Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ch-ch-ch-changes


January, 2008:
Natalia : "All I've ever wanted was to marry Gus. And now the way it's started, it’s ruined."

Olivia: "No, you could fix it."

Natalia: "Even if I could fix it, I'm not sure I deserve it."

Olivia: "Deserve it? What Kind of woman are you?"

Natalia: "I'm the kind of woman who believes she should pay for her mistakes."

Olivia: "If I had to pay for all the mistakes I've made I would be broke by now."


June, 2009:
Olivia: “I never thought I could have anything like this. I certainly didn’t do anything to deserve it.”

Natalia: “That’s not true…"

It's difficult to believe, but it was just a year and a half ago that Olivia guilted Natalia into offering up her husband, Gus, as a consolation prize for a missed opportunity at a new heart. Just 17 months ago, Olivia was wondering what kind of a woman would even think about "deserving" happiness, instead of just grabbing it, fully aware that no one is handed happiness on a silver platter. The Olivia we see today is a changed person - a completely different animal, in so many ways, and not just because she's fallen in love with a woman. It's been a big, old soap opera year and a half for Olivia. She's lost Gus, regained her health, been suicidal, eventually come to terms with the guilt surrounding Gus' death, become a grandmother, lost her infant grandson, dealt with Ava's post-partem meltdown, landed a lucrative contract with Galaxy International, lost that contract, had a heart attack, been resuscitated, received a pace-maker, made peace with Reva and Jefferey, helped finance Rafe's escape from the law, gone from hating Natalia to depending on her, hiring her, becomming her best friend and house-mate, falling hopelessly in love with her and planning a future together. These are the sort of things that can change a person, no? Mostly, though, the changes we've seen in Olivia are connected to Natalia. The love of and for a good woman has had a profound effect on Olivia Spencer.

The old Olivia was guarded, always ready with a sarcastic barb, eager to grab whatever she could, no matter who got hurt because, in her experience, good things were not ear-marked for Olivia Spencer. The old Olivia was a predatory animal, always ready to pounce. The old Olivia trusted no one, because she knew that in this world, it's every man for himself. The new Olivia is someone who is learning about patience, about having faith that good things just might come her way, that she is worthy of love. The new Olivia actually trusts someone - Natalia.

If the love of and for a good woman have have had a profound effect on Olivia, and led to changes in how she views the world and how she reacts to the curveballs life throws her, one would expect the same from Natalia. On the surface, it would seem to be the case.

The old Natalia was cautious. She didn't challenge the status quo, even when faced with grave injustice. Case in point: Rafe's treatment in prison. Natalia's strategy for dealing with the abuse her son was obviously being treated to in prison was to cow-tow to prison administration and never question authority. It was Olivia who steamrolled her way into the picture and showed Natalia, by example, that there is a time and a place when the only way good things are going to happen is when we make them happen.

The old Natalia had no aspirations to expand her horizons, and no confidence in her own abilities to be more than she was. Again, Olivia stepped in and almost forced Natalia to accept a more challenging job, put her talents to work, and think outside of the chambermaid box she'd built herself.

On finding herself drawn to another woman, the Old Natalia fearfully retreated into the arms of Frank Cooper. Good-natured, honest, hard-working and painfully decent, Frank was exactly the man Natalia thought she should be with, even though she never felt anything more than friendship for him. The old Natalia convinced herself that, by dating (and, later, having sex with and becoming engaged to) Frank, by hiding in the arms of someone who was safe, someone who didn't rock the boat or buck conventions or cause anyone's head to turn, she could purge herself of her attraction to Olivia.

Of course, the old Natalia was wrong.

The double wollop of having Olivia profess her love and devotion to Natalia, and facing Frank in church on the verge of exchanging wedding vows was enough to send the old Natalia on her way, and cause the new, improved Natalia to emerge.

New Natalia isn't just less afraid to take chances than old Natalia was. New Natalia is bold. She loves Olivia and embraces this love as a gift from God. New Natalia doesn't just declare her love to Olivia, she pursues Olivia, and convinces her that they have a future together, that neither of them will get hurt, that she knows "what it means to tell someone you love them." New Natalia tells Olivia she loves her, and doesn't regret telling her. New Natalia faces her priest, head on, and quotes scripture as she makes the ascertion that she can love Olivia and love God at the same time. New Natalia takes a frightened Olivia's hand in a church, in front of an alter, as a show of her resolve to be together before God. Most recently, new Natalia says she is finished with waiting for other people to understand and is ready to get on with a life with Olivia as her partner. New Natalia is a strong, stroppy, brave woman who doesn't cower at the first sign of trouble.

