General Hospital: Making Michael a Monster

By Ed Martin

Everything about General Hospital that I have come to loathe during the last ten years was on proud, pungent display last week, to such a degree of extreme outrageousness I could not look away.

I must admit that there was an infectious lunatic energy to it all, which could account for my deep fascination with what I was watching. Wasn’t the tumultuous birth of baby Jocelyn a kick, with poor kidnapped Carly helpless on that cabin couch

How grand would it be if Michael’s real father, A.J. Quartermaine, returned from the dead and found a way to destroy Sonny, now that he has turned Michael into an axe murderer?

and crazy Claudia helping her with her difficult delivery? How about the part when Michael stormed the cabin, saw Claudia holding the baby and killed her with one mighty swing of his axe? Good times — though not as satisfyingly violent as the time Sonny accidentally shot Carly in the head just as she was giving birth to little Morgan. ThoseMichael were exciting birth sequences, to be sure, but they weren’t as powerful and won’t prove as memorable as the considerably less bloody arrival of baby A.J. Quartermaine thirty years ago. (Veteran viewers will recall the episode in which a very pregnant Monica, along with Leslie and Gail, were trapped at the Quartermaine mansion during an especially bad storm. Monica went into premature labor and thought she was going to die, and when A.J. was born she told Leslie that he was her husband’s baby. Monica was eventually proven wrong, though at the time she sincerely believed she was carrying Rick’s child. This was the kind of dynamite character-driven drama that once powered GH to historic greatness.)

The leading ladies in this latest outburst of misogynistic GH violence were outstanding. I was blown away by Sarah Brown Sarah Brownfor the first and only time since she began playing Claudia two years ago. (God, how I wish she had continued playing Carly through the years. Nobody does deeply internalized conflict and self-loathing better, and without those important vulnerabilities Carly is often nothing more than a rancid bitch.) Laura Wright, who typically plays Carly’s big emotional scenes with all the subtlety of a water buffalo with a nail in its hoof, genuinely impressed me as well. I think this had more to do with the dialogue she was given and the way she was directed throughout Carly’s kidnapping and delivery ordeal, because once Carly was back in the hospital Wright’s performance slipped back into that same one-note nastiness that has compromised this once endlessly engrossing character — something that never happened when Brown inhabited the role.

Not surprisingly I was also wowed by Drew Garrett. This kid has impressed me from the minute he took on the role of Michael earlier this year and he has yet to disappoint.

Laura WrightNot all of the performances in this story were top notch. The huge confrontation with and public humiliation of Claudia that Sonny maniacally orchestrated proved too much for Maurice Benard. The words “ham” and “cheese” came to mind over and over again as Sonny railed against his most recent wife. It was yet another of this dangerous man-boy’s epic temper tantrums, and there wasn’t a hint of humanity in it. Still, I’ll cut Benard some slack this time, because there may not be an actor on the planet who could convincingly deliver the outrageous material with which he was saddled.

The most fascinating aspect of this entire tale was the way in which so many of the adults in his life rallied around troubled 16-year-old Michael to help him move past the fact that he just murdered his step-mother with an axe, as if it were the psychic, emotional and legal equivalent of a speeding ticket or a bad report card. These are the same adults who constantly fuss and fret over the well-being of every baby and child around them! Only sad-sack Jax Maurice Benardcares that poor Michael is now and forever a killer. Sonny and Jason went so far as to teach him how to cover his tracks, destroy all evidence and move on as if nothing had happened, all but ensuring that Michael will kill again. Talk about missing out on teachable moments!

Through it all, Sonny ranted and raved about how evil and crazy Claudia had been. Is that the pot calling the kettle black or what? This macho loon knew how fragile and dangerous Claudia was — he even knew she was packin’ heat — but he chose to drive her mad in a room full of people he claims to care about. (Sonny has never before come across so wildly pathological. His calculated public attack on Claudia was nothing less than a self-propelled display of insanity.) It was so sickening to once again watch him emotionally brutalize and physically threaten a woman, as we have seen him do so many times before. This time, however, it can be argued that the object of his fury was mentally ill and in dire need of help, having endured a monstrous childhood and continuous threats against her as an adult — not to mention the recent loss of her baby. Yes, Claudia put out the hit on Sonny that resulted in Michael getting shot, but it was Sonny who chose to bring his little boy to one of his criminal organization’s locations, an obvious hot zone for his enemies.

