Soap Shrink: Is One Life to Live’s Blair Cramer a Tramp or an Icon of Female Empowerment?

Thinking Fans Comment Update Sept. 4:  Matthew Cormier suggests a no sex vow might help Blair heal … Johnny, however, can’t fathom the randy Blair in therapy … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Damon L. Jacobs

You’ve got to hand it to Blair Cramer.  She may have grown up in foster homes, she may have a nasty temper, she may soon be one of they youngest grandmothers on daytime.  But she has more than proven her capacity to be resourceful, resilient, and to have a seriously good head for business.

Unfortunately, most would say that’s not the part of the body she’s usually thinking with.

That is because very few soap vixens match the sexual tenacity of our dear Ms. Cramer (played by Kassie DePaiva).  When it comes to notches on the bedpost, she has most of them beat.   Young or old, poor or rich, liar or upstanding citizen, these labels matter little to Blair.  She is best known for her on again / off again shenanigans with Todd Manning and Max Holden.  But her conquests also include Asa Buchanan, his grandsons Cord and Kevin, as well as heroic Patrick Thornheart, murderous Spencer Truman, virtuous Sam Rappaport, struggling Christian Vega, and now uptight John McBain.

On a sociopolitical level, I find Blair’s sexual attitude refreshing.  Male characters such as Max, John, and Christian have a new woman in their bed every year or few months, and no one seems to finds this outrageous or offensive.  Heck, Asa had at

I would encourage her to take a honest look of how she has used sex to distract herself from painful emerging feelings.

least eleven wives and was considered a Texan stud.  But when a woman sleeps with a man for no other reason than seeking sexual gratification, this sets off moral alarm bells.  It seems to me this is another double standard (like the weight issue discussed several weeks ago) that holds women to much more rigid expectations than their male counterparts.

As the Soap Shrink, however, I do have concerns about Blair’s behaviors.  When someone ALWAYS needs to be romantically or sexually involved with a different person, I have to wonder if she is using sex and companionship to prevent herself from looking at painful issues.  Let’s face it, growing up being tossed around to different foster homes could not have been easy.  Having a mother with a crippling mental illness and being a child of a rape can also bring up a multitude of troubling emotional concerns, especially when it comes to trusting and attaching to others.

One might think that a child growing up with these issues would be withdrawn and cautious.  But the exact opposite can often be the case.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Blair survived her tumultuous childhood by becoming an extrovert, the life of the party, all the while defining herself by who is giving her the most attention in the moment.  Underneath the tough facade, however, there is a very scared and vulnerable little girl who truly has no identity without some type of interest from a man.  It’s as if she has an existential crisis if she is not the center of someone’s affection, for then she would be forced to face who Blair Cramer is beneath the pretty surface.

As an adult, then, it makes sense that she is terrified of being without a partner, and uses her body and her relationships as a way to make sure she has never has to face this fear.  This would certainly help to explain why a woman well into her 40s would continue to dress and act in ways that are more common for women in their early 20s.  Her relationship with Todd has offered Blair a perfect way to mix attention, sex, and drama, all in one abusive package.  Blair herself recently pointed out to John that she felt at “home” with Todd, and this comfortable feeling was part of what motivated her to partake in this abusive dynamic for so long.  However, no sooner did she come to accept this realization did she jump into bed with John, and began her new project of changing his all black wardrobe.

Therapy with Blair would involve building trust, exploring her memories as a foster child, and learning more about how being a product of rape has impacted her long-term relationship with a rapist.  It will take a lot of courage on Blair’s part to face these issues, but I think now more than ever she is up to this challenge.  She seems nearly on the verge of making some of these discoveries on her own, if only she could stay out of a man’s bed long enough to let herself have them!  On that note, I would never advise Blair to stop having sex.  But I would encourage her to take a honest look of how she has used sex to distract herself from painful emerging feelings.

What do you think, Thinking Fans?  Is Blair just a tramp who needs to grow up?  Or is she an icon of female sexual empowerment with emotional baggage?  The Soap Shrink wants to know!

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Damon L. Jacobs is a family and relationship therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve, to be published in November by Morgan James Publishing.  Check out his website, www.shouldless.com.

