Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome (SORAS) is a term used to describe the practice of accelerating the age of a television character (usually a child or teenager) in conflict with the timeline of a series and/or the real-world progression of time. Children unseen on screen for a time might reappear portrayed by an actor several years older than the original. Usually coinciding with a recast, this rapid aging is typically done to open up the character to a wider range of storylines, and to attract younger viewers. The process originated in (and is most commonly used in) daytime soap operas, but has been used in prime time series as well. SORAS generally refers to cases in which a character's rapid aging happens off-screen without any explanation, rather than to storylines in science fiction and fantasy series in which a character ages rapidly due to technology, magic, or non-human biology.
Coined by Soap Opera Weekly founding editor-in-chief Mimi Torchin in the early days of the magazine, the term is now widely used in the soap opera media. 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. Born onscreen on As the World Turns in 1961, by 1970 the character Tom Hughes had been to college and fought in the Vietnam War. Subsequent recasting kept the 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.
A 1993 secret history storyline on All My Children established that lead character Erica Kane had been raped immediately prior to the series' 1970 debut. In this retcon, Erica represses all memory of the rape until 16-year-old Kendall Hart, a child produced by it and put up for adoption, appears in 1993. Viewer reaction to the discrepancy created by Erica having a 16-year-old daughter as the product of a 24-year-old rape prompted the series to immediately adjust Kendall's age to 23.
On the situation comedy Growing Pains, Chrissy Seaver was born on the show in late 1988. She remained a toddler for the remainder of that season and the season after, but in 1990 the character was aged to five with the recasting of Ashley Johnson.
- Clayton-Millar, Kim (April 24, 2006). "Soaps' rising stars". Tonight. Independent News & Media. http://tonight.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=3215940&fSectionId=434&fSetId=204. Retrieved December 12, 2009-12.
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- Bird, S. Elizabeth (2003). The Audience in Everyday Life: Living in a Media World. New York: Routledge. p. 135. ISBN 0415942594. http://books.google.com/books?id=JtkAqUHwtrIC&pg=PA135&lpg=PA135&dq=%22soap+opera+sudden+aging+syndrome%22&source=bl&ots=IrVYVYSWxl&sig=dKEAjt43NsvvEgea73UF-lIt1zw&hl=en&ei=V0sjS6SHCIj-nAeZ9JzuCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CAsQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22soap%20opera%20sudden%20aging%20syndrome%22&f=false. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
- Pennington, Gail (October 15, 2008). "Now or when? Tricks of time keep TV shows hopping". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. St. Louis Post Dispatch. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/ae/s_593281.html. Retrieved December 12, 2009. "On daytime soaps, children often jump ahead in age, suffering from SORAS -- 'soap opera rapid-aging syndrome.'"
- Bloom, Ken; Vlastnik, Frank (2007). Sitcoms: The 101 Greatest TV Comedies of All Time. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal. p. 149. ISBN 9781579127527. http://books.google.com/books?id=3R9a8Kw2TQUC&pg=PT152&dq=%22chrissy+seaver%22+aging&cd=2#v=onepage&q=%22chrissy%20seaver%22%20aging&f=false. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
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- Lenhart, Jennifer. "As the World Turns Features: They Grow Up So Fast!". SoapOperaDigest.com. http://www.soapoperadigest.com/features/as-the-world-turns/features/theygrowupsofast/. Retrieved December 15, 2009.
- "About ATWT - Who's Who: Dan Stewart". SoapCentral.com. http://www.soapcentral.com/atwt/whoswho/dan.php. Retrieved December 15, 2009.
- Waggett, Gerard J. (November 1997). "All My Children". The Soap Opera Encyclopedia. Harper Paperbacks. pp. 3-24. ISBN 0-06-101157-6.
- Hayward, Jennifer (November 6, 1997). Consuming Pleasures: Active Audiences and Serial Fictions from Dickens to Soap Opera. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 173. ISBN 081312025X. http://books.google.com/books?id=ykYR8nzIR0YC&pg=PA173&dq=consuming+pleasures+r.a.t.s.. Retrieved July 24, 2009.