Just for kicks, let me continue to side with Claudia for a moment, if only to further emphasize the horror of Michael’s behavior. I’ll start by noting that she wasn’t actually doing anything wrong at the time Michael attacked her.  She had saved his newborn sister’s life by assisting Carly with her birth, and possibly saved Carly’s life, as well. Further, she had not yet actually kidnapped the baby or even tried to run out the back door with her. Yes, Claudia earlier had kidnapped Carly at gunpoint, but only as a result of the extreme emotional distress her husband had inflicted on her while everyone she knew stood by and watched.

Some questions: Couldn’t any number of Port Charles residents simply alert state child welfare authorities as to what went down and have them intervene on Michael’s behalf, since his birth mother and stepfather’s egregious bad choices are literally destroying him? For that matter, Morgan is clearly in grave danger and should also be removed from his current circumstances, shouldn’t he? Will we be asked to believe that a man of Jax’s extreme financial resources would allow his baby girl to be raised amid the madness and violence that surrounds Carly and Sonny? Why is it that so many people (including young Michael) were able to find the cabin in which Carly gave birth while the hapless Port Charles police department remained in the dark — even when Jason torched the cabin and it improbably burned to the ground during a torrential rain storm? (There’s nothing suspicious about that, right?) Where the hell was Bobbie when Carly and her baby finally arrived at General Hospital? (We just saw Bobbie a few episodes ago in brief but wonderful scenes with veteran characters Leslie, Audrey, Luke and Tracy, so we know she’s around. Poor Jacklyn Zeman. Why do they treat her so?)

A final thought: How grand would it be if Michael’s real father, A.J. Quartermaine, returned from the dead and found a way to destroy Sonny, now that he has turned Michael into an axe murderer? And wouldn’t it be fun to watch Michael drive Sonny insane by growing increasingly close to his biological dad? Remember, Sonny and Carly forcibly removed Michael from the Quartermaine family because they didn’t want him to grow up in a toxic environment — but under their loving care, he was shot in the head, remained comatose for a year and has emerged a killer. Um, what was the problem with the Quartermaines again?

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Ed Martin is a veteran television journalist who writes for many national publications and websites. He blogs regularly at mediabizblogger.com. Tomorrow, he’ll review the start of November sweeps on One Life to Live.

Comments

  1. Bryon says:

    I have nothing more to add. You hit it right on the head (pardon the pun Mikey). Thank you! thank you! thank you!

  2. horselover says:

    Terrific column. I’m guessing Michael murdering his stepmother with an axe would make for a fascinating movie that we could all turn off after 2 hours but how do we continue to LIVE with these characters day after day on a daytime serial? That’s what Guza and company don’t get. We have to LIKE these characters and want to root for them even if they have some flaws. Most of the time I am repulsed and feel dirty after watching this show – especially as a woman. It’s disgusting how they treat women on this show. And aren’t women the primary viewers of soaps? I’m guessing TPTB don’t get that – or don’t care. To me, it’s fascinating that DISNEY let’s this show continue to air. They should be ashamed of themselves.

    Marlena says: Renee, brava! And Ed too of course!! You know that I have been railing about misogyny on GH and all of ABC Daytime very heavily for the past three years. One day that FEMALE president of ABC/Disney programming Anne Sweeney will either hear us, or get rightfully fired!

  3. Beth says:

    Ed you nailed it…and you too Renee! The entire storyline has been maddening. Especially when you consider Claudia’s ordering the hit on Sonny was the direct result of Sonny’s kidnapping of her brother Johnny, the only family member that treated her as a human being and loved her. And for years we have seen Sonny give Jason very similar orders to those who dare come against his family. Claudia, acting as a true daughter of the mafia looking to take over her father’s territory would do, acted in the exact same manner as we have seen Sonny do for countless years at this point. Yet we, the viewers were supposed to find her vile and repulsive, yet find Sonny and Jason romantic and all around good guys when they engage in such acts. (The day Sam told Jason he was different than Jerry Jacks, another character who merely acts exactly like Jason and Sonny do most of the time, becuase Jason quote “has a good heart”, I almost laughed myself into a hernia.)

    The cover up attempt made no sense. Claudia disappears right after she kidnapps Carly and they think NO ONE is going to notice this? Look I know it’s the PCPD but they do generally notice the start of the mob war and things like fires. Claudia was clearly unstable, pushed by Sonny and took Carly hostage in front of a room full of witnesses including the mayor, the former DA and two doctors who could have wandered in off the street for all the sense it made for them to be there. (I long ago grew annoyed at GH’s attempt to make Sonny seem like a good man by having him randomly mention a friendship with Robin and Stone.) I’m not defending what Michael did….but clearly there are mitigating circumstances at play here. If Michael actually faced his consequence…..a good laywer (and we’ve been told Sonny only hires the best) could work a good deal out for Michael. Which might help since all three, Carly, Jason and Sonny have had lenghty discussions about how they do not want Michael joining the “family business”. Hey pinheads…make the kid face a consequence or two! Maybe he gets the idea crime isn’t all the glamorous. To me the only cover-up that made less sense was the so obvious it was written in magic marker on the back of the screen self-defense killing of Logan by Lulu. Ironically an axe was used there as well. I’ve been wondering if it was the same axe for the past two weeks.

