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, 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.
The 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.
On 'The Young and the Restless', Billy Abbott was born in 1993 but was age 16 by 1999.
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.
Here's a story from Soap Hub chronicling some of the major examples... and why it could backfire.
And here's another look at the "ailment"....
My Mom watched 'General Hospital' (being a nurse) but then switched over to 'The Young & The Restless'. Sometimes I watched it with her and while not an avid viewer, I was conversant in the storylines because of my reading all the news stories about TV as well as plot summaries which were published. And it was the SORAS treatment of Nick Newman which first brought the situation to my attention.
[Nick Newman] was born onscreen in 1988 as the second child of super-couple characters Victor and Nikki Newman. Portrayed by a set of twins and later two child actors for his first six-year period, the writers of the series decided to rapidly age the character to a teenager in the summer of 1994. That June, Joshua Morrow began portraying Nick, and has remained in the role to present time.
Here's how it was splained away:
From the 'Young & The Restless' wiki:
At the age of 10, Nick was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland and returned a teenager in 1994.
For Toobworld, I think there must be a hidden story about that boarding school in Switzerland. What other experiments do they perform on their students? Were they given promicin which spurred the development of super-powers? If you're a fanficcer out there, I think this Swiss boarding school causing SORAS in their students would be a good plotline for a story involving any number of TV shows - 'The Avengers', 'Doctor Who', 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.', even 'The Prisoner'. The late Mikkos Cassadine of 'General Hospital' might have financed it. And while you're at it, have a go at that promicin angle from 'The 4400' while you're at it....
Until next time......