Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome

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Gunn: Couple of weeks ago he was wearing diapers. Now he's a teenager?

Cordelia: Tell me we don't live in a soap opera.
Angel, "A New World"

Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome (or SORAS) is the device by which writers—possibly frustrated with a Cousin Oliver—send a young child off in order to get back someone old enough to remember lines and have hot and steamy romances. (Not to mention the avoidance of all those pesky child labor laws aimed at protecting children in show business, and the public and private agencies that investigate abuses.)

On daytime soaps, pregnancy is a staple storyline. However, the resulting child is rarely seen after his paternity and/or baby switch has been resolved. When a few years have passed, he returns as a teenager old enough to have a summer romance.

Stephen King referred to this as the "Kid Trick" in Danse Macabre, his text on American horror media in the 20th century.

SORAS is a distinct trope from Plot-Relevant Age-Up; in the latter, rapid aging is shown on-screen, or at least stated to be the result of some fantastic element (e.g. magic, Applied Phlebotinum, Bizarre Alien Biology) or the transformation is actually shown on-screen.

Contrast with Not Allowed to Grow Up and Comic Book Time.

Examples of Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome include:

Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]


Film[edit | hide]

  • Gordon's kids in the Nolan films. In Batman Begins, a scene where Batman goes to talk to then Sergeant Gordon briefly shows Gordon's wife feeding two little kids in high chairs, one a toddler boy and the other a baby. Only about one or two years are supposed to have passed between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but the kids now look to be a lot older—their actors were seven and ten at the time of the film's release. This was apparently done so that Gordon could have a deeper relationship with the son but it causes a headache trying to figure out exactly what the timeline for the two films was.
    • Word of God states that Dark Knight begins six months after the end of Batman Begins.
      • To make it worse, in their brief appearance at the end of The Dark Knight Rises his daughter appears to be twelve-ish and the older of the siblings.
  • Sean and Michael Brody of Jaws are little kids in the first film. In the second, Sean's still a kid while Michael is a teenager. The following two films got around the issue by making them both adults.
  • Rocky: Rocky Jr (Robert). was nine in Rocky IV when Rocky went to Russia to fight Drago. When he and Adrian return home at the beginning of Rocky V, his son is now in early adolescence. How long were they in Russia?!

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Older Than Feudalism, amazingly enough: In book three of The Aeneid, Ascanius, Aeneas' son, is young enough for Dido to hold him on her lap. By the next book, which takes place no more than a year later, he's old enough to ride a horse and command the respect of the other Trojans. (Virgil originally wrote Ascanius as being old enough to command men, then began a rewrite where Ascanius was younger and managed to get the first three books done, before suffering a case of Author Existence Failure.)
  • In "Twenty Years After," the sequel to "The Three Musketeers," King Louis XIV is underage and thus being manipulated by the regents, his mother and her lover. In some scenes he seems like a precocious ten-year-old (i.e. when the people demand to see that he is asleep in bed, and not fleeing the city), and he is referred to as a child. However, towards the end the queen remarks that in a year he will be of age-making him a young man in his late teens. It's possible that Dumas just called him a child because he wasn't an adult yet, but his actions don't quite seem to match up.
  • Deliberately invoked by the witches in Wyrd Sisters when the witches realize their Hero is only 3 years old. Instead of waiting for him to grow older, they move the entire kingdom of Lancre 15 years into the future
  • In the novel The Amorous Umbrella (sequeal to The Incredible Umbrella), Our Hero ends up in a universe based in 1950's soap opera tropes, where he is trapped for several years. Being a dimensional outsider, he notices the SORAS cases, but nobody else does, even when it's pointed out to them. It worries him that a stepson he acquired, now an infant, will be an adult in five or six years and may - in an Oedipus Rex-inspired plotline common with 1950's soap operas - attempt to kill him.
  • In Robert Heinlein's TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE, when Lazarus Long saves Dora from her parents' burning house, she seems to age several years over at most a few weeks. When her father tosses her out the window and Lazarus catches her, she seems to be a toddler (he identifies her at first sight as a "baby"). On the ride into town, she talks well enough to be three years old or so. When he takes her to visit her parents' grave not long afterward, she acts kindergarten age at least. Of course, Heinlein's later fiction has a sentimental preoccupation with what he calls "baby girls," by which he can mean any human female who hasn't reached puberty, so maybe he wasn't sure himself how old Dora was when Lazarus adopted her.
  • In the Adrian Mole series, Glenn is born in 1990, but is already twelve years old in 1997 (when Adrian discovers he is Glenn's father) and then becomes a soldier in 2002 at age seventeen.
  • In Rome, the teenage Octavius goes off to war for a year or two and returns as a man, played by a new, older actor. Several characters note how different he looks, with one blaming military rations. The physical change coincides with a change in Octavius' character from the clever child Octavius to the Magnificent Bastard Caesar Agustus.


