Watching Sadism For Thrills: Soaps Are Not Snuff Films!

drowning

By Marlena De Lacroix

Recently I was asked by a fan why I am not posting much anymore. Here’s why: Today on One Life to Live I watched a woman who had just delivered a baby graphically fall through ice and drown.  Not three months ago I had watched a

Does any TPTB on soaps, so desperate for ratings, actually have any moral sense at all, or even THINK anymore?   Do viewers suddenly crave ”the thrill” of watching women die miserably?

woman on General Hospital get her head bashed in with an axe by a teenager, die and be secretly buried in the woods. Soaps are a lot of things, butthey are not snuff films.   

Why were Claudia on GH and Stacy and OLTL snuffed?  Because the writers of the shows convinced the audience the victims ”deserved it.”  Weren’t both evil women? After all, Claudia (played by Sarah Brown) Sarah Brownkidnapped a “newborn” baby.  Stacy once stole bone marrow, but her big ‘crime’ was that  she secretly got pregnant (by one man) to lure her sister’s man (not the one who impregnated her) to marry her.

Stacy and Claudia were people, dammit!  Killing isn’t right … or funny!   And in America, suspected kidnappers and other criminals are entitled to due process of law!     

Gossip says that Stacy got killed because the actress playing her, Crystal Hunt,  persistently whined and was deemed by some the worst in daytime history!  I can just hear the nasty laughter.  Drown the bitch Stacy in the most graphic way possible!   And if it’s in an icy pond, let’s have her bob up and down before she sinks under the ice for good.

And  the man who runs ABC Daytime approved this death!  Why? Well, to begin with, it was February sweeps!  Claudia’s was just after November sweeps. It’s almost as if soap viewers now like watching acts of violence causing grisly death (specifically against women) for fun!

Before you write me, I know there have been grisly deaths on daytime.  Billy-Clyde on All My Children got washed down a river to one of his deaths.  Leo and Vanessa fell off a cliff on the same show.  On The Young and the Restless, Brad Carlton drowned while trying to save Sharon’s son Noah.

And of course I remember the ugly death of Frankie Frame on Another World, a freak occurrence at the time and rumored to be a personal vendetta by the producer (a woman!).  But in 40 years of watching, I have never seen such graphic, ugly, downright nauseating deaths on soap operas as those of Claudia and Stacy.  On the same network, in only three months time!  You can tell how very desperate ABC is. Soaps have rarely had the grossly bad taste to make us watch actual acts of downright sadism on camera.

It’s been a long time since the Women’s Revolution of the 70s, when women writers like Agnes Nixon and Claire Labine created strong women characters like Erica Brooke and Jillian, who had were smart, indestructible and had careers.   In the days of classic soaps, characters like Joanne on Search for Tomorrow, Viki on OLTL, Kim on As the World Turns, and so many others had problems but illustrated the strengths of women by overcoming their problems. May I repeat:  Soaps used to be about the strengths of women.   Over the last decades, especially the most recent, women have become almost entirely  lesser beings on soaps, growing more and more pathetic as the ratings plummet!    

Remember, not very long ago Marty, Todd’s long ago rape victim was “re-raped” on OLTL.  (Official  ABC Daytme logic:  ‘Cause she had amnesia and didn’t remember the original rape???)  Remember how viewers like me and many of you Thinking Fans flipped out, while many others (I’d say a huge percentage were men) wrote me and said, “Is there a problem here, Marlena?  I don’t see it.”  Or worse: ”Women have always been victims on soap operas.”

That was only a year and a half ago!  Now we have women literally whacked as they were on The Sopranos (remember the execution death of Adriana, and the episode where Ralphie beat in the brains of a stripper?)  Soaps are not The Sopranos, a show brilliantly written so as to make you THINK about how wrong these deaths were!  ABC wants you to thrill to  them!

Think about how fast things are eroding in the daytime world and how downright inhuman the shows are becoming   Does any TPTB on soaps, so desperate for ratings, actually have any moral sense at all, or even THINK anymore?   Do viewers suddenly crave ”the thrill” of watching women die miserably? And you ask why, as a Thinking Fan, I don’t post much anymore. This is so below me, someone who loved and lived for the romance and love and emotional warmth of soaps for so many decades.  Now I am downright embarrassed to have ever been a soap fan at all.      .

P.S.  I heard OLTL held a huge party celebrating their move to the AMC studio the very same day Stacy suffered her ugly, disgusting, misogynistic drowning on camera.  I ask you, isn’t there something VERY wrong here?

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Photo credit:  ABC

Comments

  1. Giada says:

    Sadly, I can only say that I agree.

  2. esther says:

    Great article, Marlena! I’d add something, but you said it all. And they wonder why us diehards no longer watch and why ratings have fallen in general. Just shaking my head…..

    Marlena says: You first used the word “snuff film” on Facebook to describe NBC Nightly News showing the death of that poor Russian luge star in the Olympics. And it stuck in my mind. Thanks dear friend! And we gave up on our lifelong love for soaps on exactly the same week just a few months ago….

  3. Brava, Marlena, brava. Nothing I could possibly add to something so brilliantly (and devestatingly) said.

    Marlena says: Thanks Patrick! That means a lot to me to hear that from you dear! xx

  4. Raymond P says:

    Alas, soaps are but following the trend of music, movies, video games and way too many reality tv shows. Where misogyny rules and women are less valuable because they are but toys and playthings. Where acts of violence are inescapable and thought of as fun.

    What is even sadder is that so many people think of violent acts in the terms of these various genres. They forget that there are real life consequences to such behavior. No one is going to “return from the dead”; such acts leave heavy emotional scars, etc.

    How truly sad it is that the daytime serial – the embodiment of female triumph and empowerment has descended to such depths.

    Marlena says: This letter is just brilliant, Ray! xo

  5. Steve says:

    I don’t even know if soaps are following a trend or if this is just what those on daytime now truly enjoy. Never did I think I would see a story where a woman was traumatized into a miscarriage and then a rapist/molester dropped by to examine her. Maria Bell, Hogan Sheffer and Paul Rauch tainted Y&R forever in that moment.

    It’s down to more than just bad girls though. Even the “good” girls are brutalized. OLTL gave us lovely scenes of Jessica choking as she was given electroshock therapy to help make brainwash her into submission. Jessica was the future of OLTL. And that future has been year after year after year of trauma, madness, abuse, and sickening exploitation.

    When I started watching OLTL it was about strong and complex women. I do not see that in the days of Gigi, Tea, Jessica, or, sadly, even today’s Viki “put my fingers in my ears and go la la la” Banks.

    Marlena says: Steve, that “today’s” Viki made me put my fingers in my ears and go “la lal la Banks,” made me howl and cry at the same time. Howl, because your imagery is hilarious and oh so true. How foolish the scriptwriters have made this once beloved character. And tragic because I have been a HUGE Erika Slezak and Viki fan going back to the show’s 1968 start (I also loved the first Viki, Gillian Spencer). I am a card carrying member of the Erika Slezak Fan Club, and Erika has won six Emmys with great, great cause. The desecration of all women characters on daytime makes me sad, but what has been done to my special lifetime favorites (like Slezak’s Viki and Strasser’s Dorian) just makes me ill.

  6. Beth says:

    Marlena I could not have said it better myself. Gone are the days when women on daytime could be mutiple shades of grey….wife, mother, cut-throat business woman, loyal friend, feared rival. Characters like Helena, Dorian, Vicki, Erica, Stephanie, and Reva are gone. The ones that have remained have been largely watered down. Now most women are either pathetic victims (See GH’s Elizabeth…who apparenlty could not figure out she was pregnant for the 5th time and even though she is a legal adult and mother of two children, was checked into a mental hosptial because her broher, ex-husband, and whatever i’m supposed to think Nik is decided she was crazy!) or if they show a modicum of self-reliance…a career-driven shrew who needs a man to curb her neurotic tendencies (see the way GH treats smart capable women like Robin and Alexis). If the dare to play with the big boys the way Claudia and Faith did, they are evil bitches that we are supposed to root to die horrific deaths. And the truly sad thing is most of the schemes and accussations hurled at these women are no worse than the things the men on these shows do. I was supposed to root for Claudia to die via hatchet for mistakenly shooting Michael in the head but I’m supposed to feel sorry for Sonny after watching him plot to murder an undercover cop in cold blood just because he didn’t know all the facts?

