One Life To Live’s “Tarty” Controversy: It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Thinking Fans Comment Update:  Melanie isn’t buying the “poor Todd” routine … Jenn misses the days when “soaps relied on love and chemistry” … and more. See Comments below.


My friend, television journalist Ed Martin called me last week to congratulate me on my Todd and Marty: Way Beyond Merely Disgusting column, noting the amazing number of responses (53 and counting). It inspired Ed to write his own response in his own column on I’m encouraging all TFs to read it because, for his television business site, Ed brilliantly and with great clarity analyzes the choice to air the controversial Todd and Marty story as a deliberate network programming move.Todd Marty

Ed recognizes that the story offends women viewers and emphasizes the folly of the network in airing it, considering that the majority of One Life to Live‘s audience is women. That’s an awful lot of viewers to risk losing!  He also scoops Marlena on another piece of OLTL misogny: the frequent close-ups of Jessica’s dead baby in another story aired at the same time. Ed writes:  “I don’t believe women want to see dead babies in their entertainment. Not ever.”

Ed has his opinions as a longtime viewer of OLTL, and this is where we differ.   Despite the offenses he clearly sees, he still likes — no — loves the melodrama of the story and calls it great soap opera  But Ed insists he can “compartmentalize” the nasty stuff and enjoy the show.  Is this because my cherished old colleague is a man?  Marlena’s disgust over Todd and Marty story clouds any enjoyment of the show.

I’m mad as hell!  And I’m not going to take it any more!  Watch this space in a few days  as Marlena takes her and her readers’ disgust with this story directly to the highest level of ABC network management.  Join me in the protest!




  1. Go, Marlena, I thank you for taking action and making you and the viewers voices heard about the disgusting act of the rape-mance “Tarty” coupling that is sick and twisted. There is no way that Todd can be redeemed from this anyway and I want Brian Frons to lose his job over this. This is a man that does not care about the fans or the actors who give their all to work under much duress and long hours to be playing a joke of a s/l that is victimization of rape victims all over again. I don’t know if it was Ron’s doing or someone holding the reins, but I hope that this will be it and something will happen to stop network execs who don’t know what the fans want. But alas, that is a dream that we hope that will happen someday.

  2. horselover says:


    Good luck bringing your disgust to the ABC bigwigs. However, I think it will go in one ear and out the other. This, after all, is a network that doesn’t get that WOMEN are its primary audience. They used to get that. There was pleny of romance, adventure and love in the afternoon. Now it’s just sex, violence and “sweeps stunts.” I’ve personally given up on ABC daytime. But good luck to you. I hope, for all of our sakes, someone listens.

  3. Marlena, I share your anger and disgust. Taking your complaints to the highest management at ABC will get you nowhere. The head management at ABC daytime has an infinitesmal mouse-sized brain with misogynistic tendencies, no morals and no class.

    I wrote, called and complained last year when AMC’s Kendall was nearly raped and the event was never mentioned ever again. It was used as a plot point just as I believe Marty and Todd’s making love was. I went so far as to try and call Anne Sweeney, didn’t get through. I then contacted the RAINN hotline and the rape and assault crisis center near my home town to report ABC. ABC never addressed the situations.

    I have come to the conclusion that ABC suffers from “Man-itis,” a syndrome that is charcaterized by stupidity, small brains and a disrespect towards women. They all dress alike, wearing a leopard skin, carrying a large club and grunting. There is no cure.

    ABC daytime is run by a man and all three soaps have male headwriters. Does this tell you anything?

    Marlena says: Thanks very much for reporting your activist experiences with ABC, and their dead ears. A journalist is not supposed to be an activist — we’re supposed to be objective, at least that’s what I teach my college journalism students. But I really feel I must speak out now. I know from all the reactions to my column on this I have plenty of support. I also think a lot of the problem is that ABC Daytime is run by men. But we are smart women and in unity there is strength! Plus I knew Frons well in our shared younger days in the soap industry –I’d never give his intellectual abilities more than a C-. And he was by no means what you would call a sensitive guy.

