Susan Haskell as Marty, Trevor St. John as Todd — ABC Photo by Heidi Gutman
Thinking Fans Comment Update Nov. 9: Miajere laments the misogyny in daytime … Christian in Boston is disgusted by Todd’s elevation to “redeemed and tortured anti-hero” status … Steve protests Todd-Marty story exists “for no other reason than shock value” … and more. See Comments below.
By Marlena De Lacroix
It’s disgusting. Which is what I think all the columnists and most fan posters in the soap community are saying after seeing amnesiac Marty Saybrooke sleep with her one-time rapist Todd Manning on One Life to Live Thursday afternoon . But disgusting doesn’t begin to describe this descent into exploitation and audience insult.
If you care about soaps, this story is way, way beyond disgusting. And if you are still trying to figure exactly out why they are dying, come with me and have a long look at this story in the context of soap history.
Years ago soaps were about love, family and relationships. They were ridiculed in the outside world because their storylines sometimes stretched reality. To combat this, and show how smart and valuable soaps were, Agnes Nixon invented the idea
It’s a nasty punch in the face to women, still the majority audience for soaps … and to make it worse, TPTB don’t even see it!
of exploring educational social issue stories, which in the 60s she introduced on Guiding Light, when a character, Bert Bauer, had uterine cancer. Dozens of great issue stories later, a writer new to daytime, Michael Malone, brought the new character of Marty onto OLTL, and one night in 1993 Todd (then only known as Frat Boy # 2) and two of his college buddies raped her.
At the time I disliked the story. The characters had no ties to the OLTL canvas (Todd had not been made Viki’s half-brother yet), and the story lacked any kind of love or romance, which at that time was the essence of soaps. I wrote it was about new producers and writers showing off, not trying to produce good soap opera. Meanwhile Malone, a brilliant man and a genuine writer with deeply religious values and a past English professorship at Duke University, constructed a story of great depth, showing how ugly the human soul can be, and correspondingly the healing power of great compassion. The story had little romance, yet it captured the essence of humanity and deservedly won tons of Emmys.
Fast forward 15 years to today, when soaps have been made entirely plot-centric and dumbed down, and intelligence, common sense and heart have been purged. Very few of these shows portray recognizable emotional reality anymore. As a result, the audience has fled in droves.
In a promo for this current Todd-Marty nonsense (the most phony, stupidly contrived story I have ever seen) Marty, robbed of her mind and memory by amnesia, is shown in black bikini underwear, vamping Todd to make love to her. As the ABC promo trumpets it, this is “The story you thought you’d never see.” Not only is this story not about love, relationships and family, it also lacks soul, humanity and even a shred of human emotional truth. It’s so empty and exploitative, to viewers it may as well be a porn movie. What I think it really may be about is hatred of women. What woman would want to watch another woman who has been raped, then because the victim suffers from a convenient case of amnesia, be lured into the rapist’s lair, encouraged by her rapist to fall in love with him, and then beg him to make love to her? Yuck! Misogyny dressed up as a soap opera storyline!
Contrived to appeal to the prurient interests of the audience, not their minds or souls, this story is just perverse. Though there are no exposed body parts here, it does nakedly show the desperation of an American television network fighting off the fact that the era of the show itself, the medium of soaps, and yes, maybe even old school network television is almost over. It’s a nasty punch in the face to women (still the majority audience for soaps!) by all three and to make it worse, TPTB don’t even see it. Even two of Marlena’s best male soap friends like the Todd-Marty story — one calls Todd and Marty making love and the five months of captivity and lies that led up to it an “interesting psychological study” the other is pleased “because I’ve always loved gimmick stories.”
It shocks me that my good friends and OLTL‘s producers and writers and ABC soaps executives have such a blind spot to the sexism and wrong-headedness of this story. Whose soap world is it, anyway? This story defiles the historic core of the soap audience — women, plus any one of either sex who knows right from wrong. No morality, no heart, no recognizable human truth — the 2008 Todd and Marty story illustrates exactly why soaps are dying.