    I am a single woman who works two jobs to support herself. I am reasonably intelligent and consider myself a feminist. I consider myself the equal to most men. and yet in watching daytime (a genre I have loved since I was 12) i get the message that I am a worthless mess since I dont’ have a man to take care of me, a baby to obsess over having for a man, and too neurotic to be taken seriously since I dont’ have a man.

    I have often wondered in the past decade if perhaps TPTB at daytime suddenly decided that teenage boys are the ones that watch soap operas…..as they seem to be the market they are targeting aggressively.

    Marlena says: Bravo, Beth! I admire you, especially working two jobs. Especially love and agree with your last line. They certainly aren’t appealing to older, thinking people; women and men who know right from wrong. Soaps have always been about realtionships and families, yet for years (and I was happily single for a decades) I never felt soaps were preaching at me I was nothing without a man or a baby. But soaps have become so sexist and misogynistic, they certainly do now! Elizabeth on GH has become the worst example. Women are now brainless victims on soaps. In the old days women were real people and will and courage and strength were celebrated. They overcame their problems with sense….and heart. Think Feliica on Another World, who was all love and friendship (she was always as close with Cass or Wally as she was with any of her husbands) Or Margo on As the World Turns, who is tough, but has always had a real heart. She is all about seeking truth!

    I am not a mother, and I was never obsessed with having kids. In the last decade I got married to a wonderful THINKING respectful man and was lucky to have inherited a step-family of kids whom I love dearly. And I am in awe of women who have babies, who do the difficult work to raising kids. I repeat: But MY life isn’t any lesser because I don’t have a baby no one–and no soap–will ever convince me I am nothing with a man. That’s what the women’s revolution was about! Viva single women! Viva all women! Viva Beth!

  7. horselover says:

    Bravo Marlena! GH is probably the worst of all the soaps. Now we’re supposed to feel sorry for Sonny who shot a cop in cold blood. No thanks!

    Marlena says: Renee, don’t get me started. I won’t even write a review of GH (except the puppy story above) because the show and Guza are living in la la land.

    As my friend pjs says, the minute a person shoots a cop — and gets away with it — is the end of civilization as we know it. Think about it — he means a civilized society in which there are laws which apply to all people and punish people who commit crimes. Even if that the person/cop you shot in cold blood turns out to be (Olivia gasps) … your own son!

  8. Darcy says:

    I totally and wholeheartedly agree with everything you said..

    I’ve been a soap fan for a long time and its gotten so bad on ABC soaps I’m totally out and refuse to return as a loyal viewer

    However the lack of women focused storylines has sent me scrambling to webisodes and Y/R, B/B, DOL.
    which write women a tad better. I have issues with Nikki Newman.

    I simply can’t take it the over-the-top testosterone heavy male driven stories on GH.

    The show is horrible how they write women running around chasing men who calls them bitches and whores…as in poor Claudia’s prior to her demise…these characters (actors) are lauded as emmy worthy cause they call out demeaning names. I simply am in awe of what I see whenever I try to watch this show. What GH actresses are emmy worthy?

    I waited ten years for Jonathan’s return as Lucky thinking I’m going to get a good Elizabeth/Lucky storyline now this? I never thought I’d hear him call her names.

    Helena’s back which I usually break my neck to see now..I’m questioning do I really want to see her in one of the worst written triangles (quads) I’ve seen in years (Elizabeth/Lucky/Nicholas). Which is so male driven it didn’t make much sense to me… a horrible prolonged plot point they turned into a full blown storyline……Same with “Goodbye Detective” and the :”Franco Fiasco (the perils of Pauline).

    Mucho macho man…but hey, they are doing a happy dance they gained viewers so misogony is the order of the day..more to come…I only can speak for myself and I’ve reached my limit. I’m done over and out and it feels good. I record them because I don’t want another soap to die but I don’t watch.

    They have their ratings, so its all good. Actually its a relief to be rid of them. I’ve learned there is too much good programming out here and I don’t do “idiot TV.”

    Also I’ve been reading some great books…

    Marlena says: Darcy! I know from my columns and your postings what a huge soap fan (like me) you were over the years! You given up? Wow! So many hardcore soap fans have. Books are fabulous. And by your name, you are obviously a fan of classic English literature!

  9. alice says:

    I agree with your comments about Claudia’s death and would also add the senseless gaslighting of Ashley Abbott Newman and the burning of her miscarried fetus in a home’s fireplace.

    But is Stacy really dead? No body has been found… In November, OLTL’s Ross was shot and fell into a river supposedly to drown. Weeks later, we learned that he lived.

    I think for the audience, there is now a plasticity in terms of death on soaps. Even if a body is found, we learn soon after or years after, a death was faked. It’s happened so often that audiences care less.

    Last year, Y&R saw the senseless murder of a young female character, Colleen Carlton. Her drowning death was made almost poetic because a year earlier her father had drowned. His spirit met her under the water and greeted her to the after world.

    When is a death necessary or acceptable?

  10. TV's Tim says:

    While I agree that Stacy’s death was gratuitous and unnecessary, I was far more appalled by what was happening with Mitch and Jessica. Electroshock therapy? Incest? Another accidential shooting? Good grief! I’ve been aware of Stacy’s impending demise for a while now (although I’m actually surprised that they went with a drowning, as I assumed that Mitch was going to be directly responsible) so I guess that’s why it didn’t hit me as hard as this did. I just can’t believe they went ‘there’ with this storyline.

    And I’m not particularly religious, but his constant Bible-quoting doesn’t sit well with me, either. It almost feels like a hidden agenda being pushed by the writers using the most repulsive non-mobster character on daytime.

    Marlena says: Tim, don’t even get me started on Mitch….and worse, their use of ECT that saved the life of a close friend of mine and does NOT send you back to being a teenager! Like GH, I absolutely refuse to write a long review of One Life to Live. I’m done writing about shows that are beneath my dignity and my brain. But I could not stay silent on soaps actually snuffing women and wrote this column out of sheer outrage.

  11. esther says:

    Ray, it’s interesting you say that about returning from the dead. Apparently there was a little boy in the Georgian villiage that Luge athlete was from and when they told him that his friend had died, the child asked if he was going to return from the dead. Heartbreaking. When they told him no, he burst into tears.

  12. Josie says:

    Marlena, I think you are seriously overreacting with your criticism of OLTL. Stacy’s death wasn’t especially ugly or disturbing to watch. She fell through a pile of (very fake looking) ice and then paddled around a bit in the water before disappearing. As far as soap deaths go, it’s nowhere near the scariest I’ve seen. I wouldn’t compare it to the rampant misogyny and violence that seems to appear on GH every day of the week. Perhaps you are letting your hatred for Marty’s amnesia storyline color your opinion about OLTL’s other storylines.

    Marlena says: You think Stacy’s death was no big deal? Well, the bigger aberration was Amanda Setton’s acting (if you could call it that) in the grief scenes for Kim’s pal Stacy following her “drowning” at the pond. If Setton’s the new soap “it” girl, I’m more than done….I’m fried, baby!

  13. DS0816 says:

    Dear Marlena,

    Good to see you back! (And a belated Happy New Year to you!)

    In my 25-plus years of soap-watching, the death that disturbed me most was Lee Halpern’s, in 1988, on “One Life to Live.” Lee’s ex-lover (whose name I cannot recall) was attacking her, on a bed, and in came Lee’s daughter, Mari Lynn Dennison, brandishing a gun. The ex-lover saw Mari Lynn about to pull the trigger, targeting him (and in defense of her mother), and he deliberately flipped Lee around so she would take the bullet. I found it surprisingly, and incredibly, ruthless. It was also disgusting.

    In 1995, “Guiding Light” brought some insult by having the Nadine Cooper character, who at the time was psychic, fail to see her death coming. Well, sorta. It was the Brent Lawrence/ Marian Crane story (the details of which I don’t care to take … that stroll down memory lane), and actress Jean Carol (just off the heels of a ’95 Emmy nomination, no less!) wanted to exit the series. So “GL” gave this pivotal character a very nasty death scene in which “Marian” clocked Nadine with a blunt instrument. It killed her instantly, and her body wasn’t recovered for another two or three months.