  4. Please let us know what your plans are as I am very interested in this. I tend to think the problem isn’t necessarily with the headwriters and producers, but I think the head of ABC daytime has most of the control over these shows. I watch OLTL off and on, and have noticed the increase in violence and tragedy as of late, but I am a frequent viewer of GH, where the show builds all of its sweeps storylines around death and destruction. I think Brian Frons is the problem, I think he has too much control over ABC Daytime, and I also don’t think he believes in “love in the afternoon.” I think he believes the audience gets bored watching an old fashioned love story, and thinks that the audience wants to see murders and explosions.

    I have been watching old Luke and Laura clips on Youtube lately, and it makes me long for the soap opera romances of yore. People didn’t tune into GH in droves to see explosions and the gangsters, people tuned in because of the love story and the chemistry between the characters. I miss when soaps relied on this to thrive, instead of looking for shock value and cheap immitations of primetime tv shows. I think it was one of your columns where you commented that these soaps need more females behind the scenes, and I absolutely agree. There are too many men running the show, who are obviously clueless as to what women want to see. Not that the shows shouldn’t try to appeal to men, too, but there needs to be more of a balance.

    Marlena says: I think last week I wrote that when I was reporting on soaps in the 80s and the 90s, ABC Daytime was almost always run and populated by women. What angers me is there is a woman, Anne Sweeney, who supervises all of ABC Daytime and Soapnet now. And she’s going to hear from me!

  5. Go get them, Marlena! I want LOVE in the afternoon, not twisted stories!

  6. “People didn’t tune into GH in droves to see explosions and the gangsters, people tuned in because of the love story and the chemistry between the characters.”

    Trevor St. John and Susan Haskell have exhibited amazing chemistry during this story. Todd’s been the victim of a murderous beating and is lying broken and alone in a hospital bed, pathetically dreaming of a love story that won’t happen, and he’s explicitly encouraged both Marty and John to kill him. Everyone in town wants him to pay.

    What more are viewers looking for here? Todd was the most popular character on OLTL for years after the gang rape. If viewers could accept that, why can’t they accept acts he has taken today that leave him a far more pathetic and isolated character?

    I can see the outrage over the story being taken too far, but it’s such killer material for the actors I’d like to see them play it out. Soaps are in trouble. Writers have to take some chances. If the original Todd/Marty story were told today, we’d see a lot of the same outrage — the same comments that women don’t want this kind of stuff on their soaps — and yet it’s still remembered as one of the biggest stories in OLTL history.

    As a male fan, I find the attempts to turn this into a gender issue frustrating. Male viewers are the distinct minority in daytime — a completely unimportant demographic for advertisers — and the medium has included rape as a plot point for generations, including rapes by characters who became the romantic leads on their shows for decades! This one ain’t on us.

  7. Hi Marlena!

    What I think is interesting is that the show seems to have taken a complete 180 turn with the angle of this story. I’m not sure if it was always planned that way, or why. But it seemed to me to go from a romance (or rape-mance as many have called it) from Todd’s point of view, to the horrifying reality of a rape from Marty’s point of view.

    Was this always intended to be told this way? Maybe others know. But at least the 11/17 show made it clear to EVERYONE that Marty indeed was raped, and will have to deal with the psychological consequences for some time to come.

    Marlena says: So the show has stated through Marty that what has happened to her is the second rape by the same man, Todd. Does that make this story more palatable to anyone? And do you really believe the show is going to teach deep psychological lessons about rape as it did the first time when it was written by Michael Malone?

    Damon dear, you are a real life therapist who works in a medical setting — have you ever heard of a case like this? Where the rapist keeps pursuing the same victim and takes advantage of her amnesia so he could sleep with her “romantically”/rape her again? Readers, this story is about as realistic as … Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, take your pick.