Soap Opera[edit | hide]

  • Victoria Newman on The Young and The Restless aged from 8 or so to 15 in a single winter in 1991, after aging more or less in real time up to that point. Then three years later, the same thing happened to her younger brother Nicholas. And it has since happened to Nick's children and various other assorted younger characters.
  • The cumulative effect of this led to Tom Horton and his great-great-grandson Scotty Banning both working as doctors in the same hospital at the same time on Days of Our Lives.
    • It also led to a man sleeping with a girl and her grandmother, and it being only mildly creepy each time.
    • Belle was taken upstairs as a little girl one day, came down a teenager the next. Her Summer Romance also received a plot relevant age up from preteen to teen.
      • Though not as pronounced, Maxie Jones of General Hospital went from toddler to 7 years old in a few weeks, as well. Notable because she would eventually be played by the same actress who played SORAS-ed Belle (Kirsten Storms).
        • GH also contains one of the more notable aversions in American daytime: Robin Scorpio, who's been played by the same actress (Kimberly McCullough) since 1985, when both were six years old.
        • Both an example and an aversion, also on ABC, is the character of Starr Manning on One Life to Live. The character was born in 1996, and aged to six when Kristen Alderson started playing the character several months before her seventh birthday in 1998. Since then, the character and actress have aged at the same rate.
      • Also on General Hospital, Sonny Corinthos' son Michael was put into a coma that lasted for a year. When he awoke, he was at least 6–10 years older and played by a new actor. His brother Morgan and half-sister Kristina were also aged accordingly, and returned played by new actors. The newly teenaged Michael Lampshades this by asking Kristina: "When did you become such a hottie?"
  • Luke Snyder, from As the World Turns , was originally born in 1995. Since then, his character has been SORAS-ed two times; in 2001, when nine-year-old Christopher Tavani took over the role, and 2005, when fifteen-year-old Jake Weary played the part.
    • Chris Hughes who was born on-screen in 1986 is now a doctor.
    • Tom Hughes on As the World Turns was born onscreen in 1961; by the late 1970s, he'd been to Vietnam and back and was attending law school.
  • Among a host of SORAS-ed characters currently on All My Children: J.R. Chandler, born 1989, an adult husband and father since 2003; Jamie Martin, born 1990, now a med student; and Colby Chandler, born 1999, who somehow just celebrated her 16th birthday (in 2006.) However, when we first met Lily Montgomery in 1993, she was played by 8 year-old Michelle Trachtenberg. In 2006, she's 18 (and her portrayer was 16.)
  • British soaps like Eastenders are surprisingly void of this trope. Characters either have the same actor from childhood, or, as a child, they move away, and years later come back as a different actor (but, importantly, as the correct age for the time they have been away). They generally pull this off by having an invisible age between being a baby and a small child where the character is not seen (Coronation Street's Tracy Barlow, for example spent several years "upstairs, listening to music", before she was finally old enough to do interesting things like have a teenage marriage, or sell her baby from a later relationship (only to decide she wanted it back when she set her sights on the father again), or murder her abusive/cheating boyfriend. It does happen occasionally, but only by a year or two - Ian Beale of Eastenders turned 21 two years after turning 18.
    • British soaps are prime-time and generally get a bit more critical respect than their US counterparts, making tropes like this rather discredited. It also makes the actors want to stay on longer, and given the lengthy nature, this can lead to some impressive stints. The character of Ken Barlow was part of the original cast of Coronation Street in 1960 - he is still there, has aged appropriately, and has always been played by the same actor.
  • The Finnish soap opera Salatut Elämät has two kids first age from babies to schoolchildren during one summer, and later, from that to teenagers, during a time which in show accounted for one apartment fire. Incidentally, one of the kids helped catch the Evil Twin bad guy, yet she was kidnapped by said bad guy when she was a kid just one season ago.
  • Elle Robinson in Neighbours was 19 years old in 2005. Quite an achievement when she was only born 16 years earlier.
  • Duncan Stewart (son of Alf and Ailsa) in Home and Away - originally aging normally from baby to toddler to young child, the character then disappeared only to reappear again as a teenager a couple of seasons later.
    • Also Martha, who arrived as an 18 year-old going on 19 in 2005, despite being born onscreen in 1988.
      • However, it should be noted that the show otherwise averts this, with Sally Fletcher being the most obvious example.
  • Thank you Guiding Light, for giving us Leah Bauer. Sending her to boarding school when she was about a year old was one thing, but when she came back a year later she was 14, twelve years older than her older brother.