    I recall reading, in the 1980s, some of Roger Ebert’s reviews of slasher movies that were really popular with the teens back then (and have since been remade during much of the 2000s; ah, what’s old is new again!). He harked back to his childhood, growing up in the 1950s, recalling the fantasies in films he saw that were much different. Much more pleasant. More romantic. Well, I grew up in the 1980s, and even I thought these “horror films” became more and more excessive, and shallow, I didn’t take them too seriously. It was one thing for me to have a crush on Jamie Lee Curtis, but I grew to feel exactly as what Ebert said about this “entertainment”: the idea of watching stories where characters get murdered like as if they are figures in a video game is … kinda depressing.

    I can’t offer up much on the recent “killings” of “General Hospital’s” Claudia and “OLTL’s” Stacy (I haven’t been … engaged). They were terrible characters, quality wise, and it’s difficult to muster any emotion over losing them. But I agree with you completely, Marlena, that the tact that’s taken begs the question: Isn’t there a better way?

    Marlena says: Hi DSO! Always great to hear from you. As I said, there are many grisly soap character death stories. I recall on OLTL — early 80s — when one of Asa’s young wives, Samantha Vernon, was somehow electrocuted. And she was what people today call a “legacy” character on the show. Nadine’s death on GH was horrible — Jean Carol IRL is a sweet, wonderful woman — but we didn’t SEE Nadine drown. There’s an old soap rumor (ahem) that there’a an executive producer (ahem) who loves to give grisly deaths to the characters of actors she doesn’t like (ahem!)

    Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize winning movie critic and a brilliant man, is certainly right saying the slasher movies of the 80s harkened back to the 50s. In “B” cheesy sci-fi movies of that era, you heard about giant squids eating people, pods and aliens eating people (as in the hilarious “Attack of Killer Tomatos”) but you never saw it. Just for the record, my great friend Chrissie, who is a HUGE fan of 80s “suspense” movies (and a soap fan) wrote me yesterday saying he agreed with my column. I was afraid he wouldn’t because of his passion for campy, bloody movies. The last time I saw him, he made me watch a movie called “Lake Placid,” which I foolishly had thought was about a place in upstate New York where I vacation. It was about a lake creature that ate people!

    Ebert is right, life isn’t a video game. And soaps are not video games!

  14. Mary says:

    I totally agee with your article. I was appaled when they put Jason back with Sam knowinly l achild be kidnapped and tried to hide it and then hired thugs. Then Guza in the mags telling me that that was romantic foreplay for the couple, I was and am appalled that the writer on GH write the mob as good and police as bad, That woman are whores otherwise they are good for nothing. ABC needs help

  15. Lisa says:

    Honestly, I wasn’t particularly bothered by Stacy’s death. Characters die and, for once, it wasn’t a result of violence against women! Stacy died in an accident, not at the hands of some man or some kid weilding an ax. In real life people die from accidents, and characters can die from accidents. So, no, it actually didn’t bother me to see the superflous character die by falling through cracked ice. It’s not like Stacy hadn’t risked her NEPHEW’S life in her nefarious plans, but now I’m supposed to be bothered that she was stupid enough to wander out on a lake in a snowstorm?

    I agree that soaps go overboard with violence against women. But Stacy wasn’t murdered. She just fell and actually had people trying to save her.

    Marlena says: The writers, producer and network decide what happens to characters (and actors) on a soap opera. Storylines are SPECIFICALLY scripted to make you “believe” a story….but this column is purposely for the Thinking Fan…..who analyzes all aspects of a soap (history, backstage influences etc.) to figure out what is really going on.

  16. Lisa says:

    Now, if this rant was about Jessica nearly being raped by her biological father? That’s a OLTL rant I could agree with!

    Marlena says: As I said, taking the time to critcize this show (and GH) now or this storyline is beneath my dignity. I did make a quick comment about Jessica’s ECT in an answer to a letter above, though.

  17. a soaps fan says:

    I just have to say that I have been reading your views on the soaps on this blog and have thoroughly enjoyed them. Every week I used to buy Soap Opera Weekly to read the thoughtful opinions. Now i can read it through while waiting in the grocery check-out line.
    Soap are in a dire place. The violence and misoginy which you have so eloquently written about makes the soaps which i have watched not such a nice to visit. On all 3 networks, women are being victimized and treated with contempt and violence. On Y/R, Ashley was gaslighted to believe that she gave birth to a healthy baby while the real mother has married the man who caused this chaos.
    On Days, Sami believes that her kidnapped child is in harm’s way while , the baby’s father EJ is wilfully keeping the baby away from her.
    Please don’t get me started on General Hospital. Morally , this show has gone off the deep end. We have a mobster shoot an unarmed police officer in cold blood. What hapens next ??? Sam, a gangster’s moll happens to lift the gun which is in plain view . The said police officer and his mother both perjure themselves to say that it happened accidentally. Then we have Carly, who i find to be one ot the most reprehensible characters on any soap that i ever watched DEMAND that the said police officer, lie to keep the mobster out of jail because he is his father. As well, a sister of a young tween aka gangster moll tells the aforesaid sister Molly to lie and not to tell her mother Alexis the truth. I don’t get it..
    It seems that Sonny that greasy mobster who is a really GOOD father and loves his children will get off once again.
    On a parting note, why would they bring Victor on Y/R back with such vengeance in his heart (actually Colleen’s ) to the family which gave him back the gift of life. Sometimes i watch old episodes of days and y/r and see a family connection. THere was a time when truth, honour and love of family seem to matter. Whenever, I watch a Christmas episode of the Hortons, with Tom and Alice , Rest in Peace, i feel that WAS what t soaps were all about.

    Marlena says: Thanks from my heart for your longtime allegiance to my writing, soaps. And I agree with you. Tom and Alice and the Hortons at Christmas WAS what soaps were all about. RIP Frances Reid and MacDonald Carey (both of whom I was lucky enough to interview during their very interesting lifetimes.)

  18. Jimmy says:

    I can’t speak to the GH/Claudia story, other than to say it’s situations like that which make me avoid that show to begin with. I did, however, see OLTL and the Stacy/Jessica parts. I know Stacy was an unpopular character, so I have to wonder if her grisly death was the writers behaving in a misguided attempt to “give the viewers what they want”. Do the writers only hear the most vocal “fans” on the internet who compete with one another to sound the most angry? Or are the writers simply trying to top one another with “shocking exits” rather than just sending characters out of town?

    I really do enjoy OLTL overall, but there are moments like this when even I can’t defend their story choices. I think the main issue with the show is its male leads, or at least the ones they push forward to be leads. Todd is an unrepentant narcissistic rapist who treats everyone as if they owe him respect/love; John can’t move his face and has the emotional depth of an ashtray; and Rex has more ticks than a cuckoo clock and has no concept of his own faults as he criticizes everyone else. Yet these seem to be the “ideal” men on the show right now who have women falling over each other to gain their attentions. NOT helping.

    Marlena says: In my experience over many years , TPTB only listen to writers and critics they respect as being professionals. They especially listen to you when you understand what they are doing not as a fan, but are someone who has experience in writing about television and are hip to the fact that soaps are theater. Not real life. First rule in soaps: NEVER give viewers what they want.

    I deplore Todd, (there’s a post under OLTL called “I Hate Todd” on this site) and resent more than life that they have spent the last year or so making him a good guy! Rapist! Re-rapist!

  19. Daniel says:

    Male villians get redemption or they die and come back. Again and again. Female villians get the ax, literally at times, and that is okay with the soap viewing public. As much as it pains me to say this I think that there must be a large segment of the public that watches soaps, women, that have it in for other women, at least in the fictional sense. GH and OLTL are so grotesque in their treatment of women yet women keep tuning in. Maybe it is just habit? Maybe it would be devastating if soaps vanished? I don’t know, but it just makes me sad.
    I remember when I first really, on my own, started watching GH. Lucy Coe had just come to town as the mousy librarian with a huge secret and it was fantastic! She was a “bad girl” but a “bad girl” with depth. They don’t seem to write female characters anymore that are beyond a reflection of some demented male fantasy.
    I read soap updates every week for fun but if I don’t think I could actually sit through these shows even on a monthly basis. Mobsters, rapists, psycho killers are the stars and I don’t think that will change. I guess it’s time to unplug the tv and stop caring about characters, like the Quartermaines, that have ceased to exist.