  4. esther says:

    OMG, I laughed so hard at your description of Laura Wright as Carly — mostly because it was dead-on accurate. She steals shamelessly from Zimmer, but none of Kim’s good stuff — only the ham.

    The setup sounds like something GL did — but did much better of course. Remember when Alex had everyone gather at the Country Club where she publically eviscerated husband Roger Thorpe? Well, Maurice is no Beverlee McKinsey and lord knows today’s GH writers shouldn’t even be allowed to be called writers in a sentence with 90s Guiding Light, but I digress.

    So how to not get upset by the writing of GH? Pop in those old GH episodes you probably still have (or go to YouTube and watch) with Alan/Monica/Lesley/Rick and try to make peace with the fact soaps’ glory days are sadly behind us.

    Marlena says: Esther, I totally agree.

  5. ABC longtimer says:

    You’re wrong about Laura Wright’s Carly. She’s brought an element of humanity and maturity to the character that was sorely needed. Calling her a “rancid bitch” smacks of the kind of misogyny that you’re calling out Sonny for.

    As for Claudia, she was leaving the cabin with the baby when Michael killed her. Your statement that she had done nothing wrong yet is not accurate. She ignored repeated requests by Carly to give her the baby, was talking in a delusional state and headed for the exit.

    I don’t like the fact that Michael killed her — I always hoped A.J. would save him — but it’s not true that he did so without provocation. She was in the act of kidnapping the baby.

    Ed says (via note to Marlena): “The first paragraph here is the reader’s opinion. However, the second paragraph is (factually) innacurate: Michael didn’t know what went on between Claudia and Carly in the cabin. He just charged in and killed Claudia.”

  6. disgruntled soap fan says:

    I think Guza has been itching to make Michael a killer for years now. He wanted to have Michael kill his father, but whether it was censors or fear of public outrage(somehow i can’t believe it’s that), they had to rewrite it. Now, Guza has his wish- Michael is a killer and holds no remorse for his actions.

    Like Renee said, i don’t like these people. There is no reason for me to want to see what happens to them. I miss the GH where i cared about the characters and enjoyed the stories. Too bad no one at GH cares that former viewers like myself have tuned out.

  7. Marilyn Henry says:

    Oh, yes, indeed. I spoke WAY too soon when I was celebrating Jonathan’s return and made the statement I thought GH had turned a corner. For a couple of episodes there, I actually believed it, I thought I saw improvement.

    But someone let Guza out again and he is running rampant again like a mad dog, terrorizing his poor mob-weary viewers with blood and dark, over-the-top anger and violence. And again, it is all about the most repellent characters–Sonny, Carly, Jason–on the show, characters we can have little to no empathy for. And of course, all of them are managing somehow to blame poor Jax, the voice of sanity. I bet he rues the day he got ever involved with this bunch of low gutter scum!

    What good is a soap where it is so hard to actually LIKE any one of the main characters? Why, WHY should I care what happens to any of them, and if I don’t care, then why would I tune in tomorrow to find out? This is the ultimate bad soap writing because caring about what happens to a character is what makes the audience worry about him enough to tune in day after week after year. We need to relate to the characters, root for our favorites, and GH makes that nearly impossible.

    And what is wrong with Lulu? Sonny is a friend, he is a good guy? None of his murdering or extortion crimes matter to her–she can overlook them???
    This galls me. Laura and Lesley had to have taught her better than that.
    I really gag when anyone talks like this about Sonny or Jason. How many woman on GH have said ‘You’re a good man, Sonny’, and the bastard preens as if he actually deserves it. And winds up abusing them. Guza removed Sonny from and meaning of ‘good’ years ago!
    So now we have Michael lost. Excellent new actor stuck with a ruined character. Par for Guza’s course.

  8. LindaV says:

    I agree completely with your excellent assessment. I do think that Laura Wright has made Carly her own – much nicer but so much less complex than Carly was intended to be. I am glad to see Jason now having second thoughts now about helping to create the Michael monster. The flashback was a nice touch.

  9. Bennetton says:

    I think what continues to bother me most about GH is that there are no real consequences to anyone’s action anymore. There was a time when people with credibility, i.e. those not considered worthless monsters were allowed to call out the bad guys like, Sonny. Today everyone is either a Sonny/Jason/Carly worshipper, or apologist. Anyone who sees them for what they truly are, gets shipped off, killed off, or are considered worse people than the terrible 3.

