It was at my grandmother's knee, watching All My Children, that I first learned about abortion. The story line involved supermodel Erica Kane (before the term "supermodel" even existed) deciding to have an abortion because she didn't want pregnancy and a child to put an early end to her modeling career. Erica wasn't a rape victim or a teenager in trouble. She was a married woman who made a choice - a choice about her own body and her own future.
I was just a kid, and had no idea what an abortion even was. It was my grandmother who explained it to me. My grandmother, Celina, was Catholic. She was born in 1910. Born and raised in Puerto Rico. She was the mother of nine children. My grandmother was pro-choice. Unexpected? Not if you knew her. It's true that Celina had nine children but, believe it or not, with the exception one, which came relatively late in life, all of her pregnancies were not just welcome, but planned. Yes, planned.
Some people might think it inappropriate to explain abortion to a young child. Celina was the kind of woman who figured any question worth asking deserved an honest answer. When I looked up from the television screen and asked my grandmother what Erica and Jeff were arguing about on All My Children, she explained to me what an abortion was. She didn't demonize it. She told me the truth. She presented it as one choice a pregnant woman had. A choice.
Years later, when I was old enough to notice that my extended family was bigger than most, I asked my grandmother about her many pregnancies (there were ten - one baby didn't survive.) Because Celina was from the Caribbean, because she was Catholic, because she'd been a young woman during the