As the World Turns’ Men in Love: The Controversy Rages!

By Patrick Erwin

A few months ago, I shared with our “Thinking Soap Fans” my thoughts on the Luke and Noah story on As the World Turns, and  what it meant to me.

In the last few weeks, buzz about the story has erupted into controversy, as many fans are up in arms about the show’s reluctance to show the couple kissing or expressing affection. The story has expanded to mainstream media, and took on new dimensions when the conservative American Family Association jumped into the fray by designating Procter & Gamble — which produces ATWT and supplies much of its advertising — the catalyst for an “action alert” as a result of P&G’s sponsorship of what the AFA termed “pro-homosexual” programming.

To make sense of what’s happened, I asked a few people who are familiar with both the soap world and the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) world to give us their perspective.

DAMON ROMINE, ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA DIRECTOR, GLAAD
http://www.glaad.org/

Damon Romine, the Entertainment Media Director at GLAAD, has a special perspective on it all because he worked in the soap world as a soap opera magazine editor for ten years. 

Patrick: Prior to the kiss controversy, how did you think ATWT  handled Luke and Noah’s storyline?

Damon: Though daytime dramas have been around for 60 years, As the World Turns  is the very first soap to portray a gay male romance, as well as the first soap to feature a male kiss onscreen. By introducing Noah and Luke to their cast, the drama has boldly taken an historic step forward. Because of the careful writing of both characters’ individual journeys which ultimately lead to their romance, GLAAD was proud to nominate the soap for a GLAAD Media Award. And while we support Noah and Luke’s romance and are eager to see where their relationship is headed, we also understand that Nuke needs to share screen time with a lot of other characters, and that we’ll have to be patient at times and wait until their story takes a front seat once again.

Patrick: So what do you think caused the change in how “Nuke” have been portrayed? Are there any specifics you can point to?

Damon: We’ve noticed — like all other ATWT  fans  – that Luke and Noah seem to be having intimate near misses and that their story seems to have fallen to the wayside in recent months. Such is the nature of soaps, though, and we have been assured by the powers that be that there is a big Nuke storyline coming up. And who’s to say their next story won’t create a passionate response as well? The nature of a soap romance is that the supercouple can’t stay happy, so I expect fans to continue to be passionate regardless of what happens to Nuke.

Ultimately, while tremendous strides have been made on soaps, it’s clear that we’re not at a place where gay and transgender people are treated the same on daytime as they are on primetime or cable. But even when you look at primetime, gay male characters weren’t kissing on network television before two years ago with Desperate Housewives  and Brothers & Sisters.   So the fact that Luke and Noah have shared two kisses is historic, and perhaps some compromises are being made on the intimacy front to allow their story to continue to be told, but let’s keep in mind that if P&G or CBS did not want to tell this story, they would very easily have already brought it to an end.

Patrick: Can you tell me a little about the reactions you’ve gotten from LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people about this controversy?

Damon: As all of us who have been in the soap business know, soap fans are the most vocal and passionate fans there are. There are fans who want to see more of Luke and Noah and who want this couple to get the same attention and respect as other couples on the canvas.  This story has pushed the daytime genre and created a glimpse of what can happen when soaps are inclusive of gay storylines: Increased story potential and increased viewers. It’s a win-win and I look forward to the day when gay stories are given their due on daytime.

Patrick: Any thoughts about how the mainstream press has covered this controversy?

Damon: Coverage in outlets like NY Daily News and LA Times certainly brings more attention to the show and can only bring more viewers to  the show. CBS has reported that the show’s ratings have gone up because of Nuke, and press coverage can only bring in more viewers, so this is ultimately a good thing to further keep Nuke on the canvas. 

Patrick: Does GLAAD anticipate taking any specific action regarding this controversy?

Damon: We’re going to continue to support and encourage Luke and Noah’s journey, to promote the show and talk about the importance of this couple to viewers and how a storylline like this helps change hearts and minds. The show was nominated for its second GLAAD Media Award in as many years and we’ll find out on March 17 if they win. [They won at the 1st Annual GLAAD Media Awards].

MICHAEL JENSEN, EDITOR IN CHIEF,  http://www.afterelton.com/

Michael Jensen also has a unique perspective as the editor of AfterElton, a site that specifically covers news about music, film, television and entertainment geared towards gay men. The site has given a great deal of coverage to As The World Turns, especially since the  Luke/Noah storyline was launched.

