By Marlena De Lacroix
Yesterday, I was trying to write my long promised column against the most perversely inhuman, possibly most disturbing soap storyline of all time, but the words just would not come out. I’m talking about the General Hospital storyline written by Bob Guza that began with 12-year-old Michael getting shot in the head and climaxed with his parents Sonny and Carly screwing in the back seat of a limo after delivering their comatose son to a long-term care facility. That I felt paralyzed and couldn’t write was very odd because I’d been angrily “writing” the words of the column every day in my head since that day six weeks ago when a shot meant for Sonny rang out in the coffee warehouse and mistakenly hit Michael.
Still searching for my muse, I decided to switch gears and tune in to All My Children. And there was Larry Lau as Greg Nelson, returning after nearly 25 years for the wedding of Angie and Jesse. Great friends during their days as high school students, Greg and Angie and Jesse reminisced about the very, very sweet love story of Greg and his now long-dead wife, Jenny, who as we all know also included the special bond of remarkable friendship that existed between Jesse and Jenny. The flashbacks started rolling: Greg meeting a very young though dazzlingly beautiful Jenny (played by Kim Delaney in her TV debut) in a high school classroom … their first kiss … Jesse and Jenny hanging out on the fire escape during their special summer in New York … Greg saving Jenny Graduate-style from marrying the icky Tony … Greg ecstatically kissing Jenny at their joyous wedding …
And I started to cry. All my pent up emotions started pouring out …
Which is very strange, because back in early 80s, I never particularly like Greg and Jenny.
They were just a young, popular couple, but not worldly enough to interest the likes of sophisticated soap watcher moi. At the time, I was a young career gal who was more interested in older, more complexly cerebral couples like the sexy and intelligent Sky and Raven on Edge of Night, the ever storm-tossed Mac and Rachel on Another World and the pure madness of Holly and Roger on Guiding Light.
The fact is, back then I had a dozen intelligently written and acted couples to choose from on more than a dozen soaps written by names like Marland, Labine, amd Bell. It goes without saying that soaps were so much better all those years ago. Even though I personally was not a Greg and Jenny fan, all of AMC was just brilliant then, written by Agnes Nixon and a staff of terrific associate writers, with true wisdom and understanding of the absolute truth of the human condition. Much like her story of teen lovers Tara and Phil with which she launched AMC in 1970, Nixon’s Greg and Jenny was a beautifully written, deeply human take on the universal experience of first love. So classic, poignant and enduring, in fact, that one of the 25-year-old clips instantly tugged at my heart and triggered a torrent of tears.
Later, in the middle of the night, I couldn’t help but try to unravel the very complex and contrary contexts of my paralysis over writing about GH, and my outpouring of tears about old AMC. As you know, I lost my father last month and when you are bereaved your whole way of thinking becomes much more emotional and reaches for a deeper level. You start wondering about what is eternal, what is passed on to you by your parents, what counts in life, what is truly good and what is truly bad. And what kind of messages about what truly means something in life you are passing on to others. It’s corny, but the truth is all we have.
And then it hit me exactly why the Michael story on GH is really so repugnant, why I had had so much trouble writing about it. Everything about the Michael story is so false, so unhuman, so contrary to the interior world of human logic and bona fide human feelings. An naive twelve-year-old buys a gun, and then the man who wrote the story, Bob Guza, goes to Entertainment Weekly and tells a writer that Michael was shot because he had it coming in some sort of twisted demonstration of poetic justice. Huh? Then after an operation, Michael goes into a coma which the doctors tell his mother is irreversible. And Carly refuses to listen to them, because in her head, she “knows” Michael will wake up. Huh? What parent, what mother, doesn’t listen to doctors when their child’s life is at stake? I take this monstrous plot twist as more evidence of the total disrespect and misogyny Guza has for women. Speaking of, Carly and Sonny’s “reunion” screwing in the limo was surely the low point of daytime dramatic history. Was this “reunion sex” between two divorced “supercouple characters” supposed to be the “payoff” to the long, awful shooting-of-Michael story? Perverse, disgusting!
And a long, long way from the days when daytime was highly rated and beloved because it gave us authentic love and romance in the afternoon. Guza first turned that mode of civilized behavior inside out — perverted it — over 12 years ago to give us a soap in which crime is good, the villains are the good guys and there is no such thing as right and wrong. (Which was not his own, but stolen from Mario Puzo!) Enough already! With this storyline he has reached the outer limits to this bogus storytelling, which has no ring of truth to it, no emotional authenticity whatsoever.
How disingenuous it was for Guza to run to a magazine to try and justify the shooting of a twelve-year-old, to sanctimoniously try to convince readers that the ugliness he had made us watch was all for the good, namely to reunite Sonny and Carly, two characters who are emotionally impaired (to be polite) and dangerous, irresponsible parents. I don’t care if he did all this to get Sonny out of the mob! It was still a month of soap opera which sought to get ratings through shooting children and adulterous sex under the most sleazeball circumstances. In the end, what it was really appealing to was the most prurient interests of the audience.
There — I’ve found some words for the Michael story, which is about as wrong and corrupt as soap opera is these days. No wonder I wept when I was reminded of the purity and simple emotional truth of the Greg and Jenny days on AMC. True love — and great, humanistic writing — are all soaps need, twenty five years later. Or ever.