    • Phillip Spaulding on Guiding Light was introduced in 1977 as being approximately eight years old; after leaving for a time in 1980, he was recast and returned in 1982, now played by 22-year old Grant Aleksander. The character's age progression, from 1982 on, paralleled that or Aleksander, who would continue to play Phillip, off and on, through Guiding Light's 2009 cancellaton.
  • New Zealand's Shortland Street does this to Tuesday Warner, played by Olivia Tennet. Although born in 1995, she comes back to Ferndale in 2007 at fourteen years old.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Andrew from Family Ties.
  • A Star Trek example that is not a Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Deep Space Nine's Tora Ziyal. Yes, she's an adult when we meet her, but she's played by three actresses: first the then-21 Cyia Batten, followed by 26-year-old Tracy Middendorf, and finally, when the writers decided she was going to be romantically involved with Garak, 33-year-old Melanie Smith. That's 12 years of aging in one season's worth of episodes (Batten's last appearance is in 4.14, Smith's first is 5.14.) Though the character technically didn't age (super-rapidly, at any rate), the constant actor switching led to some confusion about just how old Ziyal was supposed to be.
    • Molly O'Brien is less drastic, going from infancy to four-ish between seasons.
      • Note that this is actually how she aged in real time; she was born on-screen in 1991 and was four years old in 1995, and thus was not a victim of SORAS.
    • The ones that were Plot-Relevant Age-Up situations were less "someone becomes older as a plot point" and more "Textbook SORAS with a one-line Hand Wave." For completeness sake... Alexander's The Other Darrin-ing in TNG, and Naomi from Voyager's sudden skipping of a few years. Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki, even refers to Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome by name in both these cases. It's especially glaring when aliens who live twice as long as humans grow up in one-third the time.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air called attention to this when it replaced the newborn Nicky Banks with a six-year-old actor (Ross Bagley): Nicky walked in the room while Jazz was talking to Will, prompting the latter to ask who he was. Will says "That's baby Nicky!" while mugging to the camera and making a "growing" gesture with his hands. A frustrated Jazz shouts "Man, I'm going back to the streets where things make sense!"
  • Step by Step featured the young baby of the family aging from an infant in one season, to a speaking toddler of pre-school age in the next.
  • Growing Pains also featured this trope with Chrissy, though they didn't implement it for until a season after the actual birth.
  • Catherine Willows' daughter Lindsey on CSI seemed to age jump a year or so several times during the series.
  • In Boy Meets World, four-year-old Morgan Matthews disappeared for a season or so, then unexpectedly reappeared significantly older. This was lampshaded when one character commented on her long absence and she said, "That was the longest time-out I've ever had."
    • Cory, Shawn and Topanga also age an extra two years; Mr. Feeny says in an early episode that they're part of the Class of 2000, but they graduate from high school in 1998.
  • Why wait until the child is even born? In Stargate Atlantis, Teyla goes from not visibly pregnant at all and still trying to undertake semi-dangerous missions to hugely pregnant between episodes. A conversation from the previous episode is referenced in a way that makes a Time Skip seem unlikely. Possibly explainable by Bizarre Alien Biology, but as the Stargate Verse's Human Aliens are descended from actual humans, that, too, is unlikely.
  • In Ghost Whisperer, Delia's son Ned aged from a boy just celebrating his 13th birthday (actually was a part of the plot in one episode), to a high school Junior (at least) in less than six months.
  • On the first season of Degrassi High several of the freshman were only in seventh grade the season before, on Degrassi Junior High, the most obvious being Arthur's younger cousin Dorothy, who's now in the same grade as him.
  • In the first season of The OC, Kaitlin Cooper is referred to as a fifth-grader. Two seasons later, she's fourteen, which means an extra year has been added on somewhere.
  • Quentin Kelly went from being around eleven to about fifteen on Grace Under Fire when Jon Paul Steuer left the show.[1]
  • Full House was a little bit more subtle about this. Jesse and Rebecca's twin boys Nicky and Alex go from infants in season 5 to pre-verbal, long haired toddlers in season 6. Not as egregious as most examples, but a bit noticeable.
    • Completely averted with Michelle, who starts off about 1 year old and grows at normal speed.
  • Part of the plotting for what would have been the fifth season of Farscape was compressed into The Peacekeeper Wars; specifically, Aeryn being pregnant (which had actually happened toward the end of the third season). Since the miniseries was only four hours long, the creators Handwaved this by saying that Aeryn, from being born into a Peacekeeper battle regiment, had been genetically modified so that her pregnancy would only last a week or so. She goes from completely flat to big-belly pregnant almost in-between scenes. They also use the explanation that Bizarre Alien Biology (and presumably Applied Phlebotinum) allow Peacekeeper females to hold pregnancies in stasis for up to 7 years (to prevent complications due to female soldiers becoming untimely pregnant) makes the Hand Wave that pregnancies progress rapidly once released plausible.