Patrick: How are the AfterElton readers responding to the kissing controversy, and the change in storyline?

Michael: The reaction is, as you can imagine, overwhelmingly negative. The mistletoe cutaway, especially, inflamed people. (This refers to the scene in December where,  just as Luke and Noah were leaning in to kiss, the camera panned away from them and instead showed mistletoe to imply the kiss.) Many people have commented about how upset, angry and bothered they are. Of course, when people are unhappy, they are more likely to speak up!

The reactions really show how involved and invested people are in the storyline.  Fans are really interested, and they’re really eager to talk about it and comment on it.  We’ve seen an increase in people joining the site to be able to comment on the Nuke storyline and on As the World Turns.

Patrick: What are your personal thoughts, both as a gay man and as an industry observer, about this controversy?

Michael: Despite the lack of kissing, I still think it’s amazing that the show is showing, on a regular basis, two teenage guys in a relationship. We’ve seen them numerous times showing affection and being physically intimate in a way we are not seeing anywhere else. Yes, the show has gotten nervous about showing actual kissing, but they are NOT fiddling around with feelings — they showed a scene recently with Noah and Ameera where he made it very clear that he loved Luke.

I think it’s great that fans care and are speaking up. We supported the “Kiss Campaign,” which was started by one of our readers. But there also needs to be perspective that no other soap is doing this story. We need to remember who our enemies are, and who is supporting us.

PATRICK SAYS:

Thanks to Damon and Michael both for sharing their valuable perspectives.

As for me? Well, I, too, am angry, disappointed, and irritated. More than anything, though, I’m just exhausted. I’m sad that this is still an issue. I wish Luke loving Noah was no more or less intriguing to the audience than Gwen loving Will, and that the audience could just enjoy the quirkiness and the romance of both couples. I wish that Emma not wanting premarital sex under her roof was the biggest obstacle for these guys. (Kudos to ATWT for that twist, by the way — based in realism and the fact that Emma loves Luke but is also uncomfortable.) More than anything, I just wish romance for ALL couples would come back to the shows in a big way. In a time where love and romance are in short supply, I hope ATWT stands its ground and lets us see Luke and Noah in love. 

Comments

  1. Ron says:

    I would like to thank you for taking the time to look into this. The main thing is not having a kiss, it is showing it and to stop coming close to kissing, then bam, they yank back, someone walks in, the phone rings or something we have another one of the endless interruptions.

  2. Sean says:

    Damon Romine is clearly taking the side of ATWT’s producers over the fans (ala people who donate plenty of money to his organization!). I have been watching soaps for more than 25 years and I have NEVER seen the affection between a couple be so censored as Nuke’s. IMHO, ATWT should win GLAAD’s media award this year. However, GLAAD should withhold the statue until Luke and Noah’s story starts being presented fairly once again.

  3. bakedghoti says:

    There are just too many problematic areas in this whole Luke/Noah situation which is stopping a queer male fan of soaps like msyelf to get behind this couple and to get behind the vocal media outlets that are supporting them. Where to begin?

    1. I think PGP, TPTB at ATWT and TPTB at CBS are NOT homophobic. Not at all. They allowed the characters to kiss quite passionately in the past. As for their lack of screen time now, I think the pairing is simply not working. It’s not a question of them being gay, so they don’t get screen time. Luke/Noah are not working, so they are now relegated in the background. I think there was all this pressure/expectation/build up for Luke/Noah to open the door for more lgbt characters. They became more than 2 soap characters, they became the face of an agenda. And that is a turn off.

    2. From the get go, the acting has been problematic. In the hands of a more capable actor, perhaps Noah could’ve shined. But he’s weighed down by Silbermann’s lack of talent. His range is very limited and he is unconvincing. Hansis is slightly better, or less worse, so take your pick.

    3. The writing has been uneven at best. There was no buildup or motivation as to why Luke had feelings for Noah. It appeared like it was all in his head. And the writing has trivialized the coming out process since Noah’s coming out was more of an afterthought than an actual epiphany.

    4. Back to the acting though, how the hell could TPTB throw away Alexandra Chando (ex-Maddie) who inadvertently became more sympathetic than Luke/Noah. She was placed in the triangle as the roadblock to the 2, yet she ended up being the heroine since Luke/Noah were deceiving her. Also, AC was the best thing in the Luke/Noah storyline. She stole the spotlight, and made the audience root for her instead of Luke/Noah.

