One Life to Live Insults Women — Again!

Thinking Fans argue pros and cons of OLTL’s Grey Gardens spoof: Marilyn Henry applauds, “It never occurred to me it was anti-woman at all. I was happy to see two of the show’s vets get a big chunk of air time in an imaginative bit of spoofiness” … while Steve says, “This spoof fell flat for me because it wasn’t about Blair or Dorian at all. It was about Todd. And we saw that Blair was worthless because she did not have her dream man” … and much more. See Comments below.

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Remember Nola’s fantasies on Guiding Light in the early 80s?  She imagined herself as the heroine in movies like The Wizard Of Oz, Wuthering Heights and Gone With the Wind.  These fantasies had, from the start, been part of the character of a poor but spunky girl living in her mother’s Springfield boarding house.gg  These movies were all classics, so when GL actually went out and produced the fantasy scenes (starring Nola) the audience automatically knew what they were watching.

Yesterday on One Life to Live, we were shown Dorian actually dressed up as a weird old woman in a housecoat and Blair wearing some kind of headscarf in a surreal  incarnation of La Boulie filled with disorder, trash and cats.  Was this a movie fantasy?  Blair never had movie fantasies before and she’s been

Daytime used to distinguish itself by doing social issue stories on the mentally ill.  How times have changed!   How revolting it is yet again to see a network’s misogyny on display.

on the show nearly twenty years. How organic to her character is this?

I’m sure there were many OLTL viewers across America who didn’t know what they were watching. What the hell was this supposed to be? I didn’t know. Was it an “in” joke?

So I looked it up on Soapnet.   It turns out that Dorian and Blair were in a spoof of Grey Gardens, which last was a 2009 HBO TV movie; before that a 2006 Broadway musical (earning Tonys for its two lead actresses and its costumer designer), and before that — the original source material — a cult documentary made in 1975.  It was about two ladies — mother, Big Edie and daughter, little Edie — who lived in a decrepit mansion in swanky East Hampton, Long Island; were aunt and cousin to Jackie O, and … who just happened to be severely mentally ill.  They lived and died amid the absolute squalor of their home, where their dozens of cats urinated everywhere.

You’d think this was a nightmare no soap would want to spoof. Very interesting …  hmm … making fun of mentally ill women on OLTL. Hmm, why does this sound familiar?

And then it hit me.   Addie.   A year ago, I wrote a very, very angry column about the way Blair’s mother Addie, also Dorian’s sister, was being treated.  For the last seventeen years of OLTL, she had been in and out of a mental hospital. Addie Last year,  we were assured she was “cured,” but then she started doing “funny” things around La Boulie, like wearing scuba gear to dinner, and, funniest of all, sleeping with David Vickers, the show’s hunky  satiric clown doofus.  In that column I was very angry that Addie, the character we had always been told was severely  mentally ill, had blithely been transformed into someone to be laughed at.

<=Pamela Payton-Wright as Addie/ABC Photo

How the disgusting current writer/production regime of OLTL likes to laugh at mentally ill  women!  To do it once was bad enough, but twice?

This is daytime television!  Daytime used to distinguish itself by doing social issue stories on the mentally ill.  (Think Viki’s DID story — multiple personalities treated as serious mental  illness in 1993-95 by Michael Malone.)  How times have changed!   How revolting it is yet again to see a network’s misogyny on display.  Throw in Todd raping Marty twice and constantly making fun of hag Dorian (Robin Strasser, who got stuck in a housecoat, giant glasses and a funny hat here), and OLTL is continuing to make itself a hornet’s nest of woman hate.  

Comments

  1. Tim says:

    Ms. De Lacroix,

    I’m sorry you didn’t the joke, but I thought the episode was a fantastic take on a cult classic documentary that presented the shocking, yet darkly humorous, tale of two eccentric women related to the First Lady. I think it was a nice parallel to the story of Blair and Dorian and presented Blair’s fears of what could become to them if they didn’t stop feeling sorry for themselves and get their houses in order. I’m sure the actresses and actors involved all enjoyed themselves very much. It certainly appeared that way on screen. I think there is room in a television program to both entertain and educate, and I don’t think the episode was intended to make fun of mentally ill people. As for Addie, I think she’s enjoying life after being miraculously cured, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

  2. JTG says:

    Hi. I read somewhere that the character of Addie has been part of OLTL since the early 1970s when the character of Dorian was added to the show.

    I’m on the fence if this is really a terrible depiction. I haven’t been a fan of the Todd/Blair/Tea love triangle but I could see Blair, in the context of the story in which she is divorcing John and looking at her ex being close to marrying someone else ponder her future. The show should have set up the Grey Gardens spoof better.

    I think the show was trying to be creative. Robin Strasser voiced her delight with the scene on her phone hotline.

    On the other hand, this does add to the big lie that women need a man to be happy.

    Again, I’m on the fence.

  3. Billy T says:

    I normally agree with most of your observations, but not this time. These scenes were a dream sequence.

