Monday, August 31, 2009

Scraps: They're Not Just for Otalia, Anymore

Remember back in the day, when 20 years' service warranted a gold watch? Have you ever wondered what 72 years' of presenting compelling drama to the world warrants? The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences seem to think a couple of minutes of semi-agist jokes (Betty White is so much better than this!) and a montage that lasts less than three minutes, and is made up mostly of new footage does the trick.

This is not the end of Gossip Girl, people. It's not Melrose Place. It's Guiding Light. It's a show that many of us watched at the feet of our mothers and grandmothers. I got an email from someone saying their great-grandmother watched this show and introduced them to it. It's the show that pushed the boundaries for daytime television. And, yeah, I am annoyed about the whole Otalia thing, but I disagree with some folks who were critical of the implication that GL has been ground-breaking and progressive. GL is not all about Otalia. It was around a long, long time before Otalia was even a seed in some writer's brain. In fact, this show has been so ground-breaking and progressive that there should have been an in-depth exploration of it, of the strides GL has made in presenting stories about rape, sexual harassment, breast cancer, abortion, interracial love, PTSD, physical disabilities...the list is a long one. The fact is, The Emmy Awards basically spit on Guiding Light by presenting this measly, weak montage, and then they stomped all over it by cutting to a commercial break as the cast took the stage.

Long-time cast members such as Tina Sloan, Maeve Kinkead, Grant Aleksander, Frank Dicoupolous, Liz Keifer, Ron Raines, Marj Dusay, Michael O'Leary, Kim Zimmer, and Justin Deas (just to name a few) deserve a whole lot better than this.

Anyone else holding out for the 60 Minutes feature?
Until then, check out what someone who clearly gets it calls a tribute:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

96 Tears: Once Upon a Time In The Midwest

I feel really alone and really helpless. I need you to hold me......I just need you.

Was there anyone watching as Natalia pleaded for Olivia's support whose heart didn't ache when she uttered these words. Oh, yeah...that was me. Was I alone in feeling a little bit of smug satisfaction at seeing Natalia suffer so? I know this episode pissed people off, and everyone wants to know what the hell Olivia was thinking with her big "I can't hold you" reply. But, really, wasn't this episode all about comeuppance? 

Welcome To The World Of Olivia Spencer

I don't for a minute think that Olivia's refusal to step in, hold Natalia, stroke her hair, etc. was an act of revenge or coldness. It's a little something Olivia Spencer calls self-preservation. She's been hurt by Natalia, already. We only get hurt when we're vulnerable. Olivia is at her most vulnerable when she opens herself up to what she truly feels for Natalia. How, then, does a woman like Olivia protect herself? She closes off. She sets boundaries. She steers clear from that which puts her in harm's way. Hate Olivia's response all you want, but know this: it doesn't come from a lack of compassion, but from a desire to feel safe and in control of her own life. And, really, is it all that unreasonable for Olivia to consider that getting close to Natalia, again could end up just how it's ended up already - with Natalia running scared and Olivia betrayed, humiliated, broken-hearted, and left holding the proverbial bag? It's not as if Olivia hasn't been through this with Josh, before. 

Natalia's Tears

Jessica Leccia is good at looking completely lost and alone. It really does tug at the heartstrings to see those big, brown eyes well up with tears. But let's look at what she's crying about: Rafe has joined the armed forces. (Evidently, the U.S. Army is now accepting diabetic felons for active duty, but I digress.) Rafe is Natalia's son, her only child. The news of one's child planning to go to war would be upsetting for any parent. Still and all, she is broken-hearted even though her loved one made a point of going to her home, sitting down, and telling her - in person, no less - about his plans. Imagine how awful it would have been if her loved one had just decided to pick up and leave, without letting her know, first, what his plans were, where he was going, why he was going, and that he loved her? Can you imagine what that might feel like? You know who has a good idea what that feels like? Olivia. Because that is exactly what Natalia did to her on July 4th.  And isn't a little comeuppance for Natalia exactly what  few of us have been looking for, in order to feel as if the Olivia/Natalia pairing is even worth rooting for, anymore? 

Deeds, Not Words

Natalia has spent the time since she's been back in Springfield saying that she knows things have been tough for Olivia, but I haven't really believed it.  In fact, a few times I had the distinct impression that Natalia was rolling her eyes and wishing Olivia would just get over the ridiculous sadness, take her back, and let go of the whole "you left me and broke my heart" nonsense. "I left you and broke your heart?" Natalia has seemed to be asking, "Here's some raspberry jam. All better?" 