  8. Marlena, thank you so much for what you’ve written about this Tarty garbage! I agree with you 100%.

    There are many things that disgust me about this story, but mostly that the audience is still supposed to sympathize with Todd: “Poor Todd just wants to undo the past and believes he loves Marty, poor Todd tried to make Marty leave but she wouldn’t, poor Todd changed his mind about his evil plans but it was too late” And then finally when the truth came out we saw a beaten, bloodied Todd on the ground asking to die. If that doesn’t scream Tragic Figure I don’t know what does. Some see this as ‘shades of grey’ but I’m appalled that these writers are trying to manipulate viewers into caring for this perpetual victimizer.

    Worst of all is that they’ve essentially tainted the original Marty Rape story (one of the few rape stories that was told well.) This “Tarty” story is everything that Marty’s rape story wasn’t: offensive, done only for shock value, with no depth or socially redeeming value to it. Despite the dramatic “fallout” of this story that people seem to like so much, this comes down to one thing for me: 15 years after the groundbreaking story of Marty’s rape, we were forced to watch Todd yet again psychologically and physically victimize Marty. Yes, Marty’s reaction and healing process will be dramatic, because the woman is going to have deal with being humiliated and violated *again* – but why in the world would I want to see that??

    People say it’s just a soap, what’s the big deal? But it is a very big deal. I am (and I think many) are responding to this storyline on a very personal level. While other outlandish soap stories are easy to dismiss, rape is just too real and effects too many of us personally to just ignore it. This “Tarty” mess reflects the irresponsible way soaps deal with rapes.

    Soaps, which are considered to be a women’s genre, dealing with a subject that is so powerful and so devastating to women, in a sensationalistic manner (which trivializes it) or as a twisted romantic fantasy (which perpetuate rape myths) is unconscionable to me. Presenting rape as a “grey area” or something that’s debatable, giving us “rapemances”, making rapists sympathetic and treating the subject as just another plot devise all promote misconceptions about rape that still exist today. Not only is that offensive but I wonder how it effects younger people. I have to ask if the way rapes are portrayed on soaps is shaping the way young people think about real-life rapes.

    As far as I’m concerned this “Tarty” mess just further exploits the topic. I can honestly say that it makes me ashamed to be a soap fan.

    Marlena says: Oh, you’ve said so many great and interesting things here, Melanie. Thank you for saying that this whole storyline affects you personally, because that’s exactly what has happened to me. My anger doesn’t end, it just goes on and on — and soaps rarely affect me that way. OLTL has abused our personal longtime trust.

    Plus, I’m so glad you brought up the subject of younger people: as far as soap fans go, do any younger people watch soaps anymore? Twenty five years ago soaps were so hot with college students. Now, every semester I ask my students if they watch soaps. The last few years a few said they watched Passions for the camp and the laughs. But this year no one has admitted to watching any soaps, let alone the ABC soaps. There’s so little intelligence or real entertainment left in these shows, why should my busy, busy, students bother to waste their scant few free hours a day on them?

    Plus re this story,you’ve said the magic words, “I’m ashamed to be a soap fan.” How did soaps, something so special and so important in our lives, get down to this?

  9. I’m partial to the tooth fairy, myself. ; )

    Marlena says: At least the tooth fairy gives out quarters!

  10. I remember when I first heard that ABC was being taken over like Pacman by the Mickey Mouse Club. I was really excited, and said to myself, Disney, this will be great thing for my soaps. Via Disney my daytime dramas would only thrive. Little did I know that I would ever be as disappointed as I am today.

    So much so, I have pretty much stopped watching ABC daytime (and Soapnet) period even though “The View” is #1 and I like the show,

    Through my trials and errors I have realized that not only is there serious disregard to women but that I find ABC daytime/ Soapnet not progressive enough.

    Sheree can run around Disneyland kissing and fawning over Caucasian actors / actresses, Goofy, Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse all she wants. My question is why isn’t she doing this with African American actors there?

    Because there aren’t any that’s why. She may have been the only African Amercian I saw there.

    See I’m bitter I’m Black, over 34, and a woman so I’m one of the forgotten viewers of ABC daytime that don’t fit their catered to, coveted age group. I don’t count.

