Thinking Fans on the roof with Marty and Todd: John isn’t convinced Todd jumped out of remorse … Steve cringes at soaps’ attempted suicide for pity stunt … while Damon L. Jacobs (our Soap Shrink), on the serious side of the subject, points out the greater risk of suicide among gay teens … and more. See Comments below.
By Marlena De Lacroix
I was truly shocked and remain so by last Monday’s episode of One Life to Live in which Todd attempted suicide by voluntarily jumping into the Llantano River from the roof of the Palace Hotel. His enraged two time rape victim/love object Marty had lured him there and dared him to jump. He was spared an icy demise, however, when John rescued him.
Suicide for Todd? Pretty radical! In his decade and a half in Llanview, sociopath Todd has never shown any remorse over any of the awful things he’s done, including his crimes against Marty. What really puzzles me is that for such a major story point, ABC gave Todd’s close encounter with suicide little advance publicity. Even more suspicious is that almost nothing has been made of this bizarre incident and major personality change on the soap since it happened.
I’ve always been fascinated by the topic of suicide on soap operas. Suicides by major characters are very, very rare, and even attempted suicides don’t happen all
I hope the writers take some social responsibility and remember that suicide is all too frequent in America, a plague that especially affects soaps’ target demo — young people.
that often. I theorize that the reason suicide is done so rarely on soaps is because the whole subject might be a little too close to home for an audience that characteristically spends hours and hours a day in their houses watching soaps.
As a college student, I used to shut myself away in my room during vacations and watched soaps to escape growing pains and the heartbreak of adolescent romances. Soaps are a depressed person’s best friend, especially since self-isolation is so common. When depression is a serious disease, it is one of the factors that could lead to suicide.
Interestingly, the only suicides by major soap characters I can remember in my many years of watching soaps all happened on OLTL. In the 70s bubbly ex-hooker Lana (played by Jackie Zeman before she left to play Bobbie on General Hospital) committed suicide because her lover, snobby Brad, wouldn’t take her seriously. In 2003. Kerri Reynolds (Sherry Saum) committed suicide, leaving a young baby to the care of her father Antonio. Oh yes, in a very strange story last year, The Bold and the Beautiful‘s ratty Storm committed suicide to give his sick sister Katie a heart.
In researching this column, several ex soap journalist friends have kindly offered up names of characters in suicide stories. Such major characters as Beth on Guiding Light and Kendall on All My Children made attempts. But most on soaps who actually succeeded in killing themselves turned out to be background or minor (usually villainous) characters. I invite you to send me your memories of soap suicide victims.
Whether it be major or minor characters, suicide is not a topic that should be taken lightly on soaps. Especially now, when soap writers are desperate for ratings, and the only thing they think guarantees a bump in the ratings is a stunt that shocks the audience. Hey, I certainly noticed and was heavily affected by Todd’s rather nonchalant dive into the drink this week! But I hope the writers take some social responsibility and remember that suicide is all too frequent in America, a plague that especially affects soaps’ target demo — young people. According to the American Psychiatric Association, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people 15 to 24. Young women (target demo for soaps) attempt suicide three times more frequently than men. And the World Health Organization says someone attempts suicide somewhere in the world every 39 seconds.
But, do soap writers give a damn about social responsibility anymore? If the misogyny shown in OLTL‘s Todd and Marty second rape story is any indication, the answer is no.
Whatever the politics are, I have a feeling that Todd’s suicide attempt might not be the last we see of death in his storyline on OLTL. Sweeps are coming, Todd still “wuvs’ Marty and we’re asked to believe that entirely new feelings of guilt and remorse have entered his life. Who knows where all this is going to lead? Because if Todd can evade the hypothermia that would likely result from a real life leap into a Pennsylvania river early January, he probably can walk on water, too.