    5. The beard angle was terrible. Yes many queer men use beards, but it made Luke/Noah even more unsympathetic since they were fooling Maddie. If Maddie sticked around, and Noah was bisexual, then the storyline could still have some steam. This is a soap, and triangles are protracted anyway.

    6. The fans supporting Luke/Noah are just too rabid. People on various message boards were putting up banners saying Luke/Noah were the couple to watch even if they were not even paired yet onscreen since news broke of their pairing. And if you criticize the couple, they call you a homophobe. I criticized the couple, and a soap journalist called me a homophobe, so I had to tell him I’m queer. When will queer people realize that not everything is homophobic? It’s paranoid to think groups are conspiring against the screen time of fictional soap couples. It’s not a matter of Primetime being more sophisticated than Daytime. If the characters are working, and are generating $ for a company, then they’d always be onscreen. But Luke/Noah IMO failed to deliver the goods.

  4. Oakdalian says:

    The guy from GLAAD doesn’t get it AT ALL. With the current regime in charge, ATWT viewers expect the stories to suck, so it’s not like we’re dying to have Luke and Noah featured in another weird plot. How does a representative from a gay organization not realize the hypocrisy of featuring the Stonewall Inn and then a refusal to allow the simplest display of romantic physical affection – on a Valentine’s Day episode? “Near misses” pale in comparison to the near kisses that this couple doesn’t get to have. They might as well be straight guys experimenting.

  5. Julien says:

    Luke and Noah DO work as a couple. The romantic scenes between them on the Christmas Day episode were great but it was all “nuked” (so to speak) by Mistletoe Gate. Before Noah arrived, Luke was backburnered for 9 whole months. What’s the point of featuring a gay character if you’re not going to write for him or her? It’s just like daytime with minorities. Stop thinking of minorities and gays as such and JUST write for them.

    And I’m sorry but Alex Chando was not the best thing about that triangle. Maddie was dumbed down and fans had to endure endless kissing scenes with Noah! Not the best way to write a love story for two men.

  6. Sean says:

    That is in reply to “bakedghoti’s” comments:

    1. Nobody called or referred to ATWT, P&G, or CBS as homophobic. If that what you think the “controversy” is all about then you are clearly missing the point. How can a pairing that’s “not working” get loads of praise from fans and the media plus consistency come out on top of many online polls? ATWT’s only “agenda” should be to tell a good story with a fair portrayal of the characters.

    2. I agree the Jake Silbermann’s acting was a little hot and cold at times in the beginning of the Nuke storyline, but as of now I would say that Jake’s ability can sometimes rival Van Hansis’. Furthermore Mr. Hansis is one of the best actors on ATWT (and daytime) at the moment IMHO. I find the writing for Nuke to be more often problematic than the acting.

    3. I totally agree as I previously stated.

    4. I completely disagree with you here. I didn’t feel sympathy for Maddie because she jumped into bed with a guy she barely knew plus the show never even discussed whether or not they used a condom! Also Noah deceived Maddie, but Luke did not. Clearly you missed a couple of episodes. Luke went straight to Maddie and tried to tell her about Noah the moment he had confirmation that Noah was not 100% heterosexual. Their conversation was interrupted by Noah’s father. A couple of days later Maddie confronted Luke alone and asked him point blank if something was going on between him and Noah. Luke nervously told Maddie that she should speak to her boyfriend about it. I do not see any deception on Luke’s part there.

    5. Again Luke never tried to “fool” his friend. Noah did. I agree that Maddie should still be on the canvass. However, I am not personally interested in seeing a bisexual triangle story (at least not now).

    6. Explain “too rabid”? I think that Nuke fans both gay and straight are of seeing heterosexual characters 100% of the time on the shows that they watch. “People on various message boards were putting up banners saying Luke/Noah were the couple to watch even if they were not even paired yet onscreen since news broke of their pairing”
    Um, that was because ATWT marketed them as such in the press before Noah even aired! If you’re going to blame anyone for that then it’s the show’s fault. I’ve written 100 words already and I’ve yet to call anyone a homophobe nor have I seen anyone with a different opinion of the storyline be called one on the messageboards in which I visit regularly. The journalist that called you a homophobe was out of line and should have tried to find out why you felt a particular way about the matter before insulting a reader. Something are due to paranoia, others are obviously not. Again, if you were a regular viewer of ATWT’s Nuke storyline, then you would be able to delineate the difference between the two. “If the characters are working, and are generating $ for a company, then they’d always be onscreen.” That an interesting theory, but I seriously doubt that that is the reason for Nuke’s previous lack of screen time because they would not be getting a big new story now otherwise.