Where the hell, then, is new Natalia, now?

Apologists for the recent developments on Guiding Light claim that there is nothing out of character about Natalia running away without so much as a word to Olivia. Which Natalia are they referring to? It may be true that old Natalia might run from fearful situations, but the opposite is true of new Natalia. (I'm not even willing to concede that old Natalia would have done a runner - not on Emma, and not without at least making a phone call - but I digress.) Some apologists have used the tried-and-true "it's a super couple" argument - another that doesn't hold water with me. Over the last 35+ years, I've watched many super couples evolve, and one thing about the formula holds true - characters who make up super couples grow and change with time. Luke went from mob flunky to rapist to hero to husband and father. (Disgusting trajectory, yes, but it's a forward trajectory, nonetheless.) Laura went from naive ingenue to brave heroine. 

What the writers have done with Natalia is treat her growth, her progression, like so much fishing line. Over the last year they've let out the line, bit by bit. During the past two weeks, they've reeled that line back- not by inches, but by several feet. If it's not out of character for Natalia to abandon the love of her life and the little girl who she supposedly "would die for".....if it make sense for Natalia to run at the first sign of trouble, and to cower instead of face it head-on.... then it must mean that Natalia has not grown, at all. It must mean that we are back at square one with a timid, small-minded, fearful woman who has no confidence or faith that the love she and Olivia share is strong enough to face minor adversity. 

And, if Natalia hasn't really changed at all - as supporters of the current turn of events seem to be saying - then what the hell have we been watching? I thought I was watching a story line about two women who fall in love, and become better, stronger people because they love each other.  If it's true that running away is still in Natalia's nature, then she hasn't grown a bit, has she? Worse: she's allowed Olivia to believe that she has grown, and to trust in her newfound strength and bravery. She hasn't just allowed Olivia to hope - she has demanded it. And this is sad, because Olivia truly has changed and allowed herself to be more vulnerable.

The changes in Olivia make Natalia's betrayal - because that's what it is: a betrayal of trust - all the more profound.

Liz and Dani of Pancakes and a Valium sum it up beautifully

The saddest thing for me isn't the crying, the screaming...it's that moment when Olivia realizes, "What was I thinking? I'm Olivia Spencer. I don't get the big love, I don't get the happy ending. I don't get the forever after."

If this behavior - hiding the truth, running away, letting Emma down, abandoning Olivia on the most important day of her life, without so much as a phone call - if this is all in character for Natalia? Then I have to agree with Liz and Dani: Natalia isn't good enough for Olivia. 



17 comments:

TheWeyrd1 said...

Until the rest of the story plays out, I'm not ready to condemn it. I think they had enough time to figure out a more character consistent way to explain Natalia's absence...nevertheless, I'm giving them the benefit before totally slamming the door on this story. Personally, I'm thinking that, as they have with many other hetero myths about same sex love, the writers intend to poke holes in the very tired pregnant lesbian storyline. If they don't, then I will be as disappointed or more so than those who have already resigned themselves to the belief that it is a done deal.

Anonymous said...

Natalia's "reversion" to form is about the most terrifying time in her life... being pregnant and abandoned by EVERYONE at 16. She isn't "new Natalia" because this wouldn't have happened to the "new Natalia." She's afraid it means she hasn't grown in the ways she thought she has. She's afraid, as anyone who cheated on a partner might be, that Olivia would wash her hands of her. She doesn't know what to say to keep all the things in her life that she wants from leaving her again.

She is confused. She needed space. If she tried to talk to Olivia before she left she wouldn't have known what to say. I don't think she gave Fr. Ray any "message" for Olivia. That was him being completely self-serving. He doesn't want Olivia anywhere near Natalia. So I don't believe a word that came out of his mouth except for "agenda" behind it.

Snapper said...

TheWeyrd1: I haven't written off the story, completely, in the respect that I intend to see it through to the very end. I've been a GL for way to many years to quit over one shitty spell of writing. I won't however, just ignore the fact that this has been poorly done.