Maybe I'm just petty and mean-spirited but, ever since Natalia returned to Springfield, I've had the overwhelming desire to see her suffer as Olivia has. I've actually felt that I've needed to see this, if I was ever going to get back to thinking these two belong with one another. Just to even out the score. I'm petty like that. It's why I love 96 Tears and Kill Bill and Once Upon a Time In The West. It's why I've loved Stockard Channing ever since Girl Most Likely To... 

Comeuppance. It's the pause that refreshes. I didn't just want Natalia to say she understood how hard it's been for Olivia, I've needed her to actually feel it. When Olivia refused to be there for her in the way that she needed, Natalia looked genuinely shocked. Because that's never happened before. Not to Natalia. It's Olivia who knows what's it's like to call the person she loves on the telephone, leave message after message, pleading for some sign that everything is ok, that she's still loved. It's Olivia who knows what it's like to have those calls never be returned. That's got to sting, and now, maybe, Natalia has an idea how much. 

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

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Advice for the Lovelorn

Dear Snapper:

As an advice columnist, I hope you can steer me in the right direction.

I am a 40 year old woman with what one might call a "checkered past." My love life has always been a mess. I was raped when I was 16 by a guy who was supposed to be a Prince Charming, but who turned out to be a monster.  It really messed up my ideas about relationships, not to mention my self-esteem. I have had sex with many, many men - some of whom I only knew for a few minutes before jumping into bed with them. I have been married several times - never happily.

I was engaged to a great guy who dumped me for a woman who wandered into our lives and needed help. Before I knew it, she'd hooked up with my fiancee' and I was left alone.

My first marriage was to a man who never stopped thinking about, talking about and running to his ex-wife, who seemed to be under foot 24 hours a day. This marriage ended when he left me for that first wife. I felt like crap.

My second marriage was to a much older man who I didn't love, but who I thought could provide me with business connections and a way to further succeed on a professional and financial level. He turned out to be a cruel, manipulative person who loved to watch others fail.

My third marriage was to my my second husband's son - my adult step-son. Things started out well enough, and we even had a baby together - a child I adore. Eventually, though, things changed, as my third husband became psychologically unstable and he tried to kill me and kidnap our little girl.

My fourth marriage was unbelievably foolish. He was a much younger man - very handsome and sweet, but I was not really in love with him. I thought he could be a good father figure to my little girl, who he cared a great deal for. Unfortunately, I was less than honest and ruined this marriage. In retrospect, I realize that, while he was a great guy, he was immature and wasn't really in any position to be a father to my child, anyhow.

My next affair with was a really great guy - a solid, law-abiding man who is loyal and true, if a little dim-witted. He would have taken great care of me and of my daughter, but he bored me to tears. I broke his heart by having an affair with his father, who fell in love with and proposed to me. I came close to marrying him, but I stopped myself before the wedding. I didn't feel worthy of such love.

This brings me to my present situation. The person I'm currently involved with is great - fun to be around, a good listener, great with my little girl, patient with me and all of my little neuroses. The person I'm involved with doesn't have an obsessive ex who shows up on our doorstep, a crazy, manipulative father, or a mental health issue.  What, then, is the problem?

First of all...the sex. There isn't any. Like...NONE. Nada. In fact, we haven't even kissed. Ever. I've been patient, but there's only so long a healthy woman can wait.

Second, for reasons I can't go into, my partner and I have not really told anyone that we're a couple. I've wanted to do this for some time, but my partner has always found some reason why we should wait.

Third, there's the whole mixed family situation. My new love has a 19 year old son who is incredibly over-indulged. He's rude, obnoxious and disrespectful. In short, he's an overgrown baby with a chip on his shoulder, and he's never called on it. If anything, he's treated with kid gloves. Infuriating!

This would all be fine, I could live with it, and I was coping just fine until something unbelievable happened. One day last month - a really important day for us, actually - my new love up and left town. Just like that. No note. No phone call. No email. Nothing. I went a little nuts, thinking the worst. What if they'd been hurt or worse? Days passed, and then weeks, then it was more than a month and still no word. I was a wreck, but I finally decided that the only thing I could do was move on, concentrate on raising my little girl, and try not to think about my broken heart. Just when I was getting back on my feet, who should pop back into town, acting as if nothing has happened at all, but the person I love. They want to just pick up and be a family, and I'm being called "stubborn" for having not automatically following the plans that have been made for me without a thought given to my own wishes. 