  20. JONNYSBRO says:

    Hey Marlena, love the article/column. This is classic Marlena at her best which is controversial, smart, and wonderful examples/analogies. Anyways loved you brought up Sopranos. I was long time fan of that show and IMO David Chase is one of most genius writers ever on television. The Adriana execution IMO was Soprnaos at it’s all time best. Chase built it up all season to the climax. In fact what was so amazing is Christopher played by brilliant Michael Imperoli knew but told Tony. it was totally in character for Christopher as his allegiance to Tony superceded everything. The scenes were Adriana is driven into woods with the crying/look on her face.

    It was just riveting, chilling, and spellbinding. Chase made us never forget these were bad characters but we loved them. We also were invested in Adriana. ABC’s Claudia/Stacy deaths were just plot driven ratings disasters. They had none of the pyschological character brilliance Chase set up for Adriana.

    Marlena says: Bless you Jonny!

  21. Daniel Rand says:

    Great column, Marlena. When my beloved Guiding Light faded out last September, I wondered what I would do…I’d been watching that soap (and some others) since the early 80s.

    One emotion I never imagined was…relief. That’s what I felt after reading your column. GL was a shadow of its former self by 2009, but one thing it usually avoided was the lurid glorification of violence and villainy you describe at ABC. Granted, there were slipups (Grady Foley), but overall I felt GL conveyed a positive moral message. After all, isn’t that what soaps were in their inception…little morality plays? Good versus evil, light versus darkness?

    When GL ended, I did a few things to keep the suds flowing. I started watching my little archive of GL (currently in 1988 with Beverlee McKinsey, Chris Bernau, Michelle Forbes, Audrey Peters…) and ordered some old soaps from the 50s. GL, Love of Life, Search for Tomorrow, Secret Storm, Inner Flame, Valiant Lady…I did it for fun. I knew a bit about the storylines from old soap books, but that wasn’t really important. Simple as they were with basic sets, short episodes and small casts, it wasn’t hard to see how they had millions of viewers every day. They had a clear story, defined characters and a sense of hope. Search for Tomorrow and Love of Life were not just evocative names, they were themes! This was the struggle of life viewers were watching and sharing along with characters they loved and hated.

    Part of that struggle involves the villains. I think of Roger Thorpe as the quintessential soap villain. As bad as he was, Roger was a draw to viewers because there was always the hope that Roger would find redemption. To a great extent Roger did by the time the great Michael Zaslow left GL, and what a journey it was! GL could have left Roger dead after his grisly fall in Santo Domingo, but by bringing him back we got great story and a great character. Today’s shows would make us want to see Roger head to another ghastly end, instead of leaving open the chance to see him show some contrition and change his ways.

    Seems like the folks at ABC have forgotten how to walk that fine line with their bad guys, and instead are appealing to a very base element in their audience. Perhaps it was a good thing that GL didn’t move to another network…that network might have also found violence for violence’s sake a sexy thing.

    Marlena says: My condolences to you on losing your special soap Guiding Light. Roger Thorpe had layers and layers and that’s what made him fascinating. Zaslow played him brilliantly. But you are right, if Roger were around today, they’d make him Mitch Lawrence (a.k.a. Frankenstein) on OLTL, or Todd, who has little remorse for Marty’s rape and rerape. Roger spent years atoning for raping his wife Holly. It was something never forgotten on the show even years later. BTW I love your line “that network might have also found violence for viloence’s sake is often a SEXY thing.”

  22. Jennifer says:

    HBO family had a show about the great depression with children interviewing people who lived during that difficult time. One segment talked about the escape these folks had in movies. Forgetting the blatant disrespect for women on soaps, what happened to making a show where a viewer can escape everyday problems or just finding some enjoyment for a few hours with some of your favorite characters? Stop emulating Criminal Minds; look at the amazing movies of the golden age of Hollywood for inspiration.

    Electroshocking and talking about raping your child is not entertainment. Blair whoring around town and playing family with her rapist ex is now suppose to suffice for entertainment. Do-nothing Viki is angrier with Dorian than with the man who was going to rape her daughter. I fear for this Cramer reunion.

    Entertain your audience, do not disgust them.

    Marlena says: By coincidence I did a whole project on The Depression in grad school and this was a wonderful reminder of that. My mother became a movie fan during the Depression to escape her bleak childhood and introduced me to classic movies of the 30′s, 40′s and 50′s. Actually, I watch Turner Classic Movies sometimes in the afternoon instead of soaps. The morals of these movies, their messages, and especially their craftmanship (writing!) are everything soaps are not these days. As I said, don’t get me started on OLTL. The Cramer family reunion can only lead to … more snuff!

  23. Melanie S says:

    Thank You Marlena for continuing to write so brilliantly about an issue that is too easily dismissed by many viewers. As soap fan of 25+ years, I’m sad to say that watching my shows feels like a chore now. A big reason for this is the contempt TPTB seem to have for female characters, audience members and actresses.

    Some might feel it’s not a big deal, especially if your examples are seen as isolated incidents, but if one wants to understand our frustration, they have to look at the big picture. Horrendous deaths and violence towards women (Claudia and Stacey’s deaths, Y&R’s Adam torturing Ashley, OLTL’s Mitch’s reign of terror, the Tarty “romance”, B&B’s pathetic & disgusting *2nd* rape story for Brooke), female characters that are written as one dimensional dummies whose are simply appendages to men and who no longer drive story or when they are the leads in a story they’re written as unlikeable, unrelatable, wishy-washy creeps (ie. GH’s Elizabeth, Olivia), & male characters that are pigs yet are presented as romantic leads (OLTL’s Todd, GH’s Sonny).

    We’ve got these wonderful, talented, dynamic actresses that are wasted (even more so than the actors, imo). One example: Sarah Brown. Talented and popular, GH gets her back and they have her play a woman whose most marked characteristic is her love of the color black?! Instead of an interesting, complex character, Claudia went back and forth between victim (abused by her father and Trevor, coming on to and being rejected by every man she came in contact with) to bumbling villain (inadvertently causing Michael’s shooting, having Jerry go after two kids) back to victim (getting stabbed, injured in two car accidents, miscarrying, an axe to the head death.) THIS is what they give to one of the best actresses in daytime?? It was all nonsense!

    I like both male and female characters, but it’s the women who I identify with, who capture my imagination most and who I passionately love *and* hate. I don’t need female characters to be perfect or great role models, but what I want is for them to be front and center, driving story and being written as real human beings. Likewise, I don’t need all stories to be “politically correct.” The very awesome DS0816 brought up GL’s Brent/Marian story. It was very controversial at the time and many viewers found it offensive. I actually loved it. Yes, it was violent, disturbing and included dark humor (which many felt was inappropriate), but I was riveted, probably because it was an anomaly. Maybe because the more “offensive” aspects of the story weren’t typical of what was on daytime at the time, it was easier to accept and enjoy. (Plus the story was filled with so many Psycho in-jokes – that alone was a pleasure to me as a young film buff at the time.) My point is that it’s not about whether a story is offensive or not. I accept that some stories will push the envelope and I’m okay with that. The difference for me is that a misogynistic approach to storytelling on soaps is now the norm.

    Sorry for going on like this!!! Thanks again Marlena!!! Oh and btw, I’m in the minority – I loved Lake Placid, lol.

    Marlena says: My friend, my heart burst with joy because you have ALWAYS heard what I have had to say on the abuse and repression of women on soaps! Most soap posters these days don’t get it at all and it infuriates me. Being young or being male is no excuse. (As you can see by the letters here, plenty of men agree with us.) I can’t agree with you more about how GH just abused and abused and abused Sarah Brown, who had done so much for the show in her first stint as the original Carly (a human being, not the shouting, shallow walking uterus the character has become today.) Sarah deserves the Croix de Guerre for surviving Guza!

    There’s a whole story behind the Brent/Marian on GL story. I interviewed the poor actor who played this character (it gave him a nervous breakdown) and found out the reason for for why the story was done in the first place (not a nice one) from one of the writers much later privately. Ask me sometime about it — privately!