  7. Fabobug says:

    Such controversy!! I thought for a second I was at a Queer Nation rally from 1991 all over again!!

    I think it really sucks for P&G to pull the plug on the sexy time for this couple, or whomever is behind it. Make no mistake folks, this is not because of limited acting ability (since when has a soap pulled back for that?). This is POLITICS POLITICS POLITICS!! We live in a society which is still homophobic and terrified of celebrating same sex affection. P&G has always been particularly susceptible to the influence of the Religious Right. Fathers can rape daughters, cousins can do the nasty, but God forbid two boys kiss! Heavens!

    Look, I LOVE soaps, but I’ll be the first to say that since the 1980s they have been politically the most conservative entertainment out there. The lack of diversity as far as race, sexuality, and class has been lacking for a long long time. I happen to see Nuke as a step in the right direction but we have a long long long way to go.

  8. James says:

    Like everyone else, I’m frustrated by the lack of PDAs for Luke and Noah. Hand holding, hugs and pats on the back are getting old, when any heterosexual couple would be kissing like crazy at this point in te relationship. Definitely feels like ATWT is getting cold feet on this one.

    The lack of a kiss in the Valentine’s episode was insulting. But at the same time, Nuke was the only couple who they did a location shoot with in that episode. And since they invested the extra bucks to go all around NYC shooting what amounted to 5 minutes of screen time, they clearly are invested in the couple. But just think how much more satisfying that location shoot would have been for the fans if it had ended in a kiss.

    I wonder how much this current lack of storyline has to do with Van Hansis performing in Die, Mommie Die. I read they orginally planned to put Luke in a coma for most of the run of the play, but changed their mind once they realized how popular the couple had become. Takes a while to come up with new storylnes plots for them, espeically ones that are a well plotted out as their initial pairing. And thanks to the WGA strike, the scripts were being done by scabs who likely were in way over their head.

    Hopefully, now that the strike is over, the headwriters can get them back on the front burner quickly. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

    As for Jake Silberman’s performance, he’s learning about the craft as he goes along, just as so many other young performers on soaps have in years past (anyone recall Agim Kaba’s early performances when he was first hired?). And Jake has improved considerably since his debut in June. Is Lisa Brown still there as the acting coach for the young’un?

    Patrick says: James, I’m not sure who’s coaching the newer actors at ATWT these days. I know both Larkin Malloy and Lisa Brown have done that at both P&G soaps in the past.

  9. Levi says:

    I thought I would comment on watching ATWT and Oakdale Pride—-wow I couldn’t believe I saw a lot of GLBT (well at least the GLB) men and women out in the streets together. It made me feel good as a gay man to see Cyndi Lauper holding the Pride Flag in her hand. To even see the Pride Flag at all on my tv screen was like a milestone I never thought I would see on daytime t.v. But I am happy to see an attempt to showcase our cause. To educate viewers on why Cyndi does what she does might help viewers understand about the still ongoing discrimination and violence that still happens.

    Loved her singing and yes I think Nuke has chemistry, but then ATWT hits us with another hum-drum announcement that Noah has enlisted in the army…ugh!!!! It’s good Noah would want to enlist for Patriotism , but not as an escape mechanism from his father’s death, which this is obviously apparent.

    Would I have liked to see some of the regular cast members at Pride to compliment Luke and Noah: yes. Quite simply it would have been great to see Lily and Holden there with their son even though I know they have their own story going on, but it’s a minor gripe.

    I really don’t watch ATWT much but I keep up with the Nuke storyline. I watch GL and B&B so I don’t really want to add a 3rd soap haha! But I do catch glimpses of ATWT at least during the summer months. But at least we saw some more kissing and I am glad about that.

    I hope this will be an opening for more gay characters to emerge on soaps. Especially on B&B more so cause it would make the most sense.

    But today was great as for me to sit down and watch a wonderful episode and see GLBT represented today. Thank you to the writing staff!

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