My Monomythical Friday with General Hospital
Written by Jacob Brooks
I spent my Friday doing three things: reading James Joyce’s Ulysses, doing homework, and watching General Hospital. I find it very entertaining to try new things, and I have never watched something like General Hospital. I didn’t intend to absorb two things that were so wildly separate as Ulysses and General Hospital, it just happened like that. I was reading The Castle by Franz Kafka with my friend Brett Austin, and it was entertaining to read something so difficult, which was mostly due to the poor translation. There was one sentence that took many minutes to sort through. But then Brett left to watch a movie, so I finished that night by reading Ulysses to get the same struggling feeling, and it worked. Maybe watching General Hospital was an escape from the obfuscated and ‘intellectual’ towards something that is traditionally less ‘intellectual’ to consume. I think that probably the biggest reason is that it is all just good fun to watch.
General Hospital, like a lot of things, is very interesting in a way that seems unintentional. When I picture what I’ve seen today and relate that to the 13,284 total episodes and over 16-month continuous run time, it seems tiny, like a tiny piece of a giant mass of some slowly morphing substance. It feels like a composition by Wagner, who wrote these big gigantic slow-moving masses of strings and everything was very slow but would develop into big crashing explosions of climactic sound. General Hospital doesn’t seem to be as deliberately approaching some end goal but it evokes the same feeling. Over the course of its 52 years of running it has developed from a sitcom-like black and white hospital drama to a sensational depiction of relationships that has captured American audiences, leading over 30 million people to watch the wedding episode in 1981, to a relationship drama with science fiction elements, to a crime drama, and back to a relationship and hospital drama. It also has gone from pushing the limits of televised intimacy by showing couples embrace and hold hands, to pushing the limits of televised intimacy by showing couples having sex on daytime television.
I imagine in my head Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan from the first chapter of Ulysses morphing with the plots and styles of General Hospital. Dedalus and old Luke Spencer sit on the side of the Castle, talking about some agnostic concept of life or humanity in dreary monotone, and regretting looking and acting like their fathers. Luke Powell having killed his mother. Stephen Dedalus having killed his just the same. Michael and Kiki are unknowingly cousins, loving and copulating nonetheless. Oedipus and his mother. Lot and his daughters. Reuben and Bilhah.
For each episode of General Hospital, Ulysses has 20 words. For each word of Ulysses, there are 7 minutes and 20 seconds of General Hospital to watch. In sheer quantity, General Hospital is the winner by a large margin.
Quality? Quote of General Hospital – (context: man walks in house with his son who has a mask on his face. He intones:)
“Why don’t we take your things up to your room and get settled,”
“I want to see the living room first.”
“Are you sure?”
“Don’t worry father no matter how much you watched the decorating it can’t look worse than my face.”
General Hospital is sometimes silly and poorly written and acted, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun and you really can’t say it’s any worse than the most lauded of works of literature. It’s mostly the same thing, just with a different style. Really, General Hospital is better.