    I have had many dreams in my lifetime – and if half of them were aired in any daypart, I would have been run out of the country a long time ago.

  4. esther says:

    I imagine they thought they were being clever. Odd since I’m guessing about .05% of their audience was familiar with the source material. Brilliant move, never mind that it was offensive to you and I’m sure countless others — personally I fast-forwarded through that part. I was busy having my Bo & Nora (since day one) loving chain yanked once again.

    Between this, AMC moving to LA, CBS’s head Nina Tassler contemplating pulling the plug on ATWT and I realize — TPTB obviously hate soaps, hate their viewers and we’re watching our beloved medium die a death almost as miserable as Frankie Frame.

    Marlena says: You said it, Esther baby! Next time I see you, we will have a good cry together!

  5. Cherry Ames says:

    Marlena, I’m with you on this one. I watched the docu. Grey Gardens several years ago and again more recently. It was a tragedy and a prime example of invasive reality filmaking. But, the documentary did get Jacqueline O. and others involved and the Beale women’s home was cleaned and the women were somewhat helped by their exposure to the media. It was apparent and even stated during the docu. that the 2 women were seriously mentally ill. But using the mentally ill to spoof and make a comedic soap episode was beyond tasteless. (In the documentary the cat(s) and racoons or squirrels were everywhere and urinating and defecating and it was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. Well, maybe not the saddest but there are many mentally ill people living on the fringes of society-most just aren’t related to anyone as famous or as rich as Jackie O. And the 2 Beale women squabbled and flirted and were oblivious to their madness and squalor).

    I hadn’t watched OLTL in 3 weeks before this weeks epi’s and after this, I’m done. Finis. Over and out. I am sick of the buffoon that has become Dorian Lord and the desperate and dateless way that Blair is being written. Blair is the epitome of an objectified woman. Nothing more than her body. Nauseated! And sick at heart.

    I believe that people who say “Ah, what’s the harm? It was just for laughs” will never “get it” just like some people just didn’t get why it was offensive to many of us when Todd and Marty “made love” after she begged him like a dog. This feels as misogynistic.

    Move over and pass me the Kleenex, Esther!

    Marlena says: Cherry, thank you so much and bravo for your very articulate letter. You’ve delineated why the Gray Gardens satire is all so offensive–these women are mentally ill, not just eccentric as someone charged above. I was going to college in 1975 nearby to where the Beales lived on Long Island when the story originally broke in Newsday. I remember the horror at the squalor and the fuss made because the Beales were related to Jackie. I’m sure whoever went into their stinky mansion–the cops, the social workers — didn’t see the glamour or kitsch of it all. I never saw the documentary, or the musical, or the movie. I’ve always felt repelled by the Beales’ illness(es). I could never laugh at these very sick women –who somehow became camp icons! And Marlena usually adores camp.

  6. JTG says:

    Marlena,

    Have you requested an interview with the writers of OLTL?

    Also, are there any women on the writing staff?

    Marlena says: I’d love to interview Ron Carlivati any time! I think a new woman writer has started recently on the show.

  7. Matthew J. Cormier says:

    i have to disagree, I think that this particular fantasay is very organic to Blair’s deepest fears. She has always feared ending up mentally ill like her mother and her aunt. She has always worried that Dorian and Addie would destroy her life. I think that it has been an organic and very real fear of Blair’s for a very long time. and I believe a part of Dorian has also feared being isolated and ending up alone.

    I think it was an inspired idea and that it makes perfect sense for these two characters.

    While i agree OLTL does oftentimes treat female characters poorly, this time i disagree with your take on things. I am much more offended by the treatement the show gives Nora, who goes from a savy lawyer one moment to being incapable of making coherent decisions anytime she’s around a man. To me that is far more offensive than what they did with the Grey Garden’s fantasay.

    As for Addie, i agree that story was mishandled from the first second and there’s no way to fix it now.

  8. JTG says:

    Marlena said, “…Somehow became camp icons!”

    Haven’t tragic figures in literature and real life become camp icons? At what point do historical figures become available for deconstruction?

    If the real story of the Grey Gardens women isn’t known, but an abstract cultural archetype of the “crazy cat lady who’s a spinster” has become well understood, is it fair to compare oneself to it?

    The other day, I thought about my own life and wondered if I might end up alone with my pets. It was a rotten day since I had discovered my cat had clawed a whole in the carpet and the dog had pooped in the hall way. I cleaned up the poop and repaired the carpet. But I was left with a great deal of frustration.

    When I watched the Grey Gardens spoof, I wondered if that might be my future (minus the insane need to reunite with a loser ex).

    I wonder how many other people who are in emotional and financial turmoil viewing Dorian and Blair found themselves, sadly, empathizing about their own fates.

    Marlena says: You’ve got to be kidding! And no one has ever written in three times to respond to one Marlena column. I don’t duel!

  9. James says:

    Chere Marlena,

    I thought the fantasy sequence was jarring in that it came out of nowhere. As you said, it’s not like the character of Blair has these fantasies regularly, unlike Starr who had cartoon fantasies for about two years, circa 2001-2003.