Comments

  1. Matthew Cormier says:

    I love your take on Blair, i do think one of the most powerful things she can do to improve her life is to take a no sex vow and allow herself the chance to explore life without sex and to explore a relationship with a man (in this case John) that doesn’t involve sex at all. Than she’ll find what motivates her other than sex and could find an even deeper bond than sex could provide. I also think she would need to take a look at the relationship she has with Dorian, who basically became her second mother and has had a hand in almost all of Blair’s relationships.

    Damon says: Thank you Matthew, for your thoughtful response. I agree, a no-sex vow would probably do a lot for Blair’s emotional development at this point. Her relationship with Dorian is also complicated — she seems to ignore all of Dorian’s guidance and advice when it comes to choosing partners.

  2. Johnny says:

    Damon,
    I think you’ve missed a major aspect of Blair Cramer’s personality. She is a classic soap bitch — and I mean this in the best possible way. She’s admitted it herself on more than one occasion (especially when comparing herself to other women). I’m reminded of the last time she was at war with her cousin Kelly after the baby switch storyline. I believe the line was approximately “Kelly plays the helpless victim, but deep down she’s a bigger liar and bitch than I could ever hope to be!” Asa always descrived her as a “She-Devil” for a reason. When Blair is scheming, she has a tenacity and drive that is unrivaled on OLTL.

    Blair is at her best when she has an enemy, whether that be a man who done her wrong, or a woman who attempted to steal her man. She does feel threatened by romantic rivals — see Evangeline, Tea, or Marty for examples. But to posit that Blair is “a tramp who needs to grow up” is to overlook the fact that Blair HAS grown up. She goes to great lengths to protect her family: her children, her cousins, her only recently cured mother, and her aunt Dorian — whom one could imagine she has patterned her life after. Blair has the potential to be Dorian in 20 years. I’ll leave it to you to judge whether that is a good or bad thing.

    I’ve been a fan of KDP since Blair stopped being Asian, and she imbues Blair Cramer with so much heart that a viewer can’t help but be swept up in her story. Blair is a woman of the 21st century. She enjoys sex and has it when the opportunity presents itself. She often wears her heart on her sleeve, but isn’t about to let a man call the shots for long — witness her taking custody of the kids and control of the family away from Todd, and the many times she has inflicted physical harm on David Vickers. She may never settle down and be the staid housewife or businesswoman in a stable relationship, but I have to believe if she ever did she would soon grow bored and take on a young lover. I cannot fathom Blair in therapy, unless she became the patient of a hot young doctor and seduced him in his office. Blair Cramer is an empowered woman who ultimately will decide which men she deigns to spend time with, which men will never deserve her, and which men will be left to nurse a broken heart after she has moved on to her next relationship.

    Damon says: Interesting response, Johnny. You obviously are a devoted fan of Blair’s and KDP. I happen to greatly admire Blair’s sexual prowess, and I agree she has grown a lot in the past year. But it seems to me that every time she gets close to truly asserting her independence, she turns to a man for validation. Her latest fling with McBain seems like an obvious attempt to distract herself from the breakthrough she was this close to having about her life being defined by men. “C’est la vie” as Marlena may say.

  3. soapster says:

    i know soap life draws from real life but please, the Blair has had a rough life going through foster care, child of a rapist, blah, blah. I have known many of strong woman who came from similar and worst backgrounds and they don’t use sex as a protectant.

    Blair has issues, she uses sex to empower her, what does that make her, not a sexually liberated female who knows her self worth and embraces it and doesn’t care what the next person thinks. She is an aging female who is holding on to the one thing that she feels makes her worthy in life, her sexuality, and that is a shame.

    I think the character of Blair should be more then this, is capable of more than this. She is a survivor, but she is a mother and she needs to be a role model to her children.

    Damon says: Hi there, Soapster. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree here, as I certainly do not perceive Blair’s sexual expression as a “shame.” And if you check out my website, you’ll also see I wouldn’t use “should” to encourage insight or growth. However, I do absolutely agree with you that she is a survivor and is capable of managing her issues without sexual distractions.

  4. Matthew Cormier says:

    I agree with Johnny: one major part of Blair’s personality in the past has been that when she feels threatened in any way she turns into a psychopath — when Kelly accidently ran her over it started Blair down a dangerous path of hatred and resentment. When Marty and Patrick were dating, Blair was at her most ruthless, scheming to break them up and make Marty look like a villian. When Luna Moody owned Serenity Springs, Blair used every trick in the book to get it away from her and was truly ruthless.

