March 11, 2004  

Realizing that dysfunction is a part of real life, I’m willing to accept that soap characters are almost always served a triple dose of dysfunction every morning with their breakfast.  The dysfunction has always been obvious to me, but never before have I resented it as much as I do now, when I watch GH.  Soap couples marry, divorce, love and betray each other exponentially in this genre, so why is it suddenly making me ill to watch it?  Had you asked me on Tuesday, I might have said that maybe I’ve just become so immune to the “same old” drama and that maybe after years of watching soaps, I just can’t get into watching the same things over and over again.  Yesterday, however, I watched an old friend and one-time lover betray a trust for the sake of her child even though it obviously didn’t come easily for her and I realized that it has nothing at all to do with how many times I’ve watched someone lie or be found out on the stand, it’s all about dynamics and characters that have more than one story to tell.  Most of all though, it’s about finding something about a character (even the most hateful characters) that resonates with the average person, something that makes sense, something we understand even if we don’t approve.   

A simple example is the current Liz/Ric/Nikolas/Emily/Lucky shenanigans.  “Shenanigans?” you ask?  Why yes…didn’t you recognize it?  It’s just a bunch of crazy kids, running around making plans to protect their own.  They’re young, mostly innocent, and sometimes they make a bad decision, that’s all.  It’s a Scoobys’ reunion tour!  Instead of the body in the freezer, we have the charred body in the basement.  You must remember this: 

Emily wakes up next to Dead Ted 

Let’s talk about Dead Ted, shall we?  It was a somewhat silly story that had many plot holes.  I remember wondering why no one cared that poor Dead Ted’s family was unaware that he was deceased.  I remember thinking it wasn’t exactly smart to destroy all the evidence, and to keep a cop’s body in a freezer while they went off and tried to solve the crime.  I remember thinking maybe it wasn’t so nice to pin the murder on Zander, even if Zander was a drug dealer.  I don’t recall feeling ill at the sight of all the dysfunction though, and there’s a very good reason for that.  The story had plenty of dysfunction, but the story also made sense from the character’s standpoint.  Emily awoke next to a dead body, and she was obviously traumatized when she did.  She had been drugged, possibly raped, and had no idea what had happened to cause the death of the person next to her.  She had been involved in risky behavior up to that point, behavior that she had hidden from her family.  She had reason to truly fear that she was going to be accused of something she may or may not have done, but had no recollection of it.  Her friends came to her rescue, doing really stupid things by real life standards.  Could we always see a better way out for them?  Sure we could.  But could we at least understand why they might possibly believe they needed to do the things they did?   

Liz was a rape survivor; her desire to protect that Emily may have somehow killed her attacker made sense.  The fallout of the event allowed us to see Liz help Emily cope.  And Emily did have to cope; there wasn’t a complete glossing over of the repercussions.  We watched her try to fight the need to take a shower; we watched her go for testing.  We saw both Liz and Emily balk at keeping this secret several times, only to decide they had no choice. 

Lucky was still under Helena’s control and the Dead Ted situation brought a way for him GH to show us that the real Lucky was still reachable, and it furthered an interesting dynamic between Liz and Lucky.  Lucky had been “not himself” for a while, and Liz started seeing the old Lucky while he was helping Emily with her troubles.     

Nikolas was in a particularly vulnerable spot, with Lucky telling him that he should be with Liz but knowing that somewhere, deep down, his brother was still in love with her.  Helena was driving for Nikolas and Liz to be together (can’t for the life of me remember why), though Liz was spending some time confiding in Sonny, which was causing Carly a lot of angst.  Nikolas was caught up with two women he’d protect at all costs and a brother that was fragile and only just coming back into his own.  

Throughout the story, there was the issue of Ted, and then there were all the through threads being played out as well.  Would Liz and Lucky find their way back to each other?  Would Liz understand why Lucky and Emily were growing closer?  Would Lucky understand the friendship Liz had developed with Jason?  Would Carly’s accusations that Liz wanted Sonny convince Lucky?  Would Lucky figure out that Nikolas and Liz were only acting like they were interested in each other to make him admit he still had feelings for Liz?  Would Emily and Juan reconnect, and later, would Emily really fall in love with her kidnapper?  All intertwining connected stories.  The Dead Ted story used history and character motivation even while telling us things that went beyond what most of us can swallow.  Was it perfect?  Not by a long shot, I complained plenty back then too…but in retrospect, I was not appreciating all that I should have.  I didn’t until I lost it, which very well may be the only redeeming thing that comes from the current regime’s reign.  