    It was also a weird juxtaposition in that in was just comic filler between the wedding scenes. But not nearly as jarring the Janet from Another Planet retrospective that filled time between scenes of Edmund and Maria’s wedding back in the mid 90s.

    I didn’t realize it was a Grey Gardens parody.Have never seen the play, movie or musical. While it was clearly intended to be funny, it did lack the comic genius of a David Vickers scene or a Noal movie fantasy.

    The Monday fantasy secquences did feed into Tuesday’s wedding scenes, even though Dorian and Blair barging in had no impact on the final outcome at all. I kept wondering, what was the point. But Strasser did a good job of playing drunk at the wedding.

    Now, that said, while I do so admire and enjoy your very thoguhtful columns, I have to question why you keep focusing on Dorian? This is something like the fifth column about her in just over a year. I know you greatly admire Robin Strasser and clearly want to defend her. But there’s so much more to cover in the world of soaps besides Dorian and La Strasser.

    I keep hoping for your thoughtful analysis of Y&R, the wind-down leading to GL’s finale, the tripe we’re being fed on AMC, the fast paced but short sighted storylines on ATWT.

    I keep waiting for your expereinced voice to weigh in industry news such as AMC’s move to LA and the CBS president’s announcment that they’re looking at game shows to replace ATWT.

    I keep wondering what you, with neary 30 years of soap journalism experience, have to say about (a reporter’s_ recent accustation that soap stars feed the press scoops about their contract negotionations to give them better leverage. Does his commentary ring true with your experience?

    Please give your thinking fans some columns about some of these topics.

    Marlena says: James you have always been a wonderful Marlena fan. Look back a few columns where I explained why I took the summer off. I will get to the topics you’ve requested after the Emmys.

    I am writing my AMC move to L.A. piece today. As far as that reporter’s accusations, when I was an active soap interviewer and reporter (up until 2001) no one ever mentioned the terms of their contract to me. But those were differrent, lucrative, soap days, so who knows — it could be happening now.

    As to Stasser and why I write about her: To me she and Erika Slezak are the most talented performers in soaps.I’ve watched them both for 40 years. And look at the way TPTB treat Strasser! They’d never, ever do that to an older man!

  10. John says:

    Marlena, it’s always a pleasure to read your commentary but I have to disagree with a lot of what you say in this post.

    I am surprised that one of your reasons for dismissing this sequence was that “many OLTL viewers across America who didn’t know what they were watching.” As one of the last remaining champions of “thinking fans” in the soap press, I would have thought that you would assume that like you, the viewers who didn’t get the reference could do their researchl. And maybe in the process they would learn about a landmark film that influenced cinema in ways far beyond the limited scope of the cult film’s audience. Which the documentary was, regardless of what any one of us may personally think about it (the film itself is not necessarily my cup of tea either). Maybe they would also be exposed to what IMO may be the last great Broadway musicals to be written, and the Tony-winning, tour de force performance by Christine Ebersole (whom they may recognize from brief, memorable stints on Ryan’s Hope and other soaps, including OLTL), which has been preserved on two cast recordings. Or maybe not, but I am loathe to criticize any soap for overestimating the cultural astuteness of its audience these days.

    As for the real-life history of the Beales, just a few corrections: Both Edies did not “die amid the absolute squalor of their home” – the mother did die, after the house was cleaned up somewhat. However, after that, the daughter sold the house, moved to NY, did a cabaret act (not of the highest artistic merit, by most accounts, but she finally realized her dream of performing) and traveled until her death earlier this decade. Reportedly she learned in her dying days that someone was interested in turning the story into a musical and she was thrilled! I think in that context Grey Gardens can be seen as a story of overcoming adversity, and many generations of fans have in fact seen it in just that way. The documentary was creepy, and I am always a bit uncomfortable with the idea that it was made by two former clinical psychologists. But the recent renewed attention to the story prove that the Edies were not just victims who were just passively exploited by the Maysles brothers. Edith and Edie were shrewd enough to use the documentary as a vehicle to get their story out there and become legends in their own right.

    And I’m no psychologist, but I would argue with your statement that Little Edie was “severely mentally ill.” Having actually seen the documentary, I would say she was clearly emotional fragile and lacking in self-awareness in many regards. And certainly she was a very dramatic example of someone failing to leave the nest and make the break from childhood to adulthood. But she persevered throughout a lot of sadness and I think her fantasies of singing and dancing kept her far more in touch with reality mentally than her surroundings enabled her to be physically. I think her mother on the other hand was severely mentally ill, and emotionally abusive as a result, which was painful to watch. But Edie nevertheless loved her and forgave her and, in her own way, cared for her until she died.

