist and no overarching conflict until the later part of the fourth series.
- Soap of course.
- Heroes, at first anyway. The third season so far seems to be focusing almost entirely on superheroics.
- Also My Hero. He performs heroics, but never on camera.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation, though it's usually Negative Space Wedgie Of The Week.
- Battlestar Galactica: Half of its plots revolve around interpersonal relationships, though they went overboard with it in the latter half of season two and third quarter of season three. They pulled a few superb conclusions to those seasons to make up for the dip in form luckily enough, and the show was at its best mixing genres and usually had the balance right.
- Its prequel/spin-off series, Caprica, shifts even further in the direction of soap opera / family-based drama, while retaining a penchant for larger dramatic themes. The result is a very different show.
- Stargate Universe is sometimes accused of this (and, tellingly, is also accused at times of being a Battlestar Galactica ripoff).
- While The Tick was more of a sitcom-type than a soap-type, it rarely showed the superheroes fighting, instead throwing them in plots like "meeting new heroes in an abusive relationship" or "suing the magazine that displayed naked pictures of Captain Liberty".
- 24. Whenever there's a couple real-time minutes to fill between Jack's latest action scene or torture technique? You can bet someone in either CTU in the White House be interrupting all their important business to talk about a coworker's feelings.
- Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman caught a lot of flack in its day for being more like "Moonlighting with superheroes" than other Superman shows, which were traditionally more action-oriented.
- Harper's Island uses this as a sort of Padding. Remember, your average slasher film is only about 90 minutes long; this one has some 13 hours to fill!
- Harper's Island producer Jill Blotevogel would later become showrunner for MTV's Scream which got criticized for employing the same trope.
- The complaint of soaperization was frequently levied at the US version of The Office, especially during season four and early season five (what with the drama over Jim and Pam and the Dwight-Angela-Andy Love Triangle).
- Professional Wrestling has often been called "Soap Operas for guys."
- On JAG, this trend began to accelerate in the second and third seasons.
- No Heroics. The clue's in the title.
- Baywatch often did this, in order to provide for some variety other than heroic Rescues, Fanservice and Montages.
- Super Stupor. In the words of the writer: 'It's about heroes and villains in their everyday lives. Really, that's it. '
- Everyday Heroes. Truth, Justice, and Lawn Care.
- Superego primarily focuses on the cast's problems cooperating over its slowly revealed Jigsaw Puzzle Plot.
- Interviewing Leather focuses primarily on the interview of the supervillainess rather than seeing her in action.