By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman
To commemorate The Bold and the Beautiful’s 28th anniversary last Wednesday, executive producer and headwriter Bradley P. Bell staged a daytime soap cliffhanger that is the shock of the soap century: revealing that Maya Avant (Karla Mosley) is really Myron, a transgender person. She was born a man.
You go, Bradley!
Maya is a model at Forrester Creations and the live-in love of Rick Forrester (Jacob Young). The couple currently hosts the Forrester Mansion. It was in the living room at the end of last Wednesday’s episode that Maya’s sister Nicole (Reign Edwards) told Maya that she is not her sister but her brother. Wowsa! What a beginning to a storyline! The episode trended on Twitter immediately! B&B had managed to keep this stunning reveal top secret. Miraculously, there had been absolutely no spoilers!
Maya/Myron is not daytime’s first transgender character, contrary to what The Daily Mail (England’s gossipy newspaper/website) reported this week. That honor belongs to Azure C (Carlotta Chang) on The City. And then there’s Zarf /Zoe on All My Children. I loved Wendy Mercury (played by herself) the transgender bartender on One Life to Live. The great and mighty headwriter Claire Labine (Ryan’s Hope, General Hospital) created Wendy in 1997 in collaboration with her sub-writer children Eleanor Mancusi and Matthew Labine.
In real life, Wendy was/is an opera singer who back then acted by day and performed by night at an infamous drag club and restaurant on the Lower East Side of Manhattan called Lucky Chang’s. She is just superb!
Maya/Myron is of course an homage to Myra Breckinridge, the 1968 novel by the late Gore Vidal that became a movie in 1970. Vidal was a noted author, playwright, satirist, raconteur and television personality with a taste for the flamboyantly shocking. His sexually explicit, luridly campy tale of a man who becomes a woman amid the sleazy culture of behind-the-scenes Hollywood was considered high scandal in its day.
Myra/Myron was film’s first transgender person, played in the equally explicit and truly awful movie version (some say the worst film of all time) by Raquel Welch, then hottest thing on the screen. It also co-starred the iconic Mae West (“Come up and see me sometime”) as Letitia Van Allen, a sexually voracious Hollywood agent with a four-poster bed in her office. It was the first movie for a very young and hunky Tom Selleck, before he made his breakthrough soap role on The Young and the Restless as Jed Andrews during that soap’s premiere year, 1973. In the movie, Selleck was billed simply as “Stud.”
Y&R was the first soap to focus on young people. It was co-created by the late legendary Bill Bell and his wife Lee Phillip Bell. They are the parents of Bill Jr, Bradley and Lauralee (Christine/Cricket Williams) and the co-creators of B&B as a spinoff to Y&R in 1987.
Of course Vidal’s Myra/Myron was created to sell the novel and the movie. She was a phenomenon of the late 60s just as the as mores of Hollywood were quickly changing. Old taboos were falling everywhere, and the book and movie were emblematic of a new era of sexual explicitness that would have seemed impossible just a few short years earlier. Myra/Myron, book and movie, brought in audiences by the zillions, just as Vidal planned.
And that’s exactly what Bradley P. Bell and CBS Daytime want Maya as a her/him to do for B&B, which already is the most popular soap opera worldwide. B&B doesn’t need to do this. But they did it. How high will the ratings spike for this week? For B&B, CBS and Bradley Bell, the sky is the limit!
This is not to disparage the subject of transgender identity and the very real issues it poses for many people who want and deserve society’s respect. GLAAD, the leading advocate in the media for gays, lesbians and transgender people, has come forward in support of this ostensibly ground-breaking storyline. Okay, but with all due respect to this worthy organization, this is not really such a groundbreaker for soaps. It will succeed or fail in proportion to how genuinely sensitive and realistic it is. Otherwise, it’s just another stunt.