    For that reason alone, I can totally see why Dorian and Blair, children of mentally ill parents who have at times themselves struggled from going off that same precipice, would identify with the Beales. I also think that the Grey Gardens story speaks to many people, male and female, who have ever felt down about the breakup of a relationship or frustrated with their inability to make their parental units treat them with the respect that they feel they are entitled to as adults. I think that is because Grey Gardens really was a worst case scenario of what could happen to someone in those situations, so it’s pity and fear in the tradition of the great Greek tragedies, and yet Edie was never completely broken by her reversal of fortune. So if she could overcome those circumstances then surely we can, too. If Dorian or Blair actually ended up like the Beales, with the implication that it was all because of the loss of men, I would take exception. But this was a dream, dramatizing their worst fears at a moment of despair and self-doubt, and I have no doubt that the characters themselves will bounce back.

    Finally, in response to one of the comments, I too hope you have the chance to interview Ron Carlivati or Frank Valentini someday. You made an off the cuff reference to “the disgusting current writer/production regime of OLTL,” which is more than just a critique of their work – it’s a personal assessment. But didn’t you once not too long ago implore readers to consider the fact that Paul Rauch has an Edward Hopper print in his office before dismissing him as just a misogynistic bully who has been the subject of numerous sexual harassment allegations and who apparently had the parking attendant fire an original cast member of OLTL (and black woman)? I really have to ask: Can Carlivati and Valentini really be that much worse? When I see them interviewed or hear what cast members (including Robin Strasser, who as previously mentioned you seem to think needs a lot of defending lately) have to say about them in the press, I frankly don’t see it. And I don’t see it on my tv screen, either.

    I’m just a viewer, so I don’t doubt that you have more knowledge of these people than I do, but really, I catch glimpses of other shows and I don’t see anything better in terms of portrayals of women on soaps these days. It’s pretty bad out there, no argument from me. I tend to equate that with the increasing influence of forces more powerful than any individual show runners on the creative side (including Paul Rauch, who is but the producer of just one show). In the midst of this dreck, OLTL tried something different and innovative, and I for one enjoyed it.

    I didn’t think it was perfectly executed or thought-out. I myself feel the dream would have been more effective from Dorian’s perspective. But isn’t the decrease in budgets, prep time, and staffing in daytime since Nola’s movie fantasies on GL nearly thirty years ago well-documented? I can only imagine how quickly this was researched/written/produced, and I think it came out pretty damn good. Should shows just stop trying to do anything creative, when their capacity to pull it off is so completely undermined? If so, do we draw the line at fantasy sequences in particular, or at anything that’s outside of the box? I disagree with that implication more than anything else.

    Marlena says: I never wrote that the show’s executive producer and the writer are personally “disgusting.” I’ve never even met either of them! Some of the things they have put on the show are disgusting. (One example: Stacey, a total bimbo, played by an actress who can’t act.) And what does this have to do with Paul Rauch? Certainly as a soap producer he has done and continues to do disgusting things, too. Did you see they poisoned Zapato the Dog on Y&R today?

    Speed of production and low budget are problems producers have to make the best of. But they do have a choice as to how aware they want to be to the sensitivities of the audience. An executive producer has always been responsible for everything you see on screen, all the choices made.

    As I wrote above: I have never seen Grey Gardens in any of its production forms. Thank you for filling me in on the plot details I either missed or got wrong.

  11. Gianni says:

    Marlena,

    As usual, I agree with you. I found it especially insulting when Tea told “Dorian” that a cat was going to the bathroom behind the famous portrait that used to sit proudly and lavishly overlooking her home. I felt that the comment was symbolic of the destruction on Dorian’s memory and to be cynical, openly confrontational to those of us who remember THAT Dorian. It was a mockery. It made me sad not only for Robin and OLTL but for daytime as well. This parody isn’t daytime: it was crass, superfluous and anti-womanist. What ABC daytime needs is a platoon of strong, intelligent women behind the scenes to clean us the mess that Frons and his cult have made out of the line up.

    Marlena says: Nerdy Brian having a cult? Oh ha ha ha! But you are right on with everything else you say in this letter! Thank you Gianni!

  12. Steve says:

    I’m glad you keep writing about OLTL. OLTL is, for better or for worse, the most psychologically complex soap, and your columns, in SPW and here, are always very deep psychologically.

    This spoof fell flat for me. The #1 reason is because this wasn’t about Blair or Dorian at all. It was about Todd. Todd waltzed into the fantasy and naturally he was charming and brilliant and the perfect man. And we saw that Blair was worthless because she did not have her dream man.

    The other reason was that the story of Big Edie and Little Edie does not match up to Dorian and Blair. They aren’t THAT close. They didn’t know each other until Blair was well into adulthood, and have not been bonded together until Dorian’s most recent return. Little Edie was kept back because of Big Edie’s dramas, but they needed each other. Little Edie had tried to go into the world but returned to her mother (and after her mother died, Little Edie did live a happy, full life for several decades). Blair has had husbands, children, a successful career — and now we’re supposed to believe she’s all alone? And that Dorian is all alone?

    This should have involved Addie. Addie is the one who has been, in one way or another, alone most of her life. Addie is the one with the strongest history of mental illness. Addie is the one who was “protected” by Dorian in the only way Dorian understood.