  24. Nanci Hughes says:

    Marlena I could not agree more. That is why I write about GH so negatively. The violence and abuse of women is the norm on this show and the glorification of the mob has made it deplorable. There is not one strong woman on this show. I mean strong and independent and moral and sensible and not easy and cheap with no self esteem and find it impossible to say no to killers. Guza has such disrespect for women and it shows in his writing. One Life made a mistake with the treatment of Stacy but they have strong women with self respect as well as those without, but GH wins the prize for demeaning women.

    Marlena says: Hear! Hear! Love your moniker BTW.

  25. Bennetton says:

    Excellent, I couldn’t have said it better.

  26. RUBIE says:

    As bad as ABC and it’s leader FRONS is and they are bad I think CBS is worst because you have BARBARA BLOOM a VP at CBS and MARIA ARENA BELL as both co/producer and co/head writer not to mention the wife/daughter in law of the BELL family both are women with authority and postion but the women on both ynr and bb are pitiful. I stop watching bb years ago I just could not stomach the Brook/Ridge/Taylor s/l another go around or the fact that Brook has slept with every man in one family including her own daughters husband (twice) and it is consider alright by everyone except Stephine/Taylor and the two of them are proytrayed as wrong for thinking that way now as for ynr where does one begin with the sorry s/l these women have been given…..Nikki has gone from giving lapdances to becomming Vicktors lapdog whatever lovestory they had ended when he told her what they had was sick and that he wished that one of them had the guts to kill themselves so that it would be over……Sharon was dropping panties anytime a man knocked on her door…..Phyliss kept taking Nick back everytime he made a mistake and slept with Sharon (everytime)……Amber is who knows what……Chole took off the clothes of an man who was passed out climed on top of him and did who knows what then claimed he got her pregnant all cause she thought the real dad wouldn’t step up I guess having her have a baby with her mom’s help would have been too much….speaking of her mom how many times can she marry a man who wants to rob/kill her boss……Collen was a legacy character but instead of writing a solid story they choose to take the easy way out and kill her……Lily they do not know how or what to write for this character she is so submissive and so forgiving she has no direction she has been giving 3 different version of a baby s/l for the past 1 1/2 and this latest ovarian cancer s/l they gave her was poorly handled topping it off by giving her a 22 year-old a full hysterectomy just so they can do this ill-fated surrogoate s/l that no one is really intrested in seeing….my point is even with women in charge it seems that women on soaps supposed to be stuip/weak/sluts/liars/bitches….and tptb wonder why soaps are loosing thier audiance

  27. Marilyn Henry says:

    So good you got so many thoughtful responses to this. Once more you got people thinking and weighing in.

    About Stacy on OLTL–well, it is possible TPTB were simply giving viewers what they expressed about this very unpopular character. I just wanted her off my screen, but I’d have been as happy with her just leaving town as long as she got some sort of
    comeuppance. Comeuppance is kind of important with a character like Stacy. I didn’t think it was a particularly grisly death. She had an accident and drowned. I’d rather not have to watch it, but I was actually more appalled by the writers trying to redeem this awful character in her last moments.

    Claudia was another matter. I couldn’t wait for her to get off my screen–she made me hit the ff button again and again. Whoever gave Guza the go-ahead to create such an evil, repellant, disgusting character for an actress who they seemed so happy to get back–inexplicable. As I remember, Guza was the writer who invented Carly and I really despised her at the beginning and I never became a Sarah Brown fan. I am a tiny bit more tolerant of Carly as Laura Wright plays her, but Carly is still a nasty bitch. I was not thrilled at Sarah’s return. However, to have her play one of soaps’ most base, rotten, and cringe-worthy characters seemed counter-productive.

    But then, most of what Guza writes is counter-productive to his soap. GH has one of the best and most likable and popular actresses in Nancy Grahn, but Guza or someone in charge will never give her a good story and an appropriate amount of air-time. I assume Nancy, who is known for being outspoken, has offended someone.

    Then there is poor Rebecca Hearst who is a lovely leading lady type and someone we could easily admire, but Guza won’t allow that. He jerks her character around constantly–she’s sweet, she’s heartless, she’s sensible, she’s a slut, she’s a good mother, she constantly dumps her kids at Grandma’s, she is strong and independent, she is pathetically dependent. This kind of writing of a character is, to me, far more offensive than the killing of Claudia. I want to like Elizabeth, but I can’t get to know her. What I think today will change tomorrow. I can’t relate. Guza basically did a similar job of non-establishing Sam, so I have never liked her either.

    I feel no connection with the women on GH because they aren’t like any real women I know. No halfway intelligent woman I know would waste a nano second on that greasy, cold-blooded, cop-killing, mobster Sonny. Or spend any time with that brain-damaged, silent hit-man, thug Jason. Yet these are the main choices for romance for the women on this show–just that right there shows disrespect for female characters. And don’t even get me started on the dreadful Todd on OLTL, whom no self-respecting woman would ever want to be alone in a room with.

    I suspect your mom and I were of an age and I loved the movies as she did. Even watching the old ones today, I realize they have such a difference from today’s films–in tone, in that moral fantasy world that is so safe and comfortable you can lose yourself for 90 minutes in sheer enjoyment. Tasteful clothes with real style, decent grammar, good intentions and consciences that worked, a bit of non-intrusive, mood-setting music, romance that was romantic…well, that age of innocence won’t return.

    But why, I wonder, does reality today seem to be defined by only the immoral ugly stuff?

    Marlena says: Well Marilyn, obviously I stuck a chord with my condemation of Stacey’s death as being a mean sexist joke. At the ABC wingding held the same day it aired Frank Valentini VOLUNTEERED to our pal Damon Jacobs that he believed doing Stacey’s death falling through the ice was story-dictated, “was absolutely the right thing to do.” Well, no one had asked him! Soaps are written events and dramatic manipulations, her death was no “accident.”

    No one writes better or more wisely about you than GH. You know I agree about women on the show. BUT NOTHING EVER CHANGES. It always gets worse.

    I watch a lot of old movies now. Sure, they are more romatnic and existed in a romanticized world. But still what strikes me is that no matter what, people knew right from wrong, understood you have to pay for crimes, had dignity and did things for their fellow man. In Notorious, USA war recruit Ingrid Bergman went undercover (and even married) a Nazi war atomic bomb material supplier to expose him, sacrificing her love for Cary Grant. (Cary Grant!) Westerns were always about right from wrong. Just last week, we were watching Alan Ladd (Marilyn wrote a book about him) in Shane, and that was a movie entirely about right and wrong, the homesteaders vs. vicious villain Jack Palance, who was trying to drive them off their land. Shane didn’t touch Van Heflin’s wife Jean Arthur, even though it was intimated they were attracted to one another

    Sure the world is upside down now and I don’t expect soaps to be old movies. But soaps won’t exist much longer because they are counter to morals. They will die because they are counter to human reasoning.

  28. a soaps fan says:

    Bravo, Marlena for such a well written blog about the state of soaps and the way that women have been portrayed on all 3 networks. I had posted earlier in this blog and have been reading the entries since then. Morality may sem to be an out dated concept according to the shows , i watch on a regular basis. On General Hospital, you have Alexis (who I used to see as a smart and clear thinker) defend Sonny to her best friend Jax as the father of her daughter . She seemed almost gleeful that the prosecutor in the case was supposedly a lightweight and now to be confronted by a younger brighter prosecutor who is intent on bringing Sonny down . then you have Dr. Robin go to Dante to “work ” on him by stating that Sonny is a good man who has done good things. This of course is a man who shot an unarmed Police officer. But wait that was of course before he knew that he was his FATHER. When two educated profeesional women, (notice i don’t mention mob molls, Sam and Carly) take up the banner for Sonny and knowing that he wil probably get off is a sad day for soaps in general. Kudos to Patrick for seeing through Robin, (maybe Dr. Lisa should get him. truthfully, i never saw the great appeal of Robin the character,) Lulu and Johnny, and Tracy who seem to be the only people who see the unvarnished truth and tell it as they see it. Peace

    Marlena says: Thanks soaps. ITA on all your GH points!

  29. Marilyn Henry says:

    Hi Connie,

    “No one writes better or more wisely about you than GH. You know I agree about women on the show. BUT NOTHING EVER CHANGES. It always gets worse…”

    Somehow I doubt you meant that first line there– as far as I know, GH has never written about me. (That would make it far duller than it already is!)