  • My Family appears to take place in real-world time with a year between each series (judging by in-show references and the Christmas specials) but Kenzo, born in series four, is mentioned as being nine years old in series ten. Also extends to Janey, who is fifteen years old in the first series and claims to be "almost 30" in the tenth.
  • Lily on Modern Family. The twins who originally played her became increasingly difficult to work with during season two, and were replaced by four year old Aubrey Anderson-Emmons for the next season, also making it an example of The Other Darrin.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • In the first decade of Peanuts, some characters aged far more rapidly than others. Notably:
    • Schroeder, introduced in early 1951 as an infant, within a year became first a toddler piano prodigy, and then not only fully verbal but apparently the same age as Charlie Brown, Shermy and friends.
    • Lucy was a crib-bound toddler in her first appearances, and aged until she reached a point where she's apparently slightly older than Charlie Brown (based on the fact that Charlie Brown and her little brother, Linus, are usually depicted as being in the same class).
    • Linus, introduced in late 1952, was somewhere between infant and toddler for two years, and a typical preschooler for the next year or two. Then, in 1957, he rapidly became the precocious Christian theologian he would remain ever after. (He never gave up his security blanket, however.)
    • Also happened later on. Sally Brown was the first character born into the strip, in 1961 (Snoopy mentions waiting "until her eyes are open" to go visit her). Theoretically, this should make her at least several years younger than the rest of the cast. But by the early 70s she was more or less the same age as Linus. Similarly, almost overnight in the 90s, Rerun Van Pelt went from a toddler to kindergarten age.
    • Of course, the characters are still kids when the comic ended in 2000.
  • In Doonesbury JJ is born in 1973, and marries Mike in . . . 1984.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Weird variant not involving actors: In the original Ravenloft boxed set, a family tree of the d'Honaire bloodline includes the notation of a Gerard d'Honaire, born 726, died 733. Fourteen real-world years later, the sourcebook Legacy of the Blood: Great Families of the Core depicts this same Gerard as still dying in 733 ... but as a teenager applying for medical school.
    • Than it's most likely a Retcon. those things happen very often between D&D editions.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • Curiously, this happens to the Princes in the Tower in Shakespeare's Richard III, if one assumes continuity with Henry VI Part III. In the final scene of the latter play, Henry VI has just been murdered and Edward IV has just become the father of a son. Then, in the early scenes of Richard III, Henry's recently-deceased corpse is brought onstage, indicating that not much time has passed between plays (Richard has a line that suggests it's three months, but that is its own set of problems); a few scenes later, we meet Edward's son, now a pre-teen with a younger brother. This is all the result of Shakespeare's condensation of the historical timeline.
  • This happenes to Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family musical. In Charles Addams' original cartoons and all the adaptations, she is a little girl. In the musical, she got boosted to 18 and engaged to be married. Even her signature braids are gone.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Sims 2 suffers from this. It's entirely possible for one family to go through several generations in the same time period it takes another family to have breakfast.
  • Fable. 'Congratulations, you've just spent 10 years in a depressing evil fortress! Your child is no longer an infant, but a regular child now! Oh, and your wife's still the same as ever. As well as all the other NPC children'.
    • A better example is if you have a child, then another in a different town. When you get back to your first they'll no longer be an infant.
      • The Guildmaster from the first game is an old man when you're a child, and is STILL an old man when the player is.
  • Diddy Kong Racing DS introduced the current design for Tiny Kong, who now looks considerably more developed than her older sister Dixie Kong.
  • In the various Harvest Moon games, the aging of your child is rarely consistent with reality. But the most Egregious example is probably in Animal Parade, with the rival children. Two weeks after they're born, bam—the rival children suddenly and rapidly age to being about six or seven years old, with zero explanation, and then they stay that way for all eternity.
  • Bipin and Blossom's son in The Legend of Zelda Oracle Games grows from a baby to a child during the course of the first game you play, then into a teenager during a linked game.