    Dorian and Addie in Grey Gardens? That I might buy. Blair in Grey Gardens, reduced to nothing because of the rapist hero? I don’t buy it.

    Marlena says: Thanks as always Steve!

  13. Jen says:

    I agree with Matthew J. Cormier (above) – this was a way to portray very clearly what Blair fears her life is going to become – in Dorian’s house – at Dorian’s side.

    Perhaps if they had left out the “Tea for Two” dance sequence, it might have been more clear that that’s what it was, and it wouldn’t have mattered that it was Grey Gardens. I’m sure they left that in as a tribute to the original, which, by the way, was very TOUCHING. Look it up on YouTube.

    Big Edie and Little Edie might have been mentally ill, but there ARE a lot of people out there that identify with them (and Blair’s fears). I think it would have been better done as a touching dream sequence instead of a comedy, but I appreciate what they were trying to do. (Heck, they need to figure out how to express Dorian’s inner fears like they do Blair’s.)

    I am a bit surprised that you didn’t see this coming, and I am interested to know if you read other soap blogs or any news from the major soap news sources.

    Marlena says: Normally I read some of the soap press/blogs/gossip. As I’ve explained I decided to take the summer off. I am one of the few people still around who liked soaps a lot better before everything was previewed, scooped and publicized ahead of time. Too much of that on soaps ruins this viewer’s critical judgment.

  14. Jen says:

    “I am one of the few people still around that liked soaps a lot better before everything was previewed, scooped and publicized ahead of time. Too much of that on soaps ruins this viewer’s critical judgment.”

    I appreciate that perspective. It really does seem like sometimes everyone reports on the same story over and over again, and spoilers aren’t as fun as foreshadowing and speculation.

    I do feel like parts of the Grey Gardens sequence must have seemed really out of context to people who didn’t see it coming or didn’t know what Grey Gardens was, and I stand by my previous comment on that topic.

    I also feel like it is important to understand the original Grey Gardens, and the people in it, before being critical of it.

    It might not have come across to OLTL viewers, but it was touching and emotional on many levels in its original form. I don’t feel like OLTL was making fun of people with mental illness at all.

  15. Karen says:

    The HBO movie is up for quite a few Emmys this year. The fantasy sequence was actually quite timely as the HBO movie comes out on DVD this year.

    The Gilmore Girls episode “A Deep Friend Korean Thanksgiving” shows Lorelai and Rory watching the Grey Gardens documentary and commenting “That could be us”

    As a true story, it’s become part of pop culture folklore, next to Rocky Horror and John Waters. I think once a documentary becomes a Broadway musical, it’s no longer an argument of the taste of the original subject matter.

    That being said, I loved the references as they were largely a direct homage to the documentary… And I also believe that this was perfect timing to appeal to the growing gay fanbase (Kish) that hold the Beales in the same regard as Judy Garland.

    I say perfectly done OLTL…

  16. Hi Marlena – I have to say, I agree with some of your points and disagree with others.

    I completely agree that it was disappointing that years of Addie’s turmoil and struggles were played for comedy when she morphed into a new-millenium version of absent-minded Esmerelda from “Bewitched.”

    And OLTL, despite having an inventive head writer and talented producer, has been filled with plots that are misogynistic, and also seem to make a specific point of making a spectacle of mental illness in women. I mean, let’s review: Viki and her alters, Addie, Melinda, Jess/Tess/Bess, Allison Perkins, Lindsey, and now Stacy. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. And these aren’t just woman-done-wrong-gone-overboard scenarios. These are women with serious mental issues, cause (in Viki and Jessica’s case) by sexual abuse.

    Having said all of that……I do think “Grey Gardens” is a bit more nuanced than you’re laying out here. These women ARE indeed mentally ill. But there’s also a complex, compelling motif in their story. Men have come in and out of Big Edie and Little Edie’s lives, and in the end, they could only trust and depend on each other (sound familiar?)

    I’m sure that people (especially gay men) are attracted by the “camp factor” of the film and its related works to a degree. But we also root for the Edies because they are living life outside of the normal parameters that mainstream society defines for them. They may live in a way that none of us can imagine or comprehend, but they embrace that life and each other. That speaks to us far louder than a kerchief or a campy, snarky line of dialogue.

    I commend OLTL for reaching out and trying something, though I have to agree with you – this may have been outside of the point of reference of many viewers and left some fans scratching their heads.

    Thanks as always for an engaging dialogue!

    Marlena says: Patrick, thanks for eloquently enlightening me as to a deeper meaning of GG. If only I had known this before I saw the OLTL satire I would have understood it better. Why did OLTL assume I (and many other OLTL fans) was familiar with the documentary/musical/tv movie already?

    Also, you are so right to point out that a lot of OLTL’s history has to do with mental illness of its female characters. This dream sequence does fit in with that theme. I have to say though that Stacy is so much more unbearable to watch than the more recent ill characters like Margaret and Allison Perkins. Why do I get the feeling that Stacy is going to be magically “cured” to keep her in town? Yikes, that ungodly howling!