    The thing, though, is that Blair has owned up to this on her own accord. Several months ago when she and Todd broke up she admitted to Dorian that “I used to be a evil, evil person, we both were, me and Todd, the difference is that I grew up and Todd didn’t”. (That is a paraphrase of what she said.)

    One other thing about Blair, though: she is strong and independant. Ii’ve noticed that at times she does let men walk all over her and control her. Imean it took her how long to stand up to Todd for his treatment of Starr and Cole? She spent how much time letting Spencer Truman lie to her? It’s only when things become so desperate and dark that Blair is able to stand up and put an end to things. It took Todd throwing Starr down a flight of stairs for her to stand up to him.

    Damon says: Exactly, Matthew! Blair has definitely matured and evolved. So then it’s extra frustrating for me to see her reverting back to old patterns with John.

  5. chyti says:

    In this time and age, I feel a woman does not have to hide her sexuality, make excuses for it or apologize for it. Yet a woman needs to own her sexuality and not let it define who you are.

    Where is the smart independent woman who doesn’t need a man but enjoys one? The take charge business woman and the no nonsense mother who protects her family like a mother bear. Instead we have the infatuated bed hopper, squealing like a teenager about her newest sex partner.

  6. Gene says:

    I agree with you that Blair does need to see a therapist to deal with her unhealthy relationship with Todd and men and her children because this back-and-forth routine is not making fans root for her. I just hope that RC takes her to a point that she gets rid of being in Todd’s shadow and rises with her own life without being defined by a man. I like her and John because they have hot chemistry and he can help her get over Todd and move on with her life. I hope that she goes to see someone to deal with her issues as a child and of a mentally ill mother.

    Damon says: I’m with ya, Gene. I would love to see Blair move forward and look more at her relationship with her mother. I also wonder if we’ll EVER find out who her father is.

  7. CeCe says:

    I really enjoyed reading your take on Blair. I have always thought and still do think that Blair suffers from incredible low self esteem even though she is very good at masking it with false bravado. Here she is a beautiful smart successful woman who has fought for the good things in her life and at the same time she stands meek and speechless as a man verbally abuses her in front of her daughter or just gives her new born baby away and hands her a can of dirt to pray and cry over among other things and then goes back to that man repeatedly basically sabotaging any real stability that she and her children will ever have.

    I also saw her as a person who fears the very thought of standing still long enough to think or relive what she has been through in her life, especially the painful parts of her life because she is always trying to out run the “Cramer Curse” I think she she thinks she is very susceptible and she simply will not dwell on her weaker moments because it might only serve to prove she is closer to the insanity that has plagued her family’s women rather then be the normal and mundane person she seems to need to believe she is. That’s why she has never once thought about being a child of a rapist who married a rapist and had children with him. IMO that is really far from being normal. If she thought about it would mean she would have to admit it that to herself and to admit it would mean she is crazy.

    She has always encouraged her children to admire their father and made Todd a hero to them I have always wondered if she would see her own father that way or would she hate him for hurting her mother? That a storyline I’d love to see played out.

    I was interested t see that you didn’t diagnose Blair as having any particular mental ailment. She has been known to hear voices and prone to having conversations and fights with figments of her imagination when she is feeling pressed. Am I wrong to think she is completely neurotic when she is not being totally delusional LOL.

    Once again thanks for shrinking our soaps!

    Damon says: Ah, thanks CeCe! I also think there is plethora of inner turmoil underneath her cool facade, and if she ever learned more about her father, it would come out. The father storyline will be gold, if they ever choose to tell it, especially if her father turns out to be someone similar to Todd (how’s that for more Freudian!). As far as diagnoses, I think Blair is relatively well adjusted, given the circumstances. I think anyone can be prone to hearing inner or outer voices when sleep deprived and under tremendous stress, but it does not seem to carry with her when she is not in these situations. So, the Soap Shrink says diagnostically she’s okay!!em>

  8. Heather says:

    Sex does not equal empowerment!!! Blair has not changed since she has been on the show and I doubt she ever will. I don’t mind Blair having sex — she plays the hoe on the show after all — I do mind when that is her whole story. I do mind when she has a pregnant 16-year-old at home and a toddler and a pre-teen and she leaves to have a booty call. There comes a time after the 20s when booty calls should be a thing of the past. As you get older it is just pathetic. Blair has become boring to me because she never changes. She just hops from one bed to the other — it is getting old. I want to see the she-devil of Llanview again. I would have loved to see Blair and Dorian running CE together, or her bonding with her mother, or hell, even being a part of Starr’s storyline. Instead I have to watch her and John have stupid conversations about Todd and John’s clothes and then have sex. I can’t stand this Blair. She is weak and boring. She is either a mattress or a doormat.