    I didn’t even think about the dead baby… I remember when (Emily Quartermaine) was murdered last year they showed that repeatedly as well , her dead body was on the screen for a few eppys I think.

    So I’m not surprised at anything they do anymore. In my opinion, this genre is ran by men who have no or little respect for women. I just don’t like ABC’s take on women its a sick, twisted and scary.

    Another thing in a very long history of bad choices and poor taste “The Real Greenlee.” Also, their promotion/marketing of their ‘IT” characters/actresses . I can cite so many of these kinds of things so anything they do no longer is a wonderful surprise.

    Even on this Thangksgiving Holiday, a family time of giving thanks. What do they air? A mob hit, of a woman being shot on her wedding day (Sonny/Kate). Sick twisted individuals running daytime.

    I watched Demi Moore’s and Gary Oldman’s Scarlett letter movie again on cable and it hit me those are the kind of men running a woman’s venue in 2008; the same mindset as those pilgrams towards women.

    So in their wonderful world of Disney Corporate their PSA and dialog, a little nod to this serious faux pas will make it all better…but they won’t axe the storyline..They should have cut this storyline quickerthanthis.

    So no, it doesn’t do for me. It is the “mindset” of this whole daytime deal that is warped.

    I find ABC daytime a very scary place to dwell and even though I was a “loyal” soap watcher. For the first time in 30+ years. I can say I am not.

    As for the “chemistry of Haskell and St. John they are good acting off each other but I don’t see it romance wise their lovey dovey just isn’t doing it for me..its way too sick of a tale for me to even think about it.

    Marlena says: You said it all Deb! Be sure to read my Open Letter to ABC’s Ann Sweeney, coming your way ASAP.

  11. Hi, I’ve been reading with interest all of the above remarks. I do agree that misogyny and the old madonna/whore complexes (hello, GH’s Sonny!) have been ruling the ABC soaps as of late, and freely admit to loathing this development. I can also completely understand why those who dislike this SL do so; however, I must confess to liking “Tarty”. I am a woman, and an old-school feminist, but something about this essentially soapy story-telling appeals to me, it’s just so classic. Plus, the fall-out and performances have been, thus far, both brilliant and heart-wrenching. I would love to see a redemption tale, well-told, but I highly doubt that will happen, unfortunately, not after all that’s gone down. But I will have to take issue with the idea that the original rape SL was so very well-done; after all, if it had been, why is Todd still on the show? Not a whole lot of reality there. And lest we forget, Luke raped Laura, and theirs went on to be (however wrong though that may have been) daytime’s most famous “romance”. So, for the daytime genre, this type of thing is not exactly unprecedented. Just sayin’.

    Marlena says: As I’ve written many times, I thought they should have shipped Todd up the river for good after the first rape. If you have any access to old copies of SOW, circa 1993 and 1994, I wrote many blistering columns about the original rape story which I didn’t like at all when it was aired. Nobody involved was tied in any way to the Llanview canvas at the time! As the years went by, I grew to appreciate the soulful, deeply thought-out quality of Michael Malone’s because I got to know him and we talked a lot about my initial reservations about the story. He actually asked! But I’m not wrong about the current rape. Malone’s work was poetry compared to this sensationalistic, superficial stuff.

  12. For demographic purposes, I am a 41-year-old female.

    I haven’t had any trouble “compartmentalizing” the offending parts and still enjoying the drama of the story. Very much, in fact. I think it could have been accomplished without Todd and Marty actually sleeping together, so I understand the outrage. But, it is a soap; it is fiction. It has been great material for the actors to use and they have used it well. The performances have been amazing and compelling and I wanted to watch every day to see what would happen next. I have never once gotten the feeling that I was supposed to sympathize with Todd.

    It was far preferrable to the latest mob war on GH.

    Marlena says: That’s cool. Of course you’re not supposed to sympathize with Todd. You (and everyone else in Llanview) is supposed to want to murder him!

  13. You are Crezy Why You Do This From Aimee Mason

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