  17. Marilyn Henry says:

    Golly! It never occurred to me that they were making fun of mentally ill people. And one of the things I like so much about Addie is that for all her fey-ness, she is one of the most sensible characters residing at La Boule. Love her.

    Frankly, I am enjoying OLTL so much these days, I cringe when it is criticized because they really are doing some of the freshest and funnist things in a soap world that has deteriorated to repetitious, predictable and dowright depressing. I want to see OLTL continue to thrive and to keep the other soaps on their toes.

    I have never seen anything Grey Gardens, either, but I don’t think it was necessary to know the source–it was just Blaire’s momentary misgivings about where she and Dorian could be heading after Dorian picked up the stray kitty. Old maids and cats–easy connection. After all, the two had spent an afternoon indulging their depressed state with cocktails and massages.

    It never occurred to me it was anti-women at all. I was happy to see two of the show’s best vets get a big chunk of air time in an imaginative bit of spoofiness. To juxtapose it with the happy wedding seemed awkward but somehow fitting. You know I love Robin and Dorian, and I saw an actress having a good time, well, two actresses having a good time.

    As to being misogynistic, well, GH takes the ‘honors’ there. Look what they do to poor Alexis consistently. The viewers love Alexis and Nancy Grahn, and for some reason TPTB don’t like that, so they do all they can to pile shame and humiliations on this smart, independent female and then have her apologise or grovel. We get the evil, pathetic Claudia shoved down our throats five days a week, but barely see Diane or Alexis. And most of the rest of the female population are portrayed as groupies to that abusive, slimy little thug, Sonny. No women with any self-respect would fall for Sonny.

    The really awful mess on OLTL right now is the evil bimbo story which has managed to destroy two other characters we used to like. Why it continues when plainly the viewers are definitely not digging it, is beyond me. It just doesn’t feel right to push a story so-so god-awful in every way.

    John, above, said most of what I wanted to say about this Grey Gardens thing and said it well. He writes very well.

    Gee, we don’t disagree that much or that often, Marlena, so this is a surprise. I just felt you were over-thinking this one. I felt it was just a little exercise in how women tend to allow themselves to get too insecure when they have lost their men. Blaire will snap back when she sobers up, and nothing stops Dorian. Now if only they would bring back Ray Montez to make her feel all better….

    Marlena says: Always great to hear from you! I’m still lamenting the loss of Roy Montez, too! As far as GH goes, I can hardly bear to watch it this summer. I like the new kid actors, but the rest is a total turnoff. It’s like a orgy of misogyny! Those women! Claudia, Alexis, Olivia, that smug, hateful Carly (“I have a uterus, therefore I am”) ….what a nightmare! But GH has always been more your show than mine, and if you’d like to write more about it….I’d love it.

  18. David C says:

    I hate to criticize you Marlena, but you missed the point of the Blair and Dorian “Grey Gardens” episode. Others have summed up perfectly that although Blair having a fantasy like that is not a usual behavior, it was perfectly in sync with her fears about the future. And the scenes were fun and compelling to watch, IF you were already familiar with Grey Gardens either the documentary, the stage musical or the HBO movie. If you weren’t then yes, it would have seemed both bizarre and downright insulting. If you get a chance, see either the documentary or the movie and then take another look at One Life’s Grey Garden episode.

    Marlena says: Hi David dear old friend. You missed this point: why did OLTL do this satire when the biggest part of the audience is women 18-49? I can’t remember when a soap chose to speak to one part of the audience who may be familiar with the material and left everyone else out in the cold. That said, I’ll take your recommendation and catch up with the HBO movie. Drew Barrymore actually lives in my Manhattan neighborhood!

  19. Melanie says:

    Another wonderful column! I’ve also been enjoying the discussion on here.

    I remember your Addie column very well, and I appreciated hearing your point of view. I had previously just written off Addie as an eccentric and didn’t consider how irresponsible & offensive it could be to present someone w/ a severe mental illness as just kooky comic relief.

    Similarly, I’m glad you’ve written this piece since it’s forced me to think about this in a way I wouldn’t have before – especially since I didn’t bother to watch the episode.

    I’ve seen the documentary a few times and like it – I find it disturbing and moving. Though I do think there’s merit to the accusation that the filmmakers were exploiting the women (a charge made against many documentarians.)

    It’s fascinating to read the different interpretations people have had of the film and the women. I think the women were both mentally ill and agree that the film, in the end, helped them. But I disagree w/ one of your reader’s observation of the women’s “shrewdness.” Yes, the documentary helped the women and little Edie was able to live out some of her fantasies, but it wasn’t due to their “shrewdness” it was because they were related to Jackie O. That was the reason for the documentary, the reason for the attention they received, the reason why the family ended up helping them (to avoid the bad publicity), and it’s also the reason why IMO people are more likely to call them “eccentric” as opposed to mentally ill.

