Thinking Fans Comment Update: Jonnysbro can’t imagine Salem without Dr. Marlena Evans … while Christine thinks Deidre’s “many fans would follow her to the ends of the earth” … and more. See Comments below.
To mark executive producer Ken Corday’s ver-ry curious decision to fire Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn from Days of Our Lives, we here at Marlenadelacroix.com figured we’d pull out all the stops to honor both Dee and one of the most popular characters in history, let alone daytime history, namely Dr. Marlena Evans – 32 years in Salem, 32 years as a daytime superstar!
Yes, it’s our own Farewell Dee-A-Palooza. On successive days our Soap Shrink Damon L. Jacobs, Patrick Erwin and moi will examine why both actress and character were so mega-popular over the years. And we’ll reflect on what they mean to us personally. Day One: a man whose life was profoundly influenced by Dr. Marlena Evans — Damon L. Jacobs.
By Damon L. Jacobs
I must begin discussing Deidre Hall’s portrayal of Marlena Evans with a confession: I announced to my parents at age five that I intended to become a therapist, and forced everyone who came through the house to tell me their problems. During graduate school people often asked how I knew I wanted to study psychology so early in life. I made up answers about being altruistic, wanting to
We watched her struggle with her choices, and come to accept that she has the capacity to be caring and forgiving AND vengeful and impulsive.
help others, being instilled with a sense of healing, or something logical like that. I was too embarrassed to tell them the truth: I was five years old in 1976, the year Marlena Evans came to help the residents of Salem. She was beautiful, confident, intelligent, and was dating Don Craig. Who wouldn’t want to be exactly like her?
Over the next 10 years, Deidre Hall’s down-to-earth, realistic portrayal of this struggling woman would strike deep emotional chords in all of us. When she fell in love with Don, we loved him, too. When she cried over the death of her baby D.J., we cried, too. When she was terrorized with fear by the Salem Strangler, we felt afraid as well. When she found love again in the arms of her cop/protector Roman, it symbolized hope and second chances for all of us. And when her worst nightmare of Roman dying was realized, we felt her pain as she spent the next year grieving (unheard of by today’s rushed story standards).
Marlena was tragically “killed” in a helicopter crash in 1987, and then “revived” by Stefano DiMera four years later. Some have suggested that her emotional nuances have been missing since she returned. I would suggest that her appeal shifted from portraying emotional subtlety to symbolizing inner structural dichotomies. Since 1991, Marlena has been portrayed as somewhat cool, calm, and detached. So when she started doing very un-Marlena like things under the influence of the DiMera or the Devil himself, like burning churches or killing off half the town, it made for ratings gold. Her struggles represented our own psychic apparatus containing the classic “superego” (i. e., the rational controlled self) vs. the “id” (i. e, the wild, impulsive, gratification seeking self). Or to put it another way, it was relevant and meaningful to watch the “nice” Marlena struggle with the “wild” Marlena.
In this past year, Marlena enthralled us again by violently immobilizing Stefano with a drug that completely paralyzed him physically, but left him cognitively aware, essentially leaving him a waking corpse. What made this action shocking was that it was really Marlena performing it. There was no mind control, no satanic influence, just one pissed off lady. We watched her struggle with her choices, and come to accept that she has the capacity to be caring and forgiving AND vengeful and impulsive. She no longer had to divide these virtues within herself as she learned to balance them all. After 32 years, she has finally found some peace within herself. Perhaps the best thing we can do to honor her absence is to search for this balance within ourselves as well.
Damon L. Jacobs is a family and relationship therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of the newly published book, Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve. For more information, go to www.shouldless.com.