Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dorian Lord: Gay For Pay

Lesbians, many of them, at least, are up in arms about the revelation that One Life To Live's Dorian Lord will be pulling a Jack Tripper and pretending to be gay in a bid to win the mayoral seat in the mythical town of Llanview, Pennsylvania. The writers of OLTL, in fact, will be going whole hog: Dorian will have a faux lesbian wedding. While I have only sporadically followed OLTL during the last 8-10 years, I was a devoted viewer for more than 20 years and, as both a lesbian and someone who has followed several of Dorian's escapades, I find this plot twist not the least bit offensive. In fact, I find it amusing. What's more, I think it's perfectly fitting with who Dorian is.


I've heard from several people that a devious and deceitful move such as feigning homosexuality is "out of character" for Dorian. I have to wonder if the folks making such observations have any idea who Dorian even is. Not only is this plot twist totally in character for Dorian, it's far from the lowest she's sunk. There are few depths to which Dorian won't lower herself, especially when she expects to gain power or/or money as a reward. If she has an opportunity to cause problems for Vikki Lord in the process? All the better.

My earliest memory of Dorian is of her withholding medication from her ailing husband (Victor Lord - an elderly, dying man she married for money) in an effort to hasten his death and cash in on a huge inheritance.

In later years, Dorian:
  • Falsely accused David Renaldi of pushing her down a flight of stairs,
  • Blackmailed Jenny (Llanview's long-suffering saint and an ex-nun, for heaven's sake),
  • Faked paralysis,
  • Concocted a plan to set up Sloan as a rapist,
  • Attempted to destroy Victor Lord's corpse to avoid prosecution for the murder she believed she'd committed,
  • Hired David Vickers to produce the famed "forged diary",
  • Seduced Vikki's son, Joey, merely to torture her arch enemy,
  • Blackmailed Drew,
  • Replaced her sister, Melinda's, anti-psychotic medication with a placebo, to keep her from revealing the truth about their father's death,
  • Committed insurance fraud (that whole necklace thing),
  • Concocted a frame-up to make Rex appear to be a heroin addict,
  • Paid Brody to claim to be Shane's father,
  • Secretly plied recovering alcoholic Charlie with alcohol and drugs, to thwart Vikki,
  • Hired someone to stalk her own daughter,
  • Hired a hitman to murder Ray, and
  • Pretended to be a Buddhist in order to get David Vickers, who she believed to be the Buchanan heir, to marry her
What, I ask, about this woman's history would make anyone think that feigning homosexuality in order to win the votes of homosexual voters would be "out of character"? The fact is, Dorian is a borderline sociopath. There is almost no limit to how far she'd go to get ahead. Gay for pay? Why the hell not? Not only will it help her win the mayoral election, but her opponent is none other than Vikki Lord - her long-time rival.

Dorian is and always has been a gloriously over-the-top character who can be counted on to do what no one on a soap opera has done before, or will do again. (Do any of us foresee another soap character pretending to be Buddhist, in order to get their hands on a fortune?) Not only would Dorian go gay-for-pay to get ahead, but there's nothing particularly surprising about her taking such a step.

"But, Same-Sex Marriage Is A Serious Issue, and ABC is Making Fun Of It!"

There's no question that the proposed right of same-sex couples to legally marry is a serious issue. I do not take this issue lightly. In debates about OLTL's gay-for-pay story line, I've been accused of not understanding the "gravity of the same-sex marriage debate" and not "getting the issue." Not only do I understand the gravity of the debate and get the issue, but I have been actively involved in lobbying for the rights of same-sex couples for several years. In fact, I was invited by the New Zealand Parliament to testify and make a case in favor of the Civil Union Act, as the Act was being debated on a national level. In many ways, I consider this bit of civic engagement my finest moment. (NZ's Civil Union Act passed into law in 2004.)

I get it. I really do. I also get that this story line poses no more threat to the same-sex marriage movement than Dorian's death row story line posed a threat to either side of the capital punishment debate.

Dorian is a character. Her actions don't represent the opinions of OLTL's writers, or of the ABC brass. As with any serial drama, there are good guys and bad guys on OLTL. Dorian falls somewhere in the grey area - she's mostly awful, but most of us love her, in a sick and twisted way. Spoilers about this story tell us this: Dorian will feign homosexuality and engage in a fake lesbian wedding in order to woo the LGBT vote. It's something Dorian would do, but it doesn't mean anyone is saying it's something people should do. In fact, I'm willing to bet money that Vikki will have a lot to say about how insulting Dorian's ruse is to same-sex couples who really, truly struggle with the fact that they cannot really marry (Llanview is in Pennsylvania, a state which does not recognize same-sex marriage.) I'm also willing to bet that Dorian's gay-for-pay scheme will backfire. She will not, in the long run, benefit from this ruse.

If Dorian's faux lesbian wedding is an example of ABC making fun of the same-sex marriage debate, then her faking paralysis must have been ABC making fun of disability. Her posing as a Buddhist must have been ABC making fun of eastern religion. Her frame-up of Rex must have been ABC making fun of heroin addiction. Nonsense. Dorian has never, ever been presented as the heart and soul and voice of Llanview. If any character has enjoyed this distinction, it's been Vikki - a character who would never make light of disability or religion or drug addiction or sexual identity. (Now, Nikki? That's a horse of a different color. All bets are off, when it comes to Nikki Smith.)

