Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hail, The Conquering Antiheroine

Long-time viewers of Guiding Light were granted a treat on August 26, 2009 - a return to Springfield by none other than Holly Norris (Bauer, Thorpe, Lindsay, Reade. I think I got them all.) For those of us who watched back in the early days of the Holly/Roger/Ed triangle, Holly's short return is both apt and bittersweet. On the one hand, how can any of us of say goodbye to Springfield, forever, without at least a glimpse of Holly? And, really, who better to talk to Olivia about the intoxicating power of tumultuous love? On the other hand, Holly's short visit reminds us of what Guiding Light has been missing for so long, and what could have been done to save this show years ago.

The Right Woman at the Right Time

Holly's sudden visit comes about on account of Blake reaching out to her mother - an act that helps remind us just how far Blake and Holly have both come over the years. Where once existed at best tension, at worst bitter resentment, now exists a healthy mother/daughter bond that sees Blake Marler calling on her mother for emotional support and advice. This isn't the Blake who schemes to marry Phillip Bauer for money and power, or the Holly who blurts out that she never loved her daughter. This is a mother and daughter who can be there for one another. This is a Holly who can probably be a friend to another woman - something she has never done successfully for any length of time. Enter Olivia. Is there any woman in Springfield more in need of true friendship and sage advice from someone who has been around the block, when it comes to the once-in-a-lifetime love thing?

Holly Norris 101: A Crash Course

In case you're wondering, "Who the hell is Holly, and why are all these heavily-invested, long-time viewers so damned excited to have her back for a few, measly scenes?", here goes:

When she first appeared on the scene, Holly was not long out of high school. She was an extremely bright young woman, who infuriated her mother - a single parent who had been abandoned by her husband years before - by deciding that entering college was not as important as tracking down her father and going to work for him. Stanley Norris was a cold, disinterested man. He gave his daughter a job, but didn't want her under foot, so he paid one of his employees to date her and keep her busy. That young man's name was Roger Thorpe. Can you hear the organ playing? I can. Because this was when and where Holly's troubled life really began - on the day she met her soul mate, who also happened to be the person who would present the greatest threat to her emotional well-being and, at times, her very life. If it sounds dramatic, that's because it was. Guiding Light's most intriguing on-again/off-again couple loved and hated one another. Their relationship was passionate in every way - the highs were sky-high, the lows were pure hell.

Roger and Holly's obsessive, unhealthy love for one another spanned nearly 30 years and included, among other things:

  • A child
  • Rape
  • At least two shootings
  • Kidnapping
  • A return from the dead
  • A surprisingly successful run as co-owners of WSPR
  • Saving one another's lives on several occasions
  • Truce
  • Friendship
  • Too many declarations of love to count
  • A short-lived romantic reconciliation
  • Betrayal
  • A final, heart-breaking parting that confirmed the truth: they would always long for one another
With Roger Thorpe now really and truly dead, and the Springfield lighthouse about to shut down its beacon for good, the Holly Norris we saw on August 26 was the product of this roller coaster. Ed told her she looked "free", and her response was, "finally!" Yes, Holly, finally. Because, while I always rooted for Holly and Roger to find their way back to one another the truth was always that they were both prisoners of an obsessive attraction for one attraction that was too primal and animalistic to ever result in anything but heartbreak and tragedy. They adored one another, they craved each other...but it was too much. For too many years it took over Holly's life, to the point that, when she wasn't obsessed with loving Roger, she was obsessed with hating him. And, really, is there that much of a difference between the two?

Holly, The Rumor Mill, and Otalia

A few weeks ago, Nelson Branco published the following blind item:
Which iconic daytime character was about to be revealed to be a lesbian but the network nixed the idea? Too bad — it would have made A LOT of sense!
Most fans guessed this item referred to a character on CBS' B&B. I suspect this blind item is about none other than Holly. Think about how interesting and fitting it would have been - Holly returning to Springfield in the best emotional shape anyone has seen her in since..well...maybe ever. She's come to terms with her demons, finally let go of her obsession with Roger. No one knows for sure what she's been doing or what her life is like, now. She runs into Olivia, with whom she had a short friendship once-upon-a-time. Olivia recounts her sad tale of once-in-a-lifetime love seemingly gone to pieces...and makes the big reveal: the object of her adoration, the cause of her current heartbreak, is a woman. Holly responds with, "Olivia, I'm gay."

