Soap writers are playing fast and loose with the facts, just to sell their cliffhangers. I’d buy their plot-drivel more if I knew they’d at least thought each story through from beginning, middle and end. Alas…
“Margaret raped me.” –Todd to Blair, OLTL, May 16, 2005
Little-known fact: I can be talked into just about anything, anything. I am a soap fan, after all. I’ve been through long-lost twins, back from the dead (after a morgue sighting), EndGame, Desiree Dubois,…
But sometimes, it’s a bit much, even for a gullible, naïve open wound like me. The past two, three weeks really tried my sensibilities, and that’s saying a lot.
Throughout the bullshit, I couldn’t help but feel TPTB [The Powers That Be] added implausible plot points after the fact, without having thought through the story arc itself from beginning to end. They (or their actors) have admitted to such tactics in the past, including ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s hasty introduction of Flash turned Sarah Roberts and GENERAL HOSPITAL’s past four, five years under primarily co-head writers Charles Pratt Jr. and Bob Guza Jr. Their aim, merely to reach cliffhanger conclusions, thereby involving the audience, winning their investment – the easy way.
The most heinous crime against the audience’s sensibilities is not what’s happening over at GH, with a little boy remembering he smothered his biological father with a pillow or a mob boss taking the fall to prevent that boy from suffering further trauma, although it counts.
It’s the assertion on OLTL by everybody that “Margaret raped Todd” all of a sudden, and I mean ALL. OF. A. SUDDEN, as of about two weeks ago. One day, they’re treating Todd’s kidnapping and semen transfusing as another perilous day in the life of Llanview’s most infamous action adventurer. The next, following several months, they’re in hushed, hallowed tones, going through the motions of (what TPTB probably think is a groundbreaking revelation) the karmic payback of another Margaret raping Todd in order to get pregnant.
Yet I still remember the beats leading up to this sudden turnaround. Todd worrying that Blair will leave him because he was forced to cheat on her with Margaret. Todd blurting out loud, “I had sex with Margaret!,” while Kevin smirked, grinned and barely stifled a laugh, the rest of the scene playing out like a sitcom. Fans posting, columnists paraphrasing spoilers like they were part of the laugh track, making jokes at Todd’s and Margaret’s expense.
Now, we’re all supposed to take it sitting down, sober, smiles turned upside-down, on our knees, hands in prayer, eyes uplifted toward the heavens, asking for mercy on behalf of our brother Todd.
The half-hearted concern – really, they’re just reciting the lines without conviction to me – barely expressed by characters such as Kelly, Kevin, even Blair (and Todd) over Todd’s “rape” signal to me further that this is just last-minute bullshit to jack up ratings. I flinch every time one of them uses the “R” word; it feels like a slap in my face.
In the May 13th episode, I knew I was supposed to get the point that, in the words of Marty in Todd’s conscience, “What goes around, comes around,” that the psycho-kidnapper-“rapist” wasn’t called Margaret for nothing, that maybe a taste of what Marty went through when Todd orchestrated her gang-rape would provide closure, therapy. All of…that…did nothing for me but further flinch at the bullshit.
The following Monday, May 16 – as perfect an episode as OLTL’s ever gotten since the ‘90s, with Jen’s memorial service juxtaposed against Michael’s realistic autopsy – I flinched some more, but really listened as Todd opened up to Blair about his “rape,” and what that realization did for him. As a man coming to grips with his sordid past, owning up to his crimes against Marty and falling short, in his mind, of his wife and children’s devotion, the scenes worked. I could’ve used less control over his emotion, as if it would spill over into hokey territory – Trevor St. John always seems ready to censor his character at a moment’s notice to avoid the appearance of soapy excess – but overall, I did finally get the point of the staccato storyline: Todd’s growing up, he and Blair are finally dealing with the troubles in their relationship over third-party obstacles.
They were aided and abetted by the fine performances, pitch-perfect dialogue and direction of the Jennifer Rappaport Memorial Service. Michael’s reluctance, John’s hankerchief aversion, Marcie’s soulfully moving song for her best friend, Nora breaking down, Daniel coming close, my hero Rex strutting down the aisle, taking his place at the pulpit (preach it, baby!) and with words spare but true, forewarning the congregation that Jen loved life. Fallen, faltering heroes in unlikely places falling into place as God and fate orchestrate their dance of justice; nowhere but on OLTL are these images and themes more appropriate.
Another rape victim has not been playing by the rules either. GH’s Emily chose to forego treatment, counseling and the reporting of her rape and her subsequent murder of Connor (wait, did they ever find the body and prosecute?) in self defense. She also chose to embrace the physical touch and emotional support of mostly the men in her life, Jason and Lucky, flirting with Lucky, while putting off and sometimes insulting the one woman who would best know what she was going through, Elizabeth, a fellow rape survivor.