I won't lie - I'm still in love with this person, and very, very attracted to them. I feel, however, that I've been betrayed. I certainly don't feel as if I can or should trust someone who watched as I put my life on hold for a relationship with no intimacy and refrained from kicking a particular teenaged boy in the ass, only to reply to these things by abandoning me and my child, betraying my trust, and dismissing my feelings. 

What should I do?


Oh, The Awful Lovers I've Attracted

Dear O.T.A.L.I.A.:

Your love life sounds like a soap opera.

I'm tempted to tell you that the woman you're in love with (Didn't you know I'd figure you'd lezzed out the minute you stopped using pronouns?) is another in a long line of crappy partners you've chosen over the years. It sounds as if things between the two of your started out really well, but went nowhere fast. You say there's been no sex at all? Not even a kiss? How is it that you two even consider yourselves to be in a relationship if there's no sex, no kissing, and no one even knows you're supposedly a couple? Are you like super-top-secret girlfriends, or something? 
I'm tempted to tell you to run, run fast, pass GO, and don't look back, because it sounds as if this woman is being less than careful with your heart, and you've had enough of that in your life. I'd be tempted to give you this advice even if it were a man we were talking about, because no one deserves to be treated like a second class citizen.

I won't bother telling you these things, though, because I can tell from your letter that you're determined to be with "this person" and that what you're really asking me isn't should you do it, but how should you do it? Here is my answer:

1) Tell your wannabe girlfriend that you've taken as much crap from her kid as you plan to. Put your foot down and tell her it's a dealbreaker: either the jerk starts showing some common decency, or you're walking. You mention that he's 19. That's a man, not a boy. Besides telling your girlfriend, tell the son, directly, that you're finished with his crap and that, frankly, he can just keep his distance if he can't act like an adult. 

2) Tell your wannabe girlfriend that there's nothing "stubborn" about not being a doormat, and that she has no right to dismiss your feelings. Demand a decent, detailed explananation, a sincere apology, and acknowledgement that she has done something incredibly cruel and hurtful. Tell her that, until you feel there's some self-awareness coming from her, you can never be with her, and you certainly won't trust her to be there for your little girl.

3) Tell your wannabe girlfriend that you are willing to discuss possible plans for your future together, but that you do not let anyone else make plans for you.

4) Tell your wannabe girlfriend that, when two adults are in a romantic relationship they kiss and have sex, case closed. Tell her that, if you make the decision to take her back into your life, there will be intimacy, and you will not wait for it. You've waited long enough.

5) Tell your wannabe girlfriend that, if she really wants to be your girlfriend, she won't be afraid to let people know. In fact, if she loves you and wants to be with you, she'll want to yell it out to the world. Make it a condition of any reconciliation that there be no more secrets, no more waiting, and no more bullshit. 

I wish you well. Frankly, I think you deserve better, but we both know how this is going to play out.

All the best,


© 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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Scrambling for Scraps

Twitter all but broke down yesterday, as Natalia Rivera waltzed back into Springfield knowing what she wanted. That noise you heard? The sound of a million lesbians SQUEEing. Actually, a million minus one. Natalia's return did not make me SQUEE. Not in that way, anyhow.

I'm glad Natalia is back, because this show is winding down and I need closure. I'm glad Natalia's back because I like Jessica Leccia and have missed seeing her on television. Mostly, I'm glad Natalia is back because it means Olivia will finally get to let loose and tell her exactly how betrayed she feels, and how incredibly shitty it was for Natalia to take off without so much as a word. 

At the very least, Natalia needs and deserves a good telling off.

Vision Quest or Act of Incredible Thoughtlessness?

Among the messages zooming around the Twitterverse yesterday were cries of "This is a love story!" and "Yay! Your girl's home, Liv!" and "Kiss her!" Another set of messages addressed blogs such as this one, and chastised those of us who have the audacity to be angry at Natalia for "ruining it for the rest of us." One Tweeter went into a long diatribe about how lucky we should all feel to have this story line, no matter how messed up it's been, because it's better than The Children's Hour, which ends with the lesbian character comitting suicide. Natalia's journey, according to this apologist, was a "vision quest" and one she had to take in order to move towards a healthy same-sex love.