    I agree though that nothing ever changes. We wait, we watch, we hope, and nothing ever DOES change. I keep telling myself I should quit watching this immoral GH dribble, but hope and habit drive me back. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week Alexis will get a real story where she can be a heroine, maybe the next time we have to look at Sonny it will be through prison bars, maybe Jason will suddenly forget all the years since his accident and be restored to a decent man. Or leave. Maybe TPTB will see the light and bring back Genie and allow Laura to fullfill her destiny as the lead lady of this show. HA! Not gonna happen. I know it, but hope dies hard.

    I used to love to go to the movies–now I barely go a half dozen times a year. And I watched ‘Now Voyager’ for the 100th time the other night–practically saying the lines with them because I know it so well, but movies that strike a cord, which had marvelous characters, well-written scripts, great romance–they seem to live on. And their appeal lives on for another generation. I had a crush on Claude Raines; my daughter-in-law saw NV and developed a crush on Paul Henreid.

    So hooray for TCM and all our good memories of what soaps used to be…
    You and I met when soaps were at their peak. And we are still here in their lows. Maybe if we hang in there, they will rise again…..

    Marlena says: I was just typing my compliment to you so fast I messed it up. LOL. I adore Claude Rains–what a terrific actor! Paul Henreid is certainly yesterday’s idea of a romantic hero, but love him anyway. (Especially when he lit up the two cigarettes in Now Voyager!) I’m sure you’ve read Aljean’s Harmetz’s book “Round up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablana.” (Casablana starred both Henreid and Rains.) She is my all time favorite entertainment writer. What a inside story; what a brilliant book! BTW, I went to the movies every week of my life, but have stopped within the last year or so. Not much I want to see. We watch old movies and historical documentaries here.

    Marilyn, I cherish my old friendship with you for many reasons! For one, my mother, who dedicated her life to the movies, must have said a zillion times, “I’ve never watched a soap opera in my life!” But perhaps that was more about her than me.

  30. Chris says:

    I was very happy to hear last December that OLTL were going to kill off Stacey Morasco’s character!!! She has done so many horrible things over the course of the year (threatening her cancer-stricken’s nephew’s life by only agreeing to donate a then comatosed Mitch Lawrence’s bone marrow to pass off as her own so that she can convince Gigi to dump Rex so she can date him since she had a teenage crush on him back in their high school days, and also getting impregnated by Rex, then after she miscarried his baby, got impregnated AGAIN by taking advantage of a dunken and closeted gay police officer Oliver Fish so she could still pass off the baby as Rex’s kid!!!!!) that the character was BEYOND being redeemable. When they got towards the end of her storyline, the writers tried to manipulate us thinking that she was starting to actually give a hoot about the baby she was really using to win Rex’s affections, but she always had her eyes on the prize when it came to Rex! On the day she finally drowned in the frozen lake after she gave birth to Sierra Rose, I was happy she wasn’t gong to be on the show anymore. I know that you took great offense to Stacy’s death and compared it to Claudia’s death on GH, but on the other hand these women were played out as villians by the show’s writers and both women did very bad deeds and got away with them without being arrested for their crimes against the law! Claudia was a vicious femme fatale mobster who was responsible for accidently shooting Sonny’s son Michael, and putting him in a coma for a year! He also later dated and married Sonny, had a kid with him that she later miscarried, kept Michael’s shooting a secret from Sonny until he found out about it and dumped her, then she kidnapped Carly and tried to kidnap her newborn baby until Michael came in with his axe and killed her to death!!! While both of these murders are dark and grisly deaths, comparing them both is like comparing apples and oranges. Stacy’s death was an accident, while Claudia’s death was in self defense. Both of these women’s death was treated as equally as the deaths of men who are villans on daytime soaps. If these women were strong- spirited heroines who were killed off in tragic deaths, then they would be REALLY offensive to female viewers like you. I know you would agree to disagree with me on this subject, but that’s my own opinon on this article. On another note, it looks like there’s going to be a big custody fight over Sierra Rose in the coming weeks and months ahead. We the viewers know that Oliver Fish is the real father of the child, but he is kind of unsure about the paternity of the baby, and is nervous about the fact that a gay parent raising a kid with his gay male partner can be frowned upon in society. Gigi’s new boyfriend Schuyler (he dumped Rex for this guy after she found out that he slept with Stacy and believing the lie that Rex was Sierra Rose’s birth father) thinks that he is Sierra Rose’s real father after being drugged and almost slept with Stacy around the same time she slept with Fish! Fish’s boyfriend Kyle on the other hand is really positive that Fish is the real father. Since Scott Evans (the actor who plays Oliver Fish) is still a recurring player on the show, and his character is part of a major storyline now, why hasn’t he been bumped up to contract status now? I know that Scott stated in other interviews on different other websites saying that he is grateful to be on the show in either capacity but would still sign a contract with the show. I don’t know how these contract negotiations work out behind the scenes, but it’s just weird to not see him in the opening credits at the beginning of the show everyday! I know you lost faith in watching soaps now, but feel free to answer my question if you ever read my reply.

    Marlena says: Everyone has a right to their opinion and a choice of watch they watch on TV. But please, use paragraphs when you write.

  31. Nicholas Ryan says:

    I appreciate your thoughts on the violence against women on daytime. I’m also glad to see some other men in agreement with you. I thought that I was the only one! I recall as a teen watching GH when Laura and Scotty were together and loved them. Then the infamous campus disco rape ran and I was horrified. I still desperately wanted Lara and Scotty together and couldn’t understand why Laura ran off with Luke. No matter how much they tried to redress the issue with Laura’s confusion-I know what I watched was not sexual confusion. I also knew at that age that when a women said no and the man “pressed” this constituted rape! I’ve never been able to reconcile this and as the years have passed TPTB seem to have decided on aping “rape to love” and rapist as hero without even the benefit of layered characters and chemistry between the actors. (A note of interest on GH and Luke and Laura-I corresponded for a time with Pat Falken Smith in the 80s after the Luke and Laura phenom. and once asked her about the rape. She said, and I’m quoting from her letter-”what happened between Luke and Laura couldn’t possibly have been rape because women of my generation didn’t know what rape was.”-I didn’t understand quite what she meant at the time but today I just view it as a rather trite response). Guza’s GH is absolutely unbearable but Frons just lets him go on and on! (I’d be interested in talking with his wife Meg Bennett-one of my beloved Liza’s from Search-concerning his plots and depictions of women and violence) And is it a mere coincidence that Nadine’s death on GL (as well as the unpopular death of Maureen), Frankie’s death on AW and Claudia’s death on GH occurred under the ‘direction’ of the same (unnamed female executive producer-who, incidentally I do not understand why she’s still working in the industry after her disasterous history of termination of popular actresses!-and Marlena, I’ve also heard the rumors regarding just who Brent/Marian-GL-was meant to ‘parody’-hmmm!?!). Today soaps have no desire to tell intelligent stories-rape is more and more gratuitous with the passing of time in daytime. Long gone are the days of socially relevent plotting! Daytime used to be called ‘Women’s fantasies’, violence against women is not women’s fantasies. I’d like to believe they are not anyone’s fantasies! Brian Frons and Bob Guza make me wonder! Something really needs to be done to characters like Sonny, Jason and Todd (OLTL) to water them down a bit or ‘put them in their place’ so to speak. I certainly do not adhere violence against men or women but after watching so many daytime women violated, assaulted, shot ad-nausea, just once I’d like to see Sonny or Jason perhaps accidentally shot in the groin or Todd assaulted while in jail-something, anything to emasculate them a bit and even the battlefield. Because that is what daytime has become, a battlefield of felled woman! It’s just so painful to watch! Painful! Thank you Marlena for speaking out on this injustice! You voice is well appreciated even if TPTB refuse to listen!

    Marlena says: Nicholas, thanks for you thoughts. How funny that you corresponded with Pat Falken Smith and that she answered you like that. Everyone who creates and writes daytime has their own justifications and for everything, no? You can imagine the arguing in writer’s rooms, at the networks and with the executives who make the ultimate decisions about what airs. I’ve done a whole lot of thinking and writing about women on daytime and what you say is quite interesting. But perhaps emasculating the men in the way you’ve suggested is….a bit much, though very LOL. That line, “Daytime has become a battlefield of felled women” is an all-time classic.