    And while I agree w/ a lot of what Patrick wrote, I don’t necessarily feel that the women “embraced that life and each other.” I think these women had each other and that was preferable to them then being alone, but their severe codependence was a symptom of their illness, not a positive result of it. I think their relationship served to emotionally cripple both of them.

    Ok, sorry to write so much about it, but it’s rare I get to “speak” to anyone about the film, lol. If you ever do decide to see the documentary, please let us know what you think!! Thanks again for a truly thought provoking column!!

    Marlena says: May you be dipped in gold, Melanie. The whole aim of this column is to get readers thinking (that’s why it’s called Soap Opera for the Thinking Fan) and you always demonstate an open mind. I haven’t seen the documentarty yet, but I’ll think about what you said when I do.

  20. Lorrie says:

    OLTL is currently the best daytime soap on television, hands down. It has the best cast and stories I can’t wait to see play out. Robin Strasser is staying! Bo and Nora kissed! She still married Clint, but I have hope that Bora will live again. It has cute boys galore who can actually act. The Kish storyline is heating up. I haven’t enjoyed OLTL this much since 1995.

    I’m sorry you thought the Grey Gardens dream sequence was in bad taste. Perhaps it was, but that didn’t stop it from being funny.

    I’m sorry you don’t like the idea that Addie, who missed out on a lifetime of opportunities, is embracing life and new experiences and obviously doesn’t give a crap what other people think of her.

    As for Stacy, the actress isn’t really that bad nor is her storyline any worse than dozens of previous annoying stories about a woman obsessed with a man who doesn’t want her. Even the worst storyline will eventually end. They all do.

    Marlena says: I love Kish. Darling, I did the first Bo and Nora interview (Woodsy/Hillary) in 1993. As for the last paragraph you sound exactly as if you were Stacy. Who else but the ‘actress’ playing her could like this character?

  21. Geri-Ann Parrish says:

    This whole thing was making women looking stupid and dumb. I hated how Todd was shunning Blair. The mother of his children and the grandmother of his grannddaughter. He just wanted to toss her to the street like trash. What a JERK he is. And wouldn’t Blair’s mother help her sience she is sooo Rich?

  22. Lorrie says:

    Hey, I hope the hideous Stacy dies soon or at least leaves the show but, unfortunately, I don’t think Crystal Hunt has been the worst actor in this storyline. I like John-Paul Lavoisier, but if he hams it up any more he’ll end up served as Christmas dinner. I also like Farrah Fath, but she’s not exactly great in the big, emotional scenes. Nobody in this ill-advised storyline are world-class thespians.

    Marlena says: JPL always has charm, except when they write his character as a boob. And after all these months, I’ve finally begun to see FF’s charm too. (But why do they keep dressing her in Litttle Red Riding Hood necklines?). Of course, none of the players in this storyline are world class thespians. This story is the best thing that ever happened to OLTL’s timeslot competitor As the World Turns, in my opinion.

  23. antmunoz says:

    Did anyone who watches OLTL previously watch Crystal Hunt (Stacy) on GUIDING LIGHT?

    I thought she played bratty, suicidal, drug-slippin’ teen arsonist Lizzie Spaulding pretty well. The Lizzard was by no means a fan fave back then (she was the Bad Girl to Stephanie Gatschet’s Tammy Winslow), but she wasn’t a BAD actress. I’ve seen Hunt in other roles, and she seemed fine.

    What is it about this Stacy character that doesn’t click? It is the character herself, or has Hunt (as so often pondered on message boards) “lost it.” The storyline? The direction? I don’t know. I find her, and the story, just as unappealing as everyone else…but I like Crystal Hunt, the actress, and I actually loathe that she has to play this stuff (just like Farah Fath–Gigi–just told tvguide.ca she hates playing it also).

    And note this: GOSSIP GIRL’s Amanda Setton (Penelope) is coming to OLTL as Kim (previously “Summer”), another stripper friend of Stacy’s! Do they not know when to QUIT with this story? “One stripper bombed…hmmm, let’s bring in another one!” Setton can act, at least on GG, but I wonder if she’ll be wasted on this show, in this story, also.

    I agree with Lorrie above: if this storyline (actually, an improved version of it) had been played out by talents along the line of the young Martha Byrne (ATWT) and Marcy Walker (AMC), it could’ve been…better. The acting is definitely not saving it. Fath commented in her interview that she feels only Gigi’s connection with Schuyler (Scott Clifton) is redeeming the story, even though that’s not the story’s focus.

    Soaps pull the plug on ill-conceived stories all the time…or SHOULD. (Y&R regularly drops plot-points; it’s annoying, but in the long run, did we really want to watch a misstep developed over many months?) OLTL needs to listen to its viewers and DUMP this hot mess fast. I’m sure any of us…especially you, Marlena…could wrap this story in a week or less and move us all on to something less infantile.