So, let me make sure I've got this right: 

1) By pointing out what's gone so wrong with the Otalia story line, and making a rally cry for positive, realistic portrayals of same-sex love on television bloggers such as myself are ruining it for the rest of the lesbians out there.

2) We should be grateful for whatever lesbian scraps the networks throw our way and just be grateful that Natalia didn't hang herself from the rafters of her lonely room in the convent. 

3) When a man leaves his woman without so much as a phone call, leaving her to think she's unworthy of love, it's an act of selfish abandonment and incredible thoughtlessness. When a woman does this to her female partner, it's a vision quest.

With all due respect, I call "bullshit." Do people really believe this crock? 

Unless viewers take a stand and make our voices heard, we will never see anything resembling positive portrayals of same-sex relationships in the mass media. And make no mistake about this: if we do see an Otalia kiss, it won't be because fans sat back and accepted the ridiculously chaste relationship these two supposed-lovers share. If we see a kiss between these two characters, it will be because the pressure from viewers became too great to ignore. It will be because journalists and bloggers have been critical and pointed out how incredibly stupid and unrealistic it's been for CBS to expect us to believe that two adult women in love wouldn't even kiss one another. If we see a kiss, it will be because certain GL actors spoke out, and made TPTB aware of the Internet buzz about this issue. If we see a kiss it will not be thanks to people who sat back and didn't make any noise for fear of "ruining" things for everyone.

So what if they're neutered? We should just be happy to have lesbians who don't kill themselves. Really? Isn't that like telling a battered wife that she should just be glad her batterer stops before she actually bleeds? This argument reaches a level of sad, pathetic stupidity that I'm not sure I was aware was possible.  Yay! They're not suicidal. Sorry, Liz, but I'm hot snacking.

Natalia went on a vision quest. Okay, I'll buy that. Did she forget that she wasn't a 19th century Native American teen, but a 21st century, middle-aged woman with a fucking cellphone????? Does having big questions about one's future exempt one from taking even minimal steps to care for one's beloved? The traditional vision quest wasn't taken in secret. It wasn't a covert operation designed to worry the shit out of a kid's family. It was a rite of passage that was expected. Natalia didn't just go out to find her answers, which would have been perfectly reasonable. Instead, she dropped the ball and betrayed the very person whose heart she should have been taking pains to care for. She was thoughtless. She was selfish. Even in her return, she's thus far been incredibly cavalier. Does she go directly to Olivia? No. She visits her priest. She meets Blake who, I should remind you all, she barely knows. How healthy is a safe-sex love that currently revolves around one person completely disregarding the well-being of the other? 

But, hey, at least Natalia got back before Olivia hanged herself from the rafters at The Beacon. 

Thursday, August 13, 2009


The network that has refused to give Guiding Light fans so much as a kiss between two female characters who are in love with one another is home to the top-rated daytime drama, The Young and the Restless. Y&R is a good show. In some ways, it's a great show. There are some wonderful actors on Y&R. The sets are beautiful, and the production values are top notch. While the writing may falter from time to time, Y&R has proven itself to be self-aware: if something goes wrong, they fix it. Right now, the writing on Y&R is pretty damned great. So, yeah, CBS cancelled Guiding Light and has shafted Otalia fans, big time, but they're also home to the best drama daytime has to offer, so why invite the network to go fuck itself? Because of this:

Why is this upsetting? Why would it set me off in such a way? The two characters in the scene, Devon and Tyra, the two folks who end up sucking one another's lips off and rubbing genitals on the couch? They're AUNT AND NEPHEW. That's right. CBS seems to feel that a full-on pash between an aunt and her nephew is suitable programming, but a kiss between two women who are in love with one another, not attached to others, and not related to one another? INAPPROPRIATE.

Now, I don't want to hear about how Tyra and Devon turn out not to be be biologically related. For all intents and purposes, they are aunt and nephew. It's the only relationship they've known. Incest isn't just about the mingling of a shared bloodline. In fact, that's the least of the problems with it. It's about boundaries. About an abuse of power. People who inhabit positions of familial authority are not supposed to have intimate, sexual relations with their young charges. Do we welcome the idea of men making out with their adopted daughters? Should foster mothers fuck their foster sons? Do most of us think that NAMBLA is a great, fucking idea, because it extends the father/son dynamic to a sexual realm? Um. NO. WE DON'T. Because these things are so fucking WRONG. And unhealthy. And even ABUSIVE.

