Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So...I was saying

Yeah, I know. I started this thing last year, deleted most of what I'd written, and then just let it sit.

I've reconsidered. I have too much noise in my head, too much to say, and my loved one never signed on to hear me ramble for hours on end about stuff she doesn't give a damn about. Stuff like the awesomeness of Guiding Light's Otalia, or the hilarity of The Young and the Resteless' psycho chipmunk story (which is awesome in its own, special way.)

So, yeah...Otalia. Best, most touching, closest-to-real-life portrayal of same sex love I've so far. I don't mean best I've seen on daytime, or best I've seen on television. I mean best I've seen anywhere, outside of my own apartment.

Let me put this out there before I go on: I love soap opera. Love it. I see it as this beautiful, under-valued bit of Americana that has helped shape the world we live in. I remember reading an interview with the late, great Joel Crothers who said that, yes, acting on a soap often meant being involved in ridiculous, implausible plots, and delivering lines that were just cringe-worthy. He went on to say that, for every really crappy, dumb thing he'd had to do as a soap actor, there'd always been some really gorgeous, well-written, meaningful story to tell or bit of dialogue to deliver. He said that being part of something that was sometimes so damned good made the less-than-stellar parts of his job well worth it for an actor. He said that he knew of few actors who had been lucky enough to be involved in as much great drama as he'd been during a lifetime of acting on soaps. I loved that. The Otalia story line is one of those gorgeous, well-written, meaningful bits of soap opera that Crothers was talking about. It's not just entertaining. It's not just eye candy.

When it's good, soap opera mirrors real life, even as it magnifies it. When soap writers keep in mind the things that are important to people: family, relationships, history, faith, human struggle, etc, they can go a long way towards reaching millions of viewers with important stories. The friendship and blossoming love between GL's Natalia and Olivia is one of the most important stories I've encountered in over 35 years of soap opera viewing.

It's a rare thing to find anyone even trying to tell my story. Popular media is still overwhelmingly straight. Families on television and in film are still overwhelmingly traditional: married mom and dad + children. This is not a true mirror of the real world, only a partial one. The fandom that has developed for Otalia is about people such as myself: hungry for our own stories - stories about people like us. People whose life choices don't fit a cookie cutter mold, but are no less valid than the choices of people who lead more "traditional" lives or have more “traditional” families. We are hungry for stories that portray same-sex love as it most often is in real life. It is clumsy and awkward, sweet and touching, not always easy, sometimes disastrous. It is funny and tender. It is about mutual respect and affection. It is hard work. Sometimes, it’s just funny. Or stupid. Or annoying. And scary. It is just like any other type of romantic love.

My partner - a smart, beautiful woman who, sadly, does not share my love for soap opera- and I are not out to take over the world. We do not sit around at night figuring out ways to recruit your children or ruin the social fabric of this country. We're too busy watching Mad Men or folding laundry. Maybe for the first time in television history, Guiding Light has successfully captured this in the form of Otalia - a love story that revolves around friendship, humor, mutual respect, the healing power of human kindness, and the importance of family. This is why the support for this pairing is so staggering. Otalia tells a real story. Our story. It tells this story with kindness, dignity and respect. It tells this story without compromise. It is the piece of the mirror that has been missing for such a long time. It's important.


Liz and Dani said...

Great post Lana! So true, and so beautifully written.
XO Liz

Jen said...

Excellent post--I would agree that it is a wonderful example of same-sex love, and I would also say that Otalia is among the better love stories I've seen on television--gay or straight, daytime or primetime. You're right about this--it's not something earthshattering, just a little piece of real life that we often don't see reflected on television. The fact that they aren't trying to make it something earthshattering is exactly why it is so riveting.

Snapper said...

Agreed. Personally, I find it much more touching to watch a story like this evolve over getting a kid ready for school, and figuring out how to live with one another's quirks, and picking up one another's dry cleaning than some big, splashy, showy production number. Three words: Universal Freaking Studios. For the life of me, I don't understand how anyone can sit through an hour-long ad for Universal Studios theme park disguised as a plot line, and feel warm and fuzzy inside. Now, Olivie and Natalia just standing at the door, all "aww shucks" and "what do do we do next?" - that's the sort of story telling that *takes me there.*