    Marlena says: Thanks for the background on CH, ant. I’m not a serious soap writer but can I suggest doing a campy parody to OLTL instead? I’m sure a LOT of my readers know B movies, those spectacularly cheapo movies of the 50s, based on bad screenplays, bad acting and bevies of brainess babes. (Examples: Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, anything directed by Ed Wood) Well, why doesn’t sublimely campy aspiring Hollywood director David Vickers make a B movie style reality show starring our favorite bad villainess … Stacy? She’s already brainless and Hunt’s vapidity in the role really reminds me of those talentless 50s babes of yesteryear. I’m sure David would know the right way to present “Stacy, superstar.”

    Having never seen Hunt on GL, it’s really hard for me to imagine her being a better actress then. Sadly, there’s more than one of her on the daytime scene, if you believe the ever-present soap gossip mill.

  24. antmunoz says:

    Marlena,

    Given your love of Dorian and Viki on OLTL, have you ever devoted a column to “Dorians and Vikis Over the Years,” debating the strengths and weaknesses of all the actresses who played these characters?

    What did you think of Dorian’s de-aging after Nancy Pinkerton? Did you enjoy Claire Malis? (I did, but she was no Pinkerton.) Elaine Princi–did we like her then? (I’d also like your take on why Dorian has given away two daughters to “protect” them, but still claims Cramer Women solidarity.)

    Of course, Erika owns Viki, but any insight on Gillian Spencer (who was very, very sweet, as I recall) and Joanne Dru would be appreciated.

    And any pics of all of the actresses would be FAB!

    Marlena says: Gillian Spencer was wonderful as a younger Viki. She sparkled! As you know, she spent most of her soap career as a writer. Nancy Pinkerton was scary as the original Dorian. Claire Malis I remember as being okay, if bland. I didn’t like Elaine Princi’s Dorian because the memory of Strasser’s interpretation remained too fresh duing her tenure. I have no idea why Dorian ‘gave away’ her two daughters, but if she happened to be your mother would you stick around Llanview on a permanent basis?

  25. Rebecca says:

    Quite late to the party on this one, I’m afraid, but just wanted to weigh in quickly to say that ICAM, Marlena, with your take on this particular episode. I, too, found it to be offensive in its blatant misogyny, and I did not recognize the play/docu-drama it was based on either, tho I seem to remember hearing something about the actrual news story itself when it first came out.
    AFAIC, I think that the folks at OLTL were just trying to be timely and clever, and may well have succeeded with a certain segment of their audience, but not with me, as I was completely unaware of the original source material, so the little “inside joke” left me cold. I do, however, have a little jest for the characters of both Blair (and Dorian, but especially Blair, as I feel she may need to hear it more, LOL!), and that is the famous truism attributed to Gloria Steinem: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle”.
    Also, as an avid cat-lover myself, I was not charmed or amused by the false depiction of cats as dirty, slovenly animals—they are actually anything but, and to be reduced to living in the squalour portrayed in this “light-hearted spoof” would be a cause for great stress and distress for any cat. (I adore dogs, also, but fortunately they have been relatively unaffected by some of the more spiteful canards spread about cats!)
    Once again, thank you, Marlena, for a very insightful column—reading it and all of the comments that followed has been very enlightening!

    All the Best, Rebecca Yorke

    Marlena says: Thanks for your thoughts Rebecca. It never occured to me that cat fans would take offense at the OLTL spoof of Grey Gardens. Makes sense!
    The depiction of kittys was…disgusting!

  26. Nicholas Ryan says:

    Marlena,

    This response is a bit late in the game but I have to say that I agree with your take on this sequence. However daytime has more often than not painted mental illness in a negative light. More often than night we are subjected to a clone of Glen Close in Fatal Attraction than any socially relevent or sympathetic depiction. Having dealt with bi-polar disorder myself for many years I’ve constantly penned letters to TPTB and the soap press on the matter but nothing ever changes. Your reference to Viki’s alts only counts if you simply view Michael Malone’s tenure but under previous tenure’s Nikki Smith was viewed as a comical or villainous foil to Tina, Clint, Dorian et. al. I recall when Loving shipped Lily Slater off to an asylum she reappeared only as a villainous Glen Close foil to Jack and Stacy’s romance. Where was the sympathy toward her incestuous ordeal. Where was the struggle and heroism to over come her father’s abuse? There was nothing but the former nutter from the ayslum out to get the man she was obsessed over! On Passions poor Gwen suffered a miscarriage under the machinations of Theresa (the show’s would be heroine?!) and suffered a breakdown over the loss. Yet again this was merely a ploy to torment the star crossed love of Ethan and Theeresa! Now we are seeing this injustice play out all over again on Y&R with Patty. TPTB care nothing to really show her struggle to over come her disease! Again we merely see the psychotic foil out to hurt the hero/heroine! Marlena while I might agree with your view of the recent OLTL Blair and Dorian sequence it hardly seems fair to hold an individual sequence to harsh scrutiny when time and again mental illness is merely played out for villainous fodder in the genre overall with nary a complaint nor disapproving review.

  27. Nicholas Ryan says:

    Oops-more often than night should obviously read more often than not!

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