    And you’re wrong in one aspect. I don’t mean to be self-serving, but in the 20 years (minus some) my column has always been read and taken very seriously by TPTB. As a critic who knows the place of criticism is to SOLELY to express a very informed opinion, I NEVER expect any TPTB do anything I say!

    Honey, you should use paragraphs too. Read my bio on this site. I’ve been correcting student writing for a dozen years now.

  32. Leona says:

    In response to Nicholas, what Pat Falken Smith was very clearly saying was that she did NOT write a rape story. Her generation (including Gloria Monty, Marlena Laird, Sheri Anderson, etc.) still told stories where, when the woman said “No”, she might just mean “Yes.”

    I interviewed PFS, Gloria Monty, and Sheri Anderson. Each one of them completely and totally made it clear that they were always telling a love story between Luke and Laura. You and some others may not have appreciated the way they developed that story, but it clearly struck a nerve with a whole lot of people who rooted heart and soul for L&L, myself included.

    Marlena says: Leona, thanks for checking in with this. I always consider you the ultimate soap historian because of you have always done your research with top professional journalistic skills, thoroughly interviewing all primary sources. It’s funny, because when I first started my career at Afternoon TV in late 1980 at the height of the Luke and Laura mania, we literally got thousands of letters a month from readers debating whether the original Luke and Laura rape could have legimately led to romance. Or more accurately “was it a really a rape?” I remember ABC Daytime’s denials at the time. I was younger and not as political then, plus consider the context. Daytime certainly was otherwise ALL about romance at the time, not like now, where romance is the least considered element in soap writing. But personally, I, too, consider Luke and Laura in 1980-1982 as the greatest of soap romances ever.

  33. Leona says:

    Thanks Connie. I’m certainly no expert on social studies or feminism, but I think when the L&L story was beginning, times were changing with what you could do in a story. You talked about old movies with Marilyn (and I defer to others for expertise on that topic)…didn’t Gone With The Wind have a scene where Rhett carried Scarlett up the stairs to the bedroom “against her will.” Didn’t John Wayne kick down the bedroom door in The Quiet Man? My point being, people saw those acts differently than what a “modern” audience would allow. The creative people at GH were of that generation. I think that when ABC saw that there was a controversy brewing, they tried to “alter” what happened, or explain it away. That, in my opinion, was the wrong way to go. They should have stood by their storytellers and let the chips fall where they may. It was up to the fans to decide whether they would accept what happened between L&L.

    And just to bring another element to this mix, I find it interesting that the Alan & Monica story didn’t have irate fans writing letters. After Alan found out the “truth” about Alan Jr. and Monica was able to “resume marital relations”, Alan raped Monica. I found that a very disturbing scene that got no feedback, as far as I know. I bring that up to, once again, show where the creative minds at GH were coming from.’

    Marlena says: Again Leona, it’s all context. Old movies always had a code (it was called the Breen Code) of whitewashing sex and rape (and whatever was “in between.”) It was frequently covered up, as the Monty/Falken-Smith generation all but admitted to you. And ABC certainly did fudge (or as they say today “spin”) the Luke and Laura rape as we both remember! In the early 80s, the reason there wasn’t a big burst of published L&L protest and objections to the Alan and Monica rape was because there was virtually no soap criticism (okay, John Genovese and Linda Susman did show reviews for me at Afternoon TV.) We hardly if ever published the letters that came in on the L&L controversy. Now soap journalism is all criticism, and everyone is a soap critic. And certainly few male “critics” could care less now or then about the principles of feminism. BTW, I am a social studies teacher too. LOL!!!!

  34. RENEE says:

    I’ve long been fascinated with how soaps seem to be suffering the same fate as “women’s films” that were so popular in the 30s and 40s and even into the 50s and 60s. Compared to the pure volume of women’s films it was producing in the heyday of the big-name studios, Hollywood barely makes such films today unless it’s Oscar time, it’s an independent film company bankrolling it or Nancy Meyers’s name is over the title. It’s always been fascinating to me that women were portrayed in more more powerful — and more inspirational and romantic — ways in the pre-women’s lib era than they have been post-lib. Would Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford and all the rest even find comparable work today? I doubt it. I mean, who could even write for them much less utilize their talents to the fullest?

    And that may, in the end, be why so many soaps are in the sorry state they are today. There are few left who have the imagination, the talent or the respect to write women’s stories. Agnes Nixon? Irna Phillips? Douglas Marland? Who can compare to them in the soap world of today?

    In both Hollywood films and daytime there seems to be little faith among TPTB that there is an audience for love stories or slow-simmering romance or empowered women and I think there is among them a cynicism about romance has only grown stronger in recent years. Besides paint-by-the numbers love stories such as “The Notebook,” or romantic comedies, most of which make women look like total idiots, there is little romance in films or soaps today. Sex stands in for much of what goes on between a man and a woman in these mediums today.

    I’ve recently been hooked on, of all things, reruns of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. I’ve been looking at dvds of the entire series and as I do it becomes very clear why that show was such a success: It was, in the truest sense of the word, a soap, and the love story and unbelievable chemistry between the characters played by former OLTL star Joe Lando (Sully) and Jane Seymour in addition to the fantastic writing and an excellent supporting cast was the glue that held that show together for many seasons. Anyone who says the vast majority of women who watched DQMW weren’t watching it for the romance is crazy. It was palpable. And Sully (Joe Lando) wasn’t slapping the very smart, very strong-willed and independent Michaela Quinn around or treating her like an idiot or hitting her over the head with hatchets (even though he carried one!). He wouldn’t have dared! That show was pure soap at its finest, and it is interesting to point out that its ratings only began to go downhill when the storylines took a dark turn, a la daytime today.
    Still DQMW has a following in reruns to this day, speaking to the underserved audience out there just dying for love stories with women front and center! It’s just a shame that at this point we have to revisit old soap videos on youtube, buy dvds of old television shows or watch 70 year old movies on AMC in order to get the strong women in beautiful love stories that we long for.

    Marlena says: Wow, Renee this letter is so smart, but something else blew my mind. When Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman came on TV, I recognized immediately it was a feminist parable–that Michaela could be strong and smart and that Joe Lando would still love and respect her. I wrote this up for a newspaper I was working for, and I was rarely as proud or as fulfilled as a writer than by doing this story. And a few years the show was yanked from CBS by … CEO Les Moonves, who thought little of it, the same sexist, cold Les who killed As the World Turns. Thanks for telling me about DQMW the reruns. Watch em soap fans! And you are so right that it is a shame we have to watch old movies, videos etc. to see thinking, real women who are just like you and me!

  35. RENEE says:

    Thanks for your response, Marlena! For those who are interested: Virtually the entire Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman series can be found on youtube.com!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgXcxfJOCbg

  36. Leona says:

    Great note, Renee. I think I’ll go check out Dr. Quinn :)

  37. Matthew J. Cormier says:

    Marlena,

    Not only did Les Moonves cancel Dr. Quinn Medicine Women, he also cancelled many other great CBS shows with female leads including sitcoms “Cybill” and “The Nanny” (though i suppose both shows had run their course, they were both still top rated shows and were crtiical darlings). He also cancelled “Touched By An Angel”. It’s even worse considering what he replaced them with; shows like “CSI”, “CSI: New York” and “CSI: Los Angeles” (see the trend?).

    He also cancelled “Judging Amy” another show with a strong female center. Sadly right now perhaps the only primetime shows with strong female leads are “The Good Wife”, “Desperate Housewives” and occasionaly “Brothers & Sisters” (depending on the episode and if it is well-written).

  38. Adam says:

    I agree about the WAY over the top nature of the graphic violence and also about your questioning of the “morals” of those in charge. While we can’t “blame” a medium for teaching, we certainly can hold it accountable when all it portrays is negative behavior, something that cannot possible be a positive influence on viewers. I have mostly given up on soaps because of the constant negativity of both the characters and those in charge, as well as what I am starting to perceive as very “strange”-to say the least-”morals” of some viewers. I no longer feel anything except a certiain “ick” factor or plain boredom, mostly, when watching a soap these days. I think that the problem with OLTL in particular, as it is the soap I’ve always had the greatest affection for, begins with Brian Frons, whom I consider the biggest idiot in tv, followed by it’s producer and writer, whom I hold very accountable for trashing a once great series. I don’t think much can be done to salvage soaps from this dark and deadly era of violence as entertainment. When a series, such as OLTL, has a head writer who believes he can actually disregard a law-which explains why he is no longer a practicing attorney-then it follows that the portrayal of crime as a matter not of law but of course and convenience, will happen with frequency. The only solution is to get all new “top level” talent in place with most series, headed by people both male and female, who care about what soaps SHOULD be about, which is family, friends and the ties that bind us.