    The impact of what is going on with Michael can never be truly felt with the Quartermaines all but absent and with AJ dead. If AJ was still around, or if Monica was allowed to voice serious disapproval, or Edward allowed to be angry and taken seriously, or Tracey allowed to care, or goodness even if Keesha Ward was on the canvas to get in Carly’s face it wouldn’t be so distressing. But who is around or allowed to call these people out. When any of the 3 are allowed some needed self-awareness for the mess they’ve created, there is always someone around placating them and letting them off the hook.

  10. nat says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I have actually stopped watching GH. It has become unwatchable to me. Not only did they have a child become an axe murderer but I can’t stand the whole Liz and Nic situation. I use to love this show and would have tolerated almost anything but I guess GH has finally broke me.

  11. JTG says:

    I was horrified and disgusted when I saw Michael kill Claudia. I have never seen anything so brutal on TV. Yes, I’ve seen horror movies but none that was as real as this disgusting violence.

    But, I’ve noticed in the last few days the revulsion and horror in the eyes of Michael’s family as they realize that Michael is becoming a monster. Jason’s face was showed his devastation at understanding that he made sweet innocent Michael into a cold, cruel monster. Sonny has seen this, too.

    Marlena says: Duh. When (and if) Guza makes Jason and Sonny see the error of their criminal ways because of Michael’s murder, millions of hoodwinked fans will cheer. Marlena will never forget the 12-year reign of Guza, for making criminals heroes, for writing murder after unrepented murder. Why should Claudia as victim be any different from the dozens of people (mostly innocent) they’ve murdered without caring over the years? Civilized society rule #1: Murder is wrong and illegal! Rule #2: Citizens are not judge and jury. Don’t take murder into your own hands. Corollary #1: Guza is NOT David Chase.

  12. JTG says:

    It occurs to me that on GH there are virtually no healthy women/women or girl/girl relationships. Does anyone else notice that?

    Where are the mother/daughter connections? What about girlfriends gossiping or supporting each other?

    Most of the female/female relationships are adversarial.

    I can only think of one healthy female relationship: Diane & Alexis.

    All of the others have been pushed aside.

  13. Thelma says:

    I agree with you when it comes to Michael. It is truly sickening to see that he has become so heartless. Nobody seems to have to face the consequences of their actions. One of my favorite characters is Jason but I think that it is time that he and Sonny go to jail for a bit. The mob is out of control and needs to end.
    As for Laura Wright’s Carly, well let’s just agree to disagree. I love her version of Carly and have since she came on the scene.

  14. Katie says:

    I found everything you wrote interesting. But I don’t hate Michael for what he did. I believe, in his mind, he truly thought that he was protecting his family. He knew something was going wrong with Claudia, the baby, and his mother. He was doing what the adults in his life would have done. The problem for me was it was a brutal murder, and Michael has not shown any remorse for taking Claudia’s life. I love that Jason, a professional hitman, is worried about Michael. Michael is one of my favorites on the show (every since Drew took over the role) and I hope that there is a change. I hope Michael can live a normal life, and not be involved in the mob.

    Marlena says: I love Michael too, but I beg of you, don’t get hoodwinked by Guza. Even if he feels remorse after he realizes how Michael has been hurt by the mob and violence, Jason is still a multiple murderer. Sonny too! Always.

  15. Gail says:

    I have to wonder why it worries Sonny or Jason or Carly about Michael’s reaction to murdering Claudia. When did we ever see any of them show remorse for murder? When did they ever care that they ended a life in cold blood? I can’t think of one time. They murder without conscience and why should they be surprised if the kid they all raised behaves the same? They are heartless. Only when it’s someone they deemed worthwhile is wrong to kill. GH has clearly lost its soul.

    I think the monster on GH is Guza and Phelps. It’s no secret that soaps under JFP are violent, graphic, and show no respect for life or women. The horror show on GH isn’t just on camera, it’s behind the camera too. Until GH gets a new team, we will be treated to more of the same.

  16. Cyber says:

    For clearing that up for me because I’ve been posting for years it was “Bobby” with Leslie when Monica delivered AJ in one of the funniest scenes in GH history. I laughed for years every time I saw Monica, Leslie, AJ (I’m laughing now).