"It Stinks of STUNT"

Yes? And??? Of course it stinks of stunt. Because it is a stunt. OLTL is a soap opera. Soap operas are rife with stunts. This is a bad Dorian's gay-for-pay lesbian wedding is almost certainly as much a stunt as Frank and Natalia's wedding-that-wasn't or Olivia and Natalia's "my two mommies" kiss on Guiding Light. The entire pre-production promotional campaign for Crystal Chappell's Venice is one, big, beautifully managed stunt. How can the very same people who love the Venice stuntfest possibly point judgmental fingers at OLTL? If you think that tantalizing disappointed Otalia fans with the promise of a Crystal Chappell/Jessica Leccia kiss "within the first 30 seconds" of Venice isn't a stunt that preys on lesbian hunger for intimacy between two actresses who have become lesbian icons, we really should meet. I've got some prime real estate, spanning from Downtown Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan, that you might just like to purchase.

Know this: there are no real "leaked spoilers." Nothing makes it into the soap magazines and internet columns by accident. We know about Dorian's gay-for-pay story line because someone at ABC made a decision to release the information. The "leak"? It's always the first part of any good stunt. And this has the potential to be an excellent stunt - one with humor, drama, controversy and, ultimately, comeuppance.

"I Can't Believe Robin Strasser Would Agree To This!"

Believe it. Robin Strasser is a consummate professional, and professional actors act. A few months back, I wrote about an actor who stormed off the set of Y&R and refused to perform scenes in which his character kissed another male. His behavior was totally unprofessional. If Robin Strasser did the same thing regarding this story line, her behavior would be just as unacceptable. If Strasser doesn't care for the story line (I have no reason to believe that this is true), it won't be the first story line she hasn't been crazy about, and I'm certain it won't be the last. However, Strasser is a class act. Of course she'll act these scenes: acting is what she does. She's not a petulant child. She's an actor with a reputation for always giving it her all.

Anyone who expects Robin Strasser to take some kind of stand and refuse to take part in this story line should then be prepared to hear about Strasser losing her job because, just last month, OLTL fired an actor who refused to take part in a story line which called for her character to be gay-friendly.

The Bottom Line

One Life To Live has long been known to go to extremes. Time travel. Hidden, underground cities. Forgotten childbirth. Fictional blood types. Visits to hell. Gay-for-pay? Sounds like one of the more grounded story lines to take place in Llanview, to be honest. That it's the ruthless, power-hungry, plotting Dorian at the center of it is what makes it deliciously campy.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes a story is just a story. If we want gay and lesbian issues to be part of the soap opera landscape, we might want to celebrate the fact that OLTL is planning to feature an election story line where the power of the gay and lesbian vote is actually acknowledged. When was the last time you heard about that on a daytime drama?


DJ Bixby said...

I'm torn on this one, as i, a gemini, am a lot of the time. I don't watch OLTL, except for a few clips here and there. I don't have a problem with this potential direction. After all, a political wedding stunt will raise more conversations about gay marriage rights and could be done in a fashion to change a few peoples minds (maybe?). at the very least it does sound like manipulative soap camp at its peak - i can take it or leave it.

My problem with this, which doesn't get directed at those at OLTL but at our television climate in general (TPTB & the advertisers that govern them) that consistently allow for better representation and more air time to fake or pretend gay characters (this would also apply to the drunk cheerleader phenomenon). Its the big picture that irks me, but i know better than to punish OLTL for it. I will be curious to see if this end up overshadowing the real gay storyline they already have going on. I will be youtubing.

MJinTenn said...

I'm not interested in getting sucked into another time gobbler, but I will have to check this out. Thank you for your insight.

I like more gay stuff on teevee for obvious reasons but mostly because eventually I think most people will just shrug about teh gay instead of getting their panties in a wad about it. So, yay, OLTL!

dkellergrl said...

WORD, to your entire posting.

Have a great weekend.

Robert said...

I agree, Snapper, I think this scheme is exactly the kind of thing Dorian would do. I'll be curious to see how it all plays out. And MJinTenn makes a good point that more examples on TV/movies/etc. of gay stories will lead to more shrugging and less prejudice.

Laurie said...

Thank you for putting this, 'outrage' in context and in the perspective of the character and genre; which seems to be missing from most of the discussion I'm hearing.

ocean1blue said...

How much better it is to have a soap in which the character thinks that pretending to be gay will benefit her election for Mayor, rather than the GL situation in which Doris Wolfe was afraid to come out of the closet because she thought it would cost her the election. In fact, she herself used the M2M presentation to disavow herself of same sex relationships and make political hay, while still being afraid to come out to her own daughter. It is so much better that the gay demographic is seen as something to be coveted, and even better when it is seen as a non-issue (as you said so eloquently Snapper in your blog "The New Black") Natalia and Olivia's ethnic background never was mentioned and maybe one day the fact that they are gay will also not matter. God help me, I think I just agreed with GL's label less relationship theory.

B Fuhr said...

I find this eerie as I just decided to DVR OLTL and see if it was interesting... and you write about Dorian.

And by eerie I mean awesome.

JCF said...

I parted company w/ you a lot on the latter Otalia storyline (don't think it failed---even if CBS did!), but ITA w/ you on this one.

I don't see how a fake lesbian wedding can be any worse than AMC's annulled-the-next-day-due-to-penis one! ;-/