  39. monica T. says:

    Thank you Marlena, this is also basically why I have really have not been keeping up with GH. I can’t take the Sonny and Jason Hour anymore. These truly are the most undeserving characters I have EVER SEEN dominate a soap with their brand of “non-acting” performing selves. They truly have been not been worth the continued existence on this soap for as long as they have been on the show. I personally was done with GH when they had Jax raped and Carly and her true love Jason sitting in her living room laughing about it! This was it for me. I wish it would get better but I KNOW IT won’t. If someone at 4151 Prospect Avenue could explain to me like I am 2, why these characters have been ALLOWED to be the focus of this soap such as it is and not really in my opinion deliver any real drama to their acting as it is on the show I would really appreciate a reason for those two actors. I am good with the soaps eventually going by the waste side because I am not going to be supporting crap such as this anymore. I love ya and please take care. Monica T.

    Marlena says: Thanks Monica, love you too. I love how you mention the address of the studio, you must be an old GH letter-writing fan!

  40. Johnny says:

    The LAST time soaps hired an ORIGINAL writer was in 2000 when Hogan Sheffer was hired at As The World Turns! He re-invigorated the genre…he won Emmy’s. The WRITING is what has killed soaps. Plain and simple. You Can NOT blame the actors!!!!!! They work harder than ANY actors in show business. Compare “Desperate Housewives” with ANY current daytime soap on the air! From the FIRST word a character speaks, i can predict where a daytime soap is going 2 years down the road. On DH, I can’t see where they’re going in the next 2 minutes!

    Soaps’ refusal to hire WRITERS has killed the genre. Audiences don’t WANT to watch a steady stream of misery and death and crap…..give us some feel-good stories! We ALL know that Erica Kane LOOKS 43, but she’s closer to 70. LEt’s write some age approriate material?

    SO sad that these shows are going away. We only have the writers to blame.

  41. Ashlee says:

    I completely agree Johnny. I hate to cast stones, so I will start with the positive. Soap writers are some of the most creative, talented, hard-working people in show business. The amount of material they churn out is astonishing, and when everything aligns, it can produce breathtaking results!

    However, the merry-go round of re-hashed writers (Passanante, Culliton, Higley, Harmon Brown, Esensten, et al) has crippled the genre. They are so conditioned to use all the typical soap “elements” that nothing new or fresh or original comes to the screen. It’s evident in the stories and even the way they have characters talk.

    The following lines should be BANNED from soaps, and the writers fined everytime they are used:

    “With every fiber of my being…”
    “We were soulmates….”
    “He/she was the love of my life…”

    Those are just a few. People don’ talk like that.. Maybe back in the melodramatic 50′s when entertainment was TOTAL escapism, but today’s viewers are smart, and savvy, and they want to see a reflection of real life. Another soap device that has to end is characters talking out loud to themselves, when ANYONE could hear them at anytime! It is ludicrous!

    Picture it:

    Kate Roberts from Days in a public restaurant: “Oh, Chloe, you slut! I’ve just put the final in your coffin.”

    Really? People say that out loud in a public place? You’d think a former hooker would at least know how to be DISCREET!

    Kendall on AMC: “Oh, Zack! What were you trying to tell me? What could it be? Oh Zack. I need you to tell me.”

    Honey, Zack’s dead. He can’t talk.

    When the writing is clear, and the character’s motivation is known, these things can be conveyed with a smug smile, the arch of an eyebrow, or a simple look. Audiences are smart. We don’t need everything spelled out with ridiculous archeypal conventions. At least have them THINK it in voice-over, not talking out loud.

    You mentioned hiring outside the genre, in particular Mr. Hogan Sheffer. I could not agree more. He respected history, but his writing was unusual for daytime. It was unpredictable, and different. A GREAT example of a creative turn-around. But the best example of a creative turn-around, and in my mind, the zenith of the soap opera industry, was Claire Labine’s stint at General Hospital.

    She helmed the return of soap opera’s ultimate super-couple Luke and Laura with spectacular results! She returned the focus of the show to it’s heart…the hospital. Her trifecta of perfection was the BJ/Maxie story, the Monica breast cancer story, and the Robin/Stone love story. She took risks and wrote life or death stories that mattered.

    Some at the time said the stories were too dark, but they weren’t! They were written with heart, humanity, and love. They focused on characters we had been emotionally invested in for years, even decades. She turned characters who were sometimes campy and farcical into real people. It reflected in the ratings…they soared. Critical acclaim and a bucketload of Emmy’s also followed.

    We can’t totally blame the writing, although it is the major factor. Characters on Bold and Beautiful talk like zombies out of a 50′s B-movie. General Hospital is misogynistic, disgusting, and glorifies murderers as heroes. Soaps, as sad as it is to say, have lost their heart and soul. At their best, they were about family, love, and relationships. Good always triumphed over evil eventually. Now, evil reigns and viewers have just grown tired of that.

    The other element that have killed the genre? The proliferation of other forms of entertainment. The internet, a bazillion cable channels, “reality” shows. Also, soaps were geared toward women who stayed at home. Now, more women are working,. They are not sitting at home watching their “stories”.

    Also, the networks desire to cash in on the 12-17 or whatever target audience they are going after. Message to advertisers: THOSE KIDS ARE IN SCHOOL!!!!!!!!! They are getting an education so they can learn how to avoid your manipulation! Soaps were NEVER intended or targeted for that age range. I’m in my early 30′s…I would tape my soaps every day, come home after school, and watch them.

    Soaps were multi-generational. My mom always tells me how her mom used to listen to Guiding Light on radio, and she’d sit perched by the radio weeping, and laughnig, etc. Soaps were handed down from family member to family member. Kids got hooked because their parents did. That is all but lost as kids today have Facebook, and social networking, and countless other more entertaining distractions.

    Soap operas, or continuing drama will always be a part of our entertainment landscape, but not on daytime television, unfortunately. With all the “reality” shows, the talk shows, the cable channels, the internet, etc., it is not a genre that can continue forever. But we can celebrate what the shows have meant to us. We can appreciate the entertainment they have given us for that past decade.

    We are all lamenting the loss of these shows. Santa Barbara’s demise was awful. Another World’s was traumatic. Where I come from, EVERYONE watched Another World. The names “Mac and Rachel” were almost as familiar as Gramma and Grampa. Guiding Light’s, rumoured for SO long, was very sad, but also foreshadowing of the entire industry. No one ever wanted to pull the plug on the oldest continually running program in ANY entertainment genre, but once that decision was made, it made each subsequent cancellation easier.

    71 years. 43 years. 41 years. That is a LONG time for a business of any kind to exist. All good things come to an end. These shows have provided thousands of jobs for people. They have provided entertainment for millions of people.

    I really hope that an ALL SOAPS ALL THE TIME cable channel will come into existence. It would soar in ratings and finances. But it could not be selective or network-oriented. Show ALL soaps. Show old soaps! Have an Edge of Night marathon! The next weekend, have a Dark Shadows weekend. Maybe, some original shows could come into existence.

    Ellen Wheeler, for all the criticism she faced as the EP of Guiding Light, she had the right idea. While technical glitches were sometimes jarring, I personally LOVE when soaps film outdoors or in realistic settings! She said “Soaps do NOT have to follow the same model of production that they have since the 50′s.” She was right! This network could have original soaps three times a week, or once a week. There is no law that says soaps have to air five days a week in the afternoon on mainstream networks,.

    Of the four remaining non-cancelled soaps, I wish them another few years of life. Young and the Restless stays it’s course. Bold and the Beautiful continues to somehow stay on the air, despite its insistence that there is only one family in Greater Los Angeles, and near-incest must continually occur among the Forrester’s. I wrote General Hospital off a long time ago. Unless JFP and Guza are fired, NOTHING will change there. Days of our Lives these days is hit or miss, but they are at least telling stories that keep people tuned in.

    I could go on and on and on, and surely will in the future, but this one is too long already. Please comment and get back. I love feedback! :)

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