    Damon says: Thank you for the giggle, Heather. I actually differ with you about Starr. I’m actually liking how she is treating Starr with respect and dignity throughout this whole pregnancy. I think the old Blair would have freaked, but with Starr she is being unconditionally loving and supportive. This is another reason why I believe she has evolved and is ready to take on her own emotional issues more seriously.

  9. sheliaainsworth says:

    I know without a doubt Blair is no tramp.i grew up as a foster child and you always feel like that you don’t have the love that other children have and you feel so alone and you always are searching for that love of parents, companionship and friends that you didn’t have when you was growing up, and you will do just about anything to feel love from someone. I know this is just a story but my hat go off to Kassie Depaiva, she does a great Job of playing Blair Cramer and in my book she is the best actress and singer ever. She puts her whole heart intoentertaining and you can feel the love she has for people. Growing up if I could have picked my parents, she would definitely be the one I would want. She is one of a kind. Thanks for letting me leave a comment.

    Damon says: Thank you, Sheila, so much for sharing your personal insights into Blair’s motivations. I am very touched!

  10. Nicole A. says:

    I loved your article! Thank you for taking the time to do this in depth analysis on KDP’s Blair. I am first and foremost a huge fan of KDP and her acting/singing ability.

    Blair is a very interesting character, and I believe the writers have a lot more unpacking they could do for her character. I would love to see them go down the path of rediscovering her childhood. It would be really interesting to see her realize how her past has shaped her feelings towards men maybe even subconsciously. Maybe she could go to a therapist on the show and discover it that way, or maybe somehow she would have a run in with her father again. I would definitely like to see more of the layers of her past.

    Damon says:Thank you, Nicole, I completely agree. I think the very fact that we still find this character compelling after nearly 15 years says a lot about the psychological depth of Blair.

  11. Farrah says:

    I think that Blair is one heck of a women. I think used too years ago, she used sex as a tool or a weapen to get what she wanted,but now with John, I dont think thats the case at all,I think she truely likes him and enjoys his company and the most important thing,he listens to her.

    As far as Blair’s childhood goes, growing up in a foster home and being a child of rape, I wished the writers would go into her past more ,so we the viewers would understand her a lot better. I have been hoping for that storyline for years now.
    As you can tell, I am a big fan of Kassie’s and I think that Blair and John could be a great couple,but more important hes a great friend to Blair.

    Damon says: Well Farrah, I too would love to see Blair happy in a relationship. But I don’t see John as being that guy. Until she learns to be happy on her own, I don’t think she can truly be happy with someone else. I think John is a yummy distraction for her, one she’s going to get bored with sooner than later (or vice-versa). But as I’ve said in the other comments, I also hope we learn more about her past.

  12. BL says:

    One theme I wish they had explored more with Blair was how she deals with the fact that Sam was a child of rape, just like she is. A couple of shows they had Blair “see” Margaret, but her not being Sam’s mother isn’t the whole story.

    I also wanted more with Langston and Blair due to the foster child issue. There are so many deeper and different angles they could do with Blair’s character, and I wish they would focus on them in addition to Blair/Todd tug-o-war.

    Damon says: From your words to Ron Carlivati’s computer, Bloss, I hope!!

  13. Carrie says:

    Very interesting. I have never heard of a site where you are actually analyzing a soap character and, well, this is a wonderful tribute to Kassie who plays the part as an actress that you would analyze the fictional character she plays. I love Ms. DePavia’s acting and her character is a strong person who often gets caught up in her own emotions, and is as we see when she falls in love, is not the bitch of daytime she wants to be but a wonderful mom, and the best wife she can be if her dork of a husband (have you analyzed him yet … wow, that might take days on his character LOLl) would quit, pretending to kill off their children/grandkids and kidnapping people, maybe their marriage would work! But hey that’s why we soap fans watch, to see the continous cycle of lives not our own and escape into theirs. :)

    Damon says: Welcome, Carrie! I’m so pleased you visited us. You can see more “Soap Shrink” columns by clicking on the link in the menu on the right side of this page. And no, you have’t missed Todd analysis yet, keep reading!

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