By Marlena De Lacroix
I never liked the character of Todd Manning on One Life to Live. I never understood him. After he was introduced in 1992 as one of three gang rapists of college coed Marty Saybrooke, the character skyrocketed to become one of most popular characters on OLTL, if not all of soaps, and has stayed that way until today.
Why? Why have millions of soap viewers been obsessed — enamored — with this convicted rapist for the last 16 years (with hiatuses, as when the character left town and returned)? Why has the show devoted years of storyline time to and all but made a hero out of … a criminal?
Perhaps now, the mystery of Todd will be fully unraveled. After years of endless storylines meant to redeem him (which I will recount below), OLTL looks like it may finally explore and perhaps unlock the psyche that should have been explored long ago. Last week,Todd became violent for the first time since the rape, seriously beating young Cole (son of his rape victim Marty) after he caught him in bed (possibly) deflowering his daughter Starr. Earlier he had slapped Starr’s friends Markko and Langston when he thought they were hiding Cole and Starr’s whereabouts.
Finally, finally, a watershed moment for myself and other Todd haters! He is a brute after all! Is this the beginning of a storyline which will delve into Todd’s mind, and interestingly enlighten viewers as to the complexities of a character who is mentally ill … a man who is suffering perhaps from psychosis? Or will it just be another springboard to build sympathy for Todd, daytime’s favorite rapist?
Of course, that’s up to the current headwriter of OLTL. Just by insightfully making Todd violent again, Ron Carlivati has kicked off what could be the most memorable OLTL story of all, if done with intelligence, compassion and logic. Let’s see.
As OLTL viewers know, much of the credit for Todd’s early popularity went to Roger Howarth, the Emmy-winning actor who first played him. Brooding, bitter and downright nasty, this character was an odd pick for audience favorite. Eventually, Howarth disagreed with the direction the character was going in and left the show. (He now plays Paul Ryan on OLTL timeslot competitor As the World Turns.) Trevor St. John, who has played the role since 2003, has made Todd a mix of arrogance, belligerence and dark blonde good looks.
The show has given Todd endless stories to redeem him after the rape: On the way back from a very short jail term, he saved the lives of two adorable children in an train accident … he was given two beautiful women, Blair and Tea, to marry and love … a rich family life with Blair resulted in two children, including Starr, the daughter who worshipped him. Recently he was raped by a woman (!) who secretly gave birth to his son. That son was given up to adoption without his knowledge and he recently got the son back.
All the while Todd has lived on the $27 million he inherited right after the rape (around the time his character grew popular with the audience) from his biological father, Victor Lord. He’s became a newspaper publisher and enjoyed the unquestioning love of his half-sister, Viki, the show’s main heroine and figure of good.
Now that Todd has become violent again by attacking his daughter’s friends, will One Life to Live adequately explain what is going on in his head, and what has been going on for the last 16 years? If I understood him — and Todd finally understood himself and all of his actions — maybe I’d stop hating him. It’s all up to the writers of OLTL now!