Holly as a lesbian makes all the sense in the world. It would be easy for me to believe that, with the life-long obsession with Roger well and truly purged, Holly would find herself examining her history with other men, and realizing that, outside of friendship, relationships with men have never really worked for her. In fact, all of her relationships with men have been disastrous. Every time she's been involved with a man it's only been as a reaction to Roger and her undeniable passion for him. We watched for years as Holly went to Ed, because he wasn't Roger. She did this time and again, with different men - seeking them out to prove to herself that she didn't really need Roger in her life. She did this the way some self-loathing gay people seek out heterosexual relationships to prove to themselves that they're not queer. If Holly's miserable failures with men have been due, in part, to the fact that, outside of Roger, she hasn't ever really been attracted to men, it means that true freedom is a very real possibility for my all-time favorite antiheroine. We already know that Holly has finally, at long last moved away from the obsession with Roger, but what has she moved to? I vote for a healthy, supportive, loving relationship with another woman. A brand, new start. And a Holly who is living a free and happy life as a lesbian is just the person to walk in and give Olivia and Natalia's relationship the boost it so badly needs.

Holly as a happy, self-aware, secure lesbian would be the anti-Doris.

Now, I can't prove this theory - that Branco's blind item referred to Holly - but there is some evidence that points to it. Holly's conversation with Ed - was it just me, or did that seem to start off somewhere, and go nowhere? I got the distinct impression that there was some editing of the dialogue (and possibly the footage) going on there. The same holds true for her conversation with Olivia- it ended abruptly, at just the time where Holly could conceivably have been about to disclose. Also, rumors are that Maureen Garrett's stint on GL was cut down to one day due to her negative reaction to the show's difficult production model - something she was very vocal about in her interview with Mimi Torchin. The other glaring piece of evidence is Branco's blaming the network for killing the planned story. We already know CBS has time and again handcuffed the writers from moving Olivia and Natalia's story along. Is it difficult to believe that they'd squash plans to have one of daytime's most beloved characters come out as a late-in-life lesbian? My money says this blind item is all about Guiding Light and Holly Norris.
If I'm right, it's a real shame. Maureen Garrett is at least as strong an actor as Crystal Chappell.

A longer, deeper interaction between these two would have been a great gift for GL to give to long-time viewers like myself, who have real love for Holly, and know full well that Garrett is at her best when her character is bucking convention.

© 2009 Lana M. Nieves

Limited Licensing: I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution license, granting distribution of my copyrighted work without making changes, with mandatory attribution to Lana M. Nieves and for non-commercial purposes only. - Lana M. Nieves


xamanthe said...

Interesting theory. That would have been so great to see. Her scenes did seem short to me. I would have loved a lot more Holly time.

Maybe some fanfic writer will take this idea and "run" with it. I, for one, hope so.

Deep Dish said...

That is very interesting. But if it's true, it's a real shame that CBS wouldn't let Holly come out of the closet. It would've been a great storyline for the show and Ms. Garrett.

Snapper said...

Yikes. I hope no one takes this blog as an endorsement of of the creation of any Holly-as-lesbian fanfic. Seriously...if anyone does that - I have NOTHING to do with it.

Snapper said...

Deep Dish - First off, I am such a huge fan of your blog. I find something I absolutely love on your site every single time I look at it. Anyone who loves pop culture needs to check out Deep Dish, because it's like Disneyland for T.V. babies.

As for my theory - just to clarify things - it really is just a theory, and I have no inside dope. I ran it by an inside source. This person thought it was a really good theory, but didn't have information, either way, and was unable to confirm or deny. So, yeah....just a theory. But I like it, and I think I'm right, because it makes sense. That's my story and I'm sticking wth it. Also, there was talk that the original plan, several years back, was to have Holly and Olivia get involved in a same-sex we know that seed had already been planted re Holly, years ago.