    I was young but I’ll never forgot it. The look on Leslie’s face when Monica blurted out (during contractions) the daddy was priceless only to when LuLu tells Elizabeth about ELQ’s defective condoms and she has this same WTH? look on her face and hotfooted it to PH2 o check the trash. WoW when the show was GH good I’m still cracking up just reading your synopsis so if I make typos please forgive…

    I didn’t watch the kid being written to kill (I’m a teacher) maybe I’ll get enough energy to watch it down the road. Right now my stomach still curdles when I think of it. I agree the script writer’s dialog never gets to the nitty gritty..its too lightweight for a mob show..I am a mob aficionado and GH doesn’t know when to fold em even the Sopranos knew when to fold tent and close out…

    They go on and on with two male leads in the mob that are constantly pimped by an entire show its old. The extreme (and unnecessary) violence and the constant demeaning of women has me turning it off more than on…

    Jonathan’s arrival made me misty eyed he serves as a constant symbol (reminder) of when GH was “good.” I wonder his true thoughts on this show he came back to.

    ..I know its politically incorrect for him to make a bad comment about the company that hired him but I sure wonder his thoughts on what its evolved to e.g. what Lucky has done.

  17. Tasha says:

    Really if Michael would have been raised by A.J he would have been another Kiefer. Abusing underage girls and using them for sex like what is happening with Kristina. What really galls me is that people seem to forget that the Q’s themselves are murders, crooks,etc. I mean come on Alan tried to kill his wife numerous times, Edward did kill someone, so did Justice. Tracey was a mob boss. The Q’ are no better than Sonny or Jason. I mean what Michael did was horrible but really what was left to do. Let Claudia take the child and run only to hope that the keystone cops at the PCPD would find her. It was nasty but it was SELF DEFENSE

  18. Tasha says:

    Also AJ was one of the weakest characters on GH and would have eventually become jealous of his son because of the attention being paid to him by Monica and Alan. AJ would continually use Michael to get ELQ

  19. Nicholas Ryan says:

    I concur whole heartedly. These men on GH have become monsters! However instead of the dead AJ Quartermaine coming back to life perhaps they can delve in the nearly forgotten brief fling between AJ and Brenda’s older sister Julia. Perhaps she left Port Charles pregnant by AJ and this new Quartermaine scion could turn up in Port Charles an upstanding policeman or FBI agent and successfully bring down Jason and Sonny at last! No doubt he could put Michael in his place as well! Alas, GH doesn’t pen strong moral males, just amoral violent criminals who treat women worse than any real life would be rapist!

  20. Monica G says:

    Thank you, Ed, for an excellent article on the violence and misogyny of GH today. What bothers me both from reading message boards for GH viewers is how little criticism there is of these issues. Viewers gets lulled into the entertainment of soaps and don’t stop to question the underlying themes, messages and assumptions — very few anyway. If an intelligent person does think this through, it’s quite disturbing.

    I won’t go into the fu**ed up psyche of Guza and his alter-ego Sonny, his attitude towards women as seen through his characters, and his complete justification of murder and violence on GH. That sort of analysis of Guza would probably shed a whole lot of light on why GH is the way it is.

    What I would like to express — as a microcosm of what’s going on in the GH macrocosm — is my disappointment of the character of Brenda. She is the perfect example of all that went wrong. Under Claire Labine she was riveting. Labine once said she detested “Dickensonian heroines” who need to be saved, are victims and define themselves by the men in their lives… “husband of..”, “daughter of…” etc. Labine developed Brenda to be the anti-Dickensonian heroine. She was flawed, for sure, but strong, fiery, independent and very much her own person. [I remember one scene when Brenda put on a blond wig and playfully asked Sonny if he wanted her to bring the wig to their bedroom because "blondes are more submissive". Sonny replied that the last time he told Brenda what to do she threw a Caesar salad at him!] Guza, unfortunately, came to GH towards the last couple of years of the Brenda & Sonny magic.. and the changes to her [and Sonny's] character began. Guza has DESTROYED the character of Sonny over the last decade from the redeemable one from the 90′s. And he started to victimize and destroy Brenda as soon as he joined in 1996, then thoroughly so in 2002-03 when actress Vanessa Marcil came back to visit. Now in 2010-11 we are left with a Brenda who is nothing but a broken, sad doormat.

    The character of Brenda is one example of the 360 degree turn from great-to-despicable that GH has taken since the early- and mid-1990s when character development and social conscience were the name of the game.

    I salivate as the thought of what Ms. Labine might have done to the Brenda story arc. She has said in an interview that she intended Brenda to be Sonny’s salvation.. and means for him to *want* to get out of the mob. But first Ms. Labine left, then Maurice Benard for a year, and finally Ms. Marcil for a long time. I’m happy Ms. Marcil found quite some success in primetime and film because however bad for character Brenda is now, it would have only been worse had she stuck around all these years. To prove that point, just look at Sonny.

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