Webcomics[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In a somewhat rare animated example, the 1951 Donald Duck cartoon "Lucky Numbers" made Huey, Dewey, and Louie into teenagers for just one short, as the plot required the trio to be able to drive a car.
  • On Family Guy, Cleveland Jr. was a child between the age of 7-10; on the spinoff The Cleveland Show, he is now 14 and looks completely different even though no one else has aged. Peter comments on this in the pilot episode.
    • It's been stated by one member of the staff that the ADD medication he took contributed to the change.
    • In one episode, Peter donates sperm, which results in a lesbian couple giving birth to Bertram, the same kid Stewie met when he went into Peter to prevent them from having more kids. In the course of apparently no time at all, Bertram ages to about Stewie's age (about age 1). Either that, or a year passed and nobody but Bertram changed.
      • While the character's models haven't changed, the characters have aged about 2 years. Meg goes from 16 and learning to drive during the first season to 18 and "legal" over the course of the series. Chris also goes from middle school to high school.
  • The Simpsons made this concept even weirder by having Apu's children age from newborn babies to kids old enough to walk and talk in the same time it took Bart and Lisa and especially Maggie to... remain exactly the same age.
    • Of course, the problem seems worse to casual viewers, as it is easy to confuse Sanjay's kids for aged-up versions of Apu's kids, and it is rare for it to be pointed out that the older children are Sanjay's (since they stopped appearing before Apu had any children).
    • Characters remaining the same age is pretty-much a running gag in the show. "Kids, let me tell you about a wonderful time called... the 90s!"
  • Parodied in the Futurama Soap Within a Show All My Circuits. Antonio Calculon Jr. goes from being a child acting robot to a fully grown bending unit (played by Bender) that is in a coma in the course of one episode.
  1. Allegedly his mother pulled him out due to Rhett Butler's increasingly erratic off camera behavior, the last straw being an incident where Butler decided to "show off" her new breast implants by flashing the cast and crew including (12 year old) Steuer