Yet. Yet. Yet. CB fucking S feels it's A-Ok to show a hot and heavy kiss, and partial disrobing, between an adult aunt and her barely-out-of-his-teens nephew, and portray it as sexy. This, and still no Otalia kiss. If Tyra and Devon sucking face and grinding mid-sections on the couch is ok, we should be seeing Olivia Spencer and Natalia Rivera going at it in the nude, in the gazebo, with a full arsenal of sex toys. Because Olivia and Natalia having sex would be the right and logical thing. It would be a fucking beautiful thing. Devon and Tyra, nephew and aunt, making out and obviously getting ready to screw? It's bloody OBSCENE.

CBS? Seriously. Go fuck yourself. And fuck your aunt. Hell, CBS, bend over and take it from your uncle, while you're at it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

When History is Her Story

If Dinah and Vanessa's tearful goodbye last week reminded you of something, of some other time when a mother and daughter shed tears as a daughter set out to escape the law after killing someone, it's no accident. We've been here before.

Continuity and History.

If it's beginning to sound like a mantra, it's because a mantra is exactly what it should be to a soap writer. Long-term viewers of Guiding Light know all about the relationship Dinah and her mother have shared over the years, about the guilt Vanessa harbors over having given her baby up for adoption, and the less-than-perfect childhood that baby experienced. We know about Dinah's transformation, over time, from angry, resentful, vindictive youth to a mature - if impulsive - woman who often does the wrong things for the right reasons. We know that Dinah has hurt her mother badly in the past but that, through it all, the bonds of mother and child have only grown stronger. We know that Dinah has killed before and that Vanessa has faced the possibility of her daughter living a life on the run, never to see her family, again. For those of us who have followed Guiding Light over the years, Dinah and Vanessa's recent farewell scene was a little bit of a pay-off. The last time we visited this scenario, Dinah had killed Hart - a murder born out of a sick obsession. The last time we visited this scenario, Vanessa's initial reaction was shock and horror, and her instinct was to contact the authorities. The last time we visited this scenario, it was with an hysterical Dinah, begging her mother to bail her out. Vanessa and Dinah have come full circle. Gone is the rivalry. Gone is Dinah's manipulation of Vanessa's guilt. Gone is Dinah's child-like pleas for help. Gone, too, is Vanessa's judgement. This time, we have a Vanessa who, faced with the possibility of her daughter spending the rest of her life in prison, is glad that Dinah has chosen to run.

Continuity and History

Back in February, after Coop's death scenes, there was a small, but significant, scene that may have been missed by viewers who have adopted the habit of fast-forwarding through episodes of Guiding Light. In the scene, Lillian Raines and Vanessa Chamberlain walk into Company and share a short interaction. Vanessa says something about how, any time someone dies in a car accident, she's reminded of their mutual friend. The scene is a subtle nod not only to the memory of Maureen Bauer, but to long-time fans who know exactly what Vanessa is talking about, and why it's a significant moment for these particular characters to share. Tina Sloan, who plays Lillian Raines, tells me that, after that scene was shot she was approached by a younger member of the film crew. This crew member had no idea who Maureen Bauer was, or why her death was so meaningful. She had no idea why Vanessa and Lillian share in the grief of losing Maureen. Still and all, this crew member approached Tina and told her that, while she had no idea what the scene they'd just shot was about, she could feel it was really significant and powerful, and that it touched her for reasons she couldn't explain.

One need not know about the history a set of characters share in order to benefit from this history being respected. When continuity and history are an integral part of drama, it's a win/win situation.

Continuity and History.

While Dinah and Vanessa's recent emotional scene was a nod to old-school Guiding Light fans who have been on the emotional mother/daughter roller coaster with these characters for many years, the scene was also satisfying to newer viewers. It's a great scene because it's a microcosm of what great soap opera is all about: human emotion, love, struggle, family. The scene has heart. It's all about continuity and history. It's the sort of scene that should be required viewing for anyone thinking about a future in writing this type of drama.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Conversation with Maeve Kinkead

Maeve Kinkead, who has played Springfield's elegant, genteel Vanessa Chamberlain since 1980, was generous enough to sit down and talk to me about her years on Guiding Light, working with a succession of actors, the Matt and Vanessa story line, the show's production model, and her feelings about the many fans who have been there, every step of the way.