Anon: Natalia is afraid "as anyone who cheated on her partner would be?" ???? When did she cheat on Olivia? She and Frank had sex long before she and Olivia ever admitted they had feelings for one another, and Olivia is fully aware of this. Sorry - this is not a story about a woman who finds herself pregnant after cheating on her partner, so those rules cannot apply.

As for the message from Father Ray - if Natalia did give him a message (I have no reason to doubt him), it's a pretty thing. And if she didn't, it might be worse: it means that she left no word, NOTHING for Olivia to indicate that she's safe. Remember - Blake's message was just regarding the Bauer picnic. So, either way you slice it, Natalia has acted without concern for Olivia's feelings, or Emma's!

Columbus said...

Excellent blog, once again. You pointed out one of the main problems with the storyline. Natalia has grown since she has been with Olivia: she has gotten more confident in her abilities and realizes that she can be more than a waitress/maid. She was the one who told Olivia that she was tired of waiting. Even with the pregnancy jolt, I cannot fathom the New Natalia (the most nurturing person in the world) abandoning Olivia and Emma on the most important day of their lives without some communication. It is so totally out of character that it is just not believable. I can understand confusion, I can understand being thrown back into her life at age 16 with another unexpected pregnancy - but I cannot rationalize any situation where she would not tell her best friend/love of her life who is a heart transplant survivor that she needed to leave for awhile even if she couldn't divulge the reason. The failure to do so is so wildly OOC that it blows the whole storyline for me.

xamanthe said...

Thank you for this insight.

My biggest problem with the story right now, is not the pregnancy. It's Natalia leaving town with no word to Olivia. If she couldn't face talking to her, then she could have written a note or an email to say she needed some space. That, Olivia would have somewhat understood and accepted, but to leave with nothing? I can not see Natalia doing that ever. It just doesn't make sense to me. The only thing that would make sense is a lost letter or Father Ray not delivering the message Nat wanted him to give Olivia.

Sure, I don't want Nat to have Frank's baby, but Liv and Nat would deal with that together and raise the child as their own. For Nat to think Olivia would abandon her for that is silly. Liv knew about Nat's indiscretion with Frank. Pregnancy would not be a roadblock to their relationship. There is no betrayal here.

The betrayal is leaving with no word. This is what is pissing me off the most right now, because I just can't see Nat doing that.

Rikita said...

While I do understand a momentary lapse in judgement that could send Nat fleeing on that high stakes day, I can't fathom that she wouldn't almost immediately backtrack and write, phone, text an explanation to Olivia and Emma that did not come from Blake or Ray. That is not a message that should be trusted to give to a 3rd party to deliver. The writers have dug themselves a Grand Canyon of a hole here. Given recent writing for this couple, I have no confidence that they will be able to bridge the chasm and resolve this satisfactorily. I'll still watch for the actresses and because I'm a sucker for punishment thoug.

Snapper said...

Exactly, Xamanthe. I thinkt he pregnancy is stupid and insulting, but I'd suck it up if it were dealt with in a realisitic way. Olivia KNOWS Natalia and Frank knocked boots. She also knows Natalia loves children and is anti-abortion. I think Olivia would be totally down with the idea of being part of the parental mix for that baby - she fairly CRAVES family life. Natalia knows this.

beca said...

I am not pro this storyline but this is what I have to say about Natalia leaving:

Natalia has confronted her demons, she has dealt with her self and has grown as a character....but ....there are phychological ramifications to the loss she has endured in the past year. Women who loose their husbands in such a way are known to regress and to suffer PTSD, someone who has suffered the loss of a husban and her child in just a year...well they get trough it because htey have to at the moment but ALL baggage she has held on to is still there.

It was only a matter of time for it to explode. And even though she is in love with Olivia let's not forget the fact that she is a recent widow, and from personal experience the paralizing fear of loosing the one you love and wanting to run away dosen't leave after 1 year or 2 or 3. I am surprised the character didn't run before! She wasn't even allowed to grief for her husband when she had to deal with her son going to prison....lets cut natalia some slack and let her jsut run away for a while

Micah said...

Haven't these girls heard of e-mail or texting? That would have prevented a lot of misunderstandings.
I love your analysis as always though I do think, without being an apologist, that the writers will pull this one off and end up overturning yet another cliche about lesbians.
On another note, have you thought about writing your own soap? With so many on-line venues and with this storyline bringing out the best in the gay female community, I see many opportunities for some of us to collaborate on a project of our own. Let me know :).