For the record, I'm glad that never came ot pass. It would have been incredibly lame. Holly and Olivia both bring the incredibly sexy/charming/smart...but they're way too alike for anything but friendship to exist between them. What could they possibly get from one another? Tips on making a better martini? Support in one another's self-loathing and low self-esteem? Double the cynicism, and half the hope???? Just no.

ocean1blue said...

There is also something else missing between the two of them and that is chemistry. There is no denying that when Olivia and Natalia are on screen together it is nearly impossible to take your eyes away from them. Sparks just fly from the two of them, and I don't think even great actors can make that heat seem that real if there is not already some chemistry there on some level.

Snapper said...

ITA, Ocean. Just because they're both attractive doesn't mean they have that thing between them. I just think it would have been a disastrous pairing, and not at all a positive portrayal of same-sex relationships....certainly not if they actualy stayed true to who these characters really are.

Ariadne said...

It's an interesting theory. But as a longtime GL viewer, I would have thought of it as as ridiculous retcon to jump on board the trendy LGB bandwagon.

It's true that Holly's relationships with men were disasterous but much of that was due to Holly herself, who was mercurial and didn't know what she wanted or how to keep a relationship going. If she were lesbian, wouldn't her relationships with women have been better than those with men? But other than Maureen, I don't recall her having a single good female friend. She was at odds with Jilly more often than not and she competed with her own daughter for men.

I agree that they need to do real gay relationships on TV (loved season 2 of General Hospital's Night Shift) and nothing against women discovering later in life that they are lesbian or but I just don't see Holly as one. She was screwed up but nothing to indicate that was the reason. To make her one now would to me be as false as making Frank the love of Blake's life.

Snapper said...

Actually, you're mistaken. Maureen and Holly were not friends. Maureen had a distinct dislike of Holly, due to her history with Ed. Especially after Holly and Ed had sex while Ed and Maureen were on a trial seperation. Holly had a sort of friendship with Vanessa after the whole transplant story line, but that wasn't very deep and wasn't explored much. There was that short period where Alex and Holly were friendly, but that was all about Holly using Alex to ruin Roger's life, and they ended up bitter enemies. Olivia was actually the woman she came closest to having a regular friendship with but, again, it didn't last long and wasn't explored enough.

I don't think the fact that Holly never had friendships with women means she couldn't be a lesbian. Quite the opposite. She's never known how to fit into her own skin, which usually ends up in not knowing how to be with other people. She spent a good 20 years trying to have healthy romances with men, but they always ended badly. In several cases, she was able to form strong friendships with the men she'd failed at romance with; Ed, Ross, Buzz. Holly spent years painting Ed as the perfect mate for her when, in reality, he's always been the perfect best friend for her. As for women, she never really knew how other women fit into her world. Gilly wasn't even close to being a friend - she was an employee. I think Holly as a late-in-life lesbian makes all the sense in the world, but YMMV.

Ariadne said...

Yes, you're right. It is Vanessa she had a friendship with although still not much of one.

I think part of the problem is that MG plays angsty/nuts very well, as does CC, which is why both of them keep having these angsty relationships that fail written for them. It makes it hard to figure things out for Holly. Olivia, having seen her relationship with Natalia, makes a lot of sense as someone who 'not loves women but loves a woman' as a friend of mine in a later life lesbian relationship would say.

I always thought of Holly as a man's woman, more comfortable with men than with her own sex. That she was able to form strong friendships with men but not with women reinforces that feeling for me.

As you say, YMMV.

Angel said...

Lovely tribute to Holly - and yes, that would have given the unexpected tenderness between her & Olivia in those scenes a direction. Anti-Doris, indeed.

And of course, any thought of Michael Zaslow always reminds me how far back the FUCBS moments go...

Anonymous said...

Well....I'm reading it 3 years later, but awesome post. It's too bad what happened on that show, but this is still a great writeup. :)