Two weeks ago, Emily freaked out when Nikolas tried to touch her, because she could only see her rapist Connor in his lookalike face. Then, when Nikolas got free, the two of them together went to the scene of the rape and burned the cabin down. Nikolas also suggested a radical treatment for Emily, in hopes of a speedy recovery (like her breast cancer): Let me pretend to be your rapist, Em, and force you to relive that horrible night, then, you’ll want me again!
I suppose a case could be made for some rape victims out there who’ve kept quiet (worked for me), dealt with their trauma alone and in unorthodox treatments. Anything can happen. But is it the right thing for a soap opera to do, what with its millions of impressionable young viewers who take every scene, every character to heart, IRL? Tamara Braun (ex-Carly) confirmed to Wally Kurth (Ned) on his 1 Day With… show that a teacher came to Alicia Leigh Willis (Courtney) to praise her and Braun for eating on the show in character, because now, it’ll be okay for her female students to eat and not starve themselves to be thin.
Take that, and multiply it on the subject of rape. Or breast cancer. Or glorifying a mobster and his hit man. Or treating women as appendages, brood mares, trophies and punching bags.
Both Elizabeth and Emily should’ve gone to the police to report the crimes against them, sought treatment and be shown in support groups with other rape survivors, just as Monica was allowed to suffer and triumph over her breast cancer the right, responsible way. Monica’s breast cancer story helped many real-life breast cancer victims survive, because they, too, sought to do right by their bodies and their spirits, and went for help. The story gave these real people with real feelings validation, guidance, worth any Nielsen sweep.
But the aim of GH is no longer to do a public service to its audience. The aim today is to tap into the audience’s wavering loyalties over fictional characters and milk the lowest common denominator for the writers’ pet cash cows. In Emily’s rape case, it’s to heighten the struggles and triumphs of her love story with Nikolas, further showcasing the pretty couple’s prettified image over substance, and oh, yeah, to blackmail those members of the audience – who hate the character and despise the actress’s flaws as a performer with the fury of a thousand suns – into giving Em a chance.
A lot of hate is going on right now on ALL MY CHILDREN. Maria’s children hate her guts and take every moment to tell her so. And yet Maria refuses to be the parent to her two spoiled brats, Maddie and Sam. A little time-out in a military facility might help, as would a firm slap on their asses.
I’m hating Jackson lording it over Erica. I can’t believe TPTB are going ahead with the wedding. He is so wrong for her, especially two weeks ago when he threw her kidnapping of Maddie in her face, after he verbally abused her over what? Over the two of them meddling in their children’s affairs? Erica has the advantage over Jack in that at least Greenlee and Ryan love each other. But after the caveman way he has treated her, Erica should jump off the yacht and never return.
Phoebe hated Babe. It’s all right there in her will. The only thing I’m not hating about this plot point is JR’s, “God bless you, Aunt Phoebe” reaction, the rest of ‘em can go to hell. Integration ASAP, or drop this story and these characters. If TPTB haven’t figured out by now, if the fans don’t like you, no amount of sympathy manipulation will change that fact (see Kit Fisher, not even a rape redeemed her in the fans’ eyes).
Arguably the most hated character in Pine Valley has to be saint Ryan. I don’t hate him per se. I just don’t believe he was, is or ever will be an abuser. He’s had plenty of chances in the many years he’s avoided confrontations and came to the rescue. Anybody but me remember when Edmund and then Mateo went on a rampage against Ryan, leaving the guy a bloody heap? If any character deserved a chance at a spousal abuse story, it would’ve been those two, but not Ryan. Ryan folded every time, letting them beat him into a pulp, literally and figuratively.
And Ryan is not about to start fighting back now, even if he did shoot his brother Jonathan (to defend three innocent women).
So when he made his eyes go all dark and his voice all ominous (he is no Jonathan) before threatening Kendall with words to the effect of: I’m thinking about socking you in the jaw right now … it took every ounce of willpower within me not to burst into pee-splitting laughter. At Ryan.
Kendall and Greenlee could take that pipsqueak with two arms tied behind their backs.
Is this the best TPTB could do for Cameron Mathison, kill off his only compelling family tie, and the social issues story that could redeem them both, so Ryan could put on his father’s big bad suit and pose as an abuser?
I almost forgot. The best bullshit for last.
Lily and Sam kiss, and kiss, and kiss. Lily’s autistic, remember? I think maybe TPTB forgot. Soon they’ll be inventing a cure so she can transform into a hot girl and slut around like the rest of the chicks on these soaps.
Yeah, that’s reality.