Snapper said...

With all due respect, a year in soap time is way more than enough for the grieving process to be over and done with. It has no relationship, whatsoever, to a real life experience regarding time or actual, real life grief, which we all know can take a lifetime to work through. Read, again the list of what Olivia's done/gone through in 18 months. Soap characters start and finish medical school in a year's time (Rick Bauer became a doctor almost overnight.) There is absolutely no indication that Natalia's running away has anything to do with losing Gus - none. What we were shown, what we have to work with is this: Natalia found out she was pregnant, and she ran off without so much as a word to Olivia. This ain't about Gus - for all intents and purposes, Gus is ancient history - this is all about Natalia acting totally out of character and dissing both Olivia and Emma.

Snapper said...

Micah -

I've been thinking about writing my own soap for about....oh...35 years or so! I'm pretty sure I could write a kick-ass soap, too, because I've watched so much of this stuff in my lifetime. The idea my friend, Robert and I had about Dinah and a group of powerful women? I wasn't even kidding...that could be a killer program. I actually did write a soapy sitcom years and years ago, but I never did anything with it.

chet said...

At this point, the 24 months pregnancy is the least of my gripes. It's makes no sense whatsoever for it to be written in this late but it could've been easily dealt with. But what we were served totally negated whatever character growth Olivia and most specially Natalia have gone through and made a cruel joke at the expense of Olivia. Because again she was made a fool to believe she's worthy of being first choice.

Once again you've pinpointed the heart of the screw up and expressed it so eloquently, imo. Very well said!

JCF said...

As that wise observer of human (and demon) behavior, Xander Harris, once observed: "Relapse is Part of Recovery."

Which is to say, I personally don't believe that Natalia's relapse (regression, freak-out, whatever) to a traumatised preggers 16 year-old (far pre- 2007-8's "Old Natalia") negates ALL the character growth that came up till that point.

Oy vey. I'm remembering a childhood debate between my late mother, and my godmother. Re the tile in my house's doorway: "It's blue" said my godmother. "No, it's green", said my mom.

One either thinks it is possible for the writers to pull this off (create a believable explanation for Natalia, believably forgiveable by Olivia---though of course this, too, will be subjective!), or one doesn't.

I'm not sure anymore arguing either way is going change any minds...

[If, however, I think the writers do a piss-poor job when Natalia returns, I will certainly give more credence to the proposition that they irrevocably f*cked-up by going in this direction in the first place! ;-/]

Snapper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ocean1Blue said...

There is just no good way for Natalia to explain this to Olivia. What can she say? She had doubts about raising a baby with Olivia? She didn't trust Olivia to be there for her? She wasn't ready to come out at the Bauer BBQ? I think she justs needs to be totally honest with Olivia and admit she still had serious doubts, she wasn't ready, and she acted selfishly. Maybe if she takes responsibility for her actions, she and Olivia can begin the healing process. I also think Nat needs to heed the saying, "Actions speak louder than words", and DO something that SHOWS Olivia she really does love her.

chriscosey said...

Seriously, considering what Natalia put up with from Olivia not long ago, Natalia remains a saint. Seriously, I think you have lost perspective. Natalia has yet to put her love and faith together. That will happen now and it will work out. She will have to regain Olivia's trust - but given Oliva'a past I don't think that will be too high of a hurdle. They both remain very real to me....

Snapper said...

It's an interesting saint who lets down the people who love and depend on her and disappears without a trace. An odd saint who can look in the eye of her lover and flat out lie. Whatever Olivia may have put Natalia through in the past is irrelevant, because old Olivia was always more than Frank about being a selfish person who pushed her weight around and did whatever needed to be done to get her way. Natalia knew this and bought into it fully aware of what she was investing in. In fact, Natalia found this attractive, to a certain extent.
At no point in time has Olivia ever betrayed Natalia. Not once. Even at her worst, when Olivia acted like a raging bitch, after Gus' death, did she ever perpetrate a betrayal of trust. Natalia has - both to Olivia and to Emma.

There's no way to slice up the whole Natalia-leaving-town-without-even-a-phone-call to makeit look like anything less than a shitty-ass thing to do.