Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome

Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome - often shortened to SORAS - is 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. Characters unseen on screen for a time might reappear portrayed by an actor several years older than the original. These characters are said to be suffering from Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. Within television media, SORAS is sometimes used as a verb as well ("the character was sorased").

Usually coinciding with a recast, 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 still most commonly used in) daytime soap operas. For instance, in 'As the World Turns', a character called Tom Hughes was born on screen 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[1].
Dan Stewart, another character in 'As the World Turns', was born onscreen in 1958, reappeared as a 26-year-old doctor in 1966.

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 in which a character ages rapidly due to technology, magic, or non-human biology.

At least one whimsical effort has been made to describe the SORAS effect as time dilation due to "soap opera physics"[2].

[1] Ford: As the World Turns in a Convergence Culture. See here.
[2] Kent Pitman: Theory of Relative TV. See here.

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