So back to the present, shall we?  We now have pretty much the same group, back together again.  Interchange Ric (the untrustworthy liar), for Gia (the at the time, untrustworthy liar) and it’s all there.  This time though, the star of the show is “Entitlement!” and what a star she is!  Zander’s dead, and nobody knows for sure who did it, they only know whether they themselves did or not.  Emily is sure however, that even though Nikolas whacked him one, he didn’t actually kill him, because he’d never do that!  So, she decides that Ric, by doing his job and actively prosecuting the most obvious suspect, is obviously framing Nikolas.  They meet up with Ric, and when Ric mentions that “hey, maybe Emily did it” in the same exact manner that Nik and Em used to come up with “hey, maybe Ric did it” (that manner would be – who can we blame besides me or you?), Nik rolls his eyes and says something along the lines of “I should’ve known you’d try to pin it on her” WTF?  I mean seriously, wtf?  Am I supposed to believe that these characters truly cannot hear their own hypocrisy?  They stand around constantly, all of them, and point fingers at people for doing the exact same things they themselves do, and no one ever seems to notice.   

Elizabeth confesses to her pals, and Emily says “Maybe she should just confess” and something along the lines of “It’s not okay to frame someone else for what you did”…wonder where that bit of knowledge was a few years ago?  Every single one of these characters is out only for themselves or an immediate loved one.  There was a time, when they could see beyond the end of their own noses, but no more.  Do I really care who frames whom for what?  Not really, that’s all just the byproduct of soap relationships.  Problem being, there are no relationships on this show.  There are no through threads.  Elizabeth apparently decided she didn’t want to deal with the real father of her baby making unseemly demands on maybe being around to see the kid, so she hauled off and whacked him with a pipe.  Uh…sure she did.  That’s Liz for you.  Rash, uncaring, prone to violence even when not physically threatened.  C’mon!  This is Liz!  I don’t even like Liz all that much, but I know that Liz happens to know what real danger is.  She knows when violence is necessary and when it’s not.  She knows when her life, or the life of her unborn child is truly threatened.  Her reason for hitting him is that she wanted him to stop talking, or what?  It makes no sense at all.  The dysfunction is rampant, but there is nothing that makes me understand it.  It is not character driven in any way and it wraps several completely selfish people into a story that is supposed to make me feel the bonds of friendship?  No way.  These people don’t even appear to like each other anymore, not even a little.  They’re too busy telling themselves how wonderful they are in the mirror, apparently.  I don’t know how else one gets so blind to everyone but himself.  Liz actually said, with a smile on her face, that everything’s fine now and Zander would just be a name.  All this because Zander was cuckolded and turned to the mob in his time of distress?  Yet somehow Jason, who does the same job Zander did, is a hero that they turn to for help?  Do none of them truly see their part in the entire thing?  On top of those issues, they have no life outside this story either, not a one of them.  Does Lucky live at Kelly’s still?  What do Nik and Em do when they’re not talking about how evil Ric is?  What do Ric and Liz do that doesn’t involve his job as it pertains to the Corinthos’, or his job as it pertains to Nikolas?  Oh wait, we did get a few doctor visits and RH’s belly…that’s something at least.  Nothing here resonates or makes sense to the average viewer.   

Then we have Sonny and Carly.  Fighting it out in court over their beloved children.  While I’d love to see AJ walk in and ultimately walk out with Michael, I believe an adopted parent (particularly one that is present) can be a true parent and I don’t argue that Sonny loves that child as his own.  The dysfunction in the custody battle is beyond comprehension, and the only thing that I can understand, is that they both love their kids.  If the story had stayed focused on that, we might have something.  It has gone astray though, on both sides.  This isn’t about who gets the kids, it’s about betrayal.  Sonny’s still keeping score and Carly’s still dancing to his music.  I get the distinct impression that I was supposed to watch Carly’s testimony and I was supposed to feel relieved and proud of her, like Jason was, that she kept Sonny’s secrets.  Like that was growth.  I agree with Jason that for once she didn’t go off half-cocked, and if she were saving the info to use more to her advantage in the future, I’d be impressed.  But rather, I’m supposed to think it’s progress that she wasn’t willing to be honest about Sonny’s lifestyle, even for her own children.  Personally, I still feel an inkling for Sonny at times and I’d have been okay with her deciding not to bring up the breakdowns at this point.  Her decision to keep quiet about the danger of his life is inexcusable.  GH uses this selective memory aspect that is supposed to have us believing that Faith and Lorenzo are the only dangers to Sonny, and both are somehow linked to Carly so really, both are to blame.  Please.  Sonny has had enemy after enemy since before Carly existed.  His life will never be safe for children, period.  If I cared about who ends up with the kids, I might try to compare parental time spent against acts of violence and crime linked to each parent, and go from there…but I don’t care.  I couldn’t care less who is awarded custody.  Neither is sympathetic, neither is putting the children first, and neither is willing to give up any part of their current lifestyle in order to better their life for their children.  I saw that Carly was hesitant to tell the truth about Sonny, but once she hesitated I no longer saw the struggle within her to truly keep her children safe, or to even be able to see them.  I saw Carly cave in a way no parent should.  When backed to the wall by an unstable spouse, given the choice between no custody and full custody (not of her own volition), there’s no excuse for her not to do what she has to so she can remain in the life of her kids.  There’s nothing that says after being awarded custody she couldn’t go straight to Sonny and say “Look, I never wanted this to begin with, and I’ll make sure you see these kids on a regular basis”, if that’s what she thinks is best.  Anything less than that made Carly look like Sonny is above everything else to her.  Either that or she’s scared to death of him.  Neither is a good enough excuse when children are involved, unfortunately.  Carly changes her mind with the rapidity of a drumbeat and I’m never allowed to understand fully where she’s coming from anymore.  It’s always just a reaction to Sonny; it’s never about Carly anymore.   

The dysfunction of these characters is so utterly disgusting that it’s impossible to find someone to care about or root for.  Even Jason, who has always been a pro at walking the S&C line and making me see how tough that is, yet how important it is to him, has managed to lose me completely this time around.  “She blackmailed me!”  Huh?  I’ve seen Carly blackmail, but I didn’t really feel that this was an example of that.  She explained in really simple terms (not simple enough apparently) that Sonny was refusing joint custody, so her options were to give up her children or fight for them, and she was gonna fight.  Jason should expect no less.  Jason left the business once for Michael’s sake; he knows what parental sacrifice looks like.  Honestly, at this point, Jason just looks like a total pansy and even though I can’t much stand Carly, I can’t think of any reason why he should be more on Sonny’s side (which he obviously is) than hers.  Sonny has committed all the crimes that Lo has; he just didn’t commit them against “Sonny’s Family” and therein is the difference.  Sonny kidnapped AJ for days and had AJ been pregnant, I’d bet money he’s have lost his baby while hanging on the meat hook for days on end.  Sonny practically had Ned raped, Sonny used drugs to manipulate a female…the list goes on.  The hypocrisy, and the idea that I’m supposed to buy into it, is becoming repulsive.  Sonny got on the stand yesterday, testified that his children are safe in his life, then testified that he has guards, alarm systems and bulletproof glass!  Seriously, does that not sound a little more like; I do what I can to keep my kids safe in a very dangerous life?  Yet no one, not even Carly who has *lived* it, bats an eye at the hypocrisy.  I do not understand where either character gets the leg they think they’re standing on in this case, at this point.  It’s almost sickening to watch and coupled with the Scooby story, it makes me feel like I should shower and disinfect to rid myself of the residual scum they leave me with.   

In a flash though, I found that good old dysfunction with understanding that has been sorely lacking.  Alexis approached Sonny on the stand, with the sole purpose of making sure he never gets her child.  Should he be a part of Kristina’s life?  Ultimately, probably yes.  Do I understand why Alexis can’t allow that?  Absolutely.  Alexis knows the games Sonny plays.  She sees that Carly is a willing victim at this point.  She knows she’s going to lose either way because Carly knowing her secret can only lead to trouble for Kristina.  She knows that if Sonny takes the stance with her that he’s taken with Carly regarding his children, she’ll probably lose Kristina.  Carly won’t lose her children because ultimately, Sonny will reward Carly for being a good little mob secret keeper.  Alexis is not willing to go there again, the price is too high.  I watched Alexis go after Sonny and I could *see* that her motivation ran much deeper than winning this case.  She was letting Carly know that Carly isn’t the only one with the power to destroy Sonny.  Maybe Mrs. Corinthos isn’t willing to go there to keep her children, but now she realizes that Alexis is.  That adds another interesting facet to whether Carly will tell Sonny or not, because ultimately, Alexis holds almost as much power to destroy Sonny with as Carly does.   

I felt compassion for Sonny.  It was just a flicker, and only for a moment, but it was there.  He almost crumpled under Alexis’ truths, and I saw the scared little boy again.  I saw the reason for the hypocrisy and dysfunction.  I remembered why he tries so hard to convince himself that he’s not bad.  The writing almost never lets him show it anymore, that fear, but *that* is what makes Sonny interesting.  I completely understand his public denials of danger to his family, what I don’t understand, and what’s been terribly missing in this custody case, is the secret fear Sonny always has that he’s going to be the cause of harm to his family.  Why isn’t he secretly petrified by what being awarded sole custody would mean for him?  He’s always only been able to live above that fear after being convinced by Carly that she and the kids were safe and where they wanted to be (dysfunctional though that is).  Without that, how would he live with keeping his children in this life?  Why don’t we see that?   

What I saw yesterday was two actors rising above the entitlement written for both characters and giving it depth.  We could see Alexis’ fear and knowledge that she was starting something that could not be taken back.  We saw what was at stake.  We saw that it hurt her in some ways to do it, but even more strongly we saw that she truly will do anything to protect her child from whatever she perceives as danger.  She was fighting her own custody battle, right in the middle of Sonny and Carly’s farce of a trial.  I felt for both characters, and I felt numerous emotions and that signifies the absolute best in a soap scene.  I sensed Sonny’s disbelief that she would betray him for Carly (since he knows no other reason), of all people.  To win a case, she would do this?  He was caught off guard, and we don’t get to see that often.  The scene allowed fans of a Sonny and Alexis pairing to see that there is a lot more depth still there than the writer’s have given credit to.  It allowed fans of Sonny and Carly to feel fear at what the Kristina revelation might do to their couple, yet gave them hope that Carly will see the threat for what it is and protect her family from it.  It laid intense groundwork for what is sure to come at some point in the future; Sonny finding out he has a daughter.  It also opens up the possibility that Sonny will come after Alexis in some form for retaliation and that could get very interesting.  None of this changes the fact that Alexis is keeping a parent from a child, and has managed to become a murderer herself in the process, adding a supposed psychotic break to her own parental resume.  It doesn’t change the fact that Sonny is a criminal and he shouldn’t be glorified because of it, as he absolutely always is on this show anymore.  The insight into the characters doesn’t excuse the dysfunction, but it allows us to understand it and that’s really all we need.     

Obviously, not everyone will have viewed the scene the same way.  The point though, is that even above and beyond the writing, the actors were allowed to give us the feelings that go beyond just what is on the page.  Experienced actors are able to do that, and it expands the story in a much more realistic and engaging manner.  It’s a shame that some of the newer talents on GH haven’t had the chance (through being in capable writing hands while being given the chance to grow) to develop that ability.  It’s also unfortunate that some of them probably will never have the desire to develop it since those who choreograph the entirety of the show don’t seem to feel it’s a priority.  I adamantly disagree.  The writing on GH is almost completely devoid of depth and basic decency, frankly, and what saves certain stories and scenes is the talent of the performers.  And it’s not just about selling the words, no matter what.  It’s about making them make sense to the viewers somehow.  I’m not saying the actors should have to do that, but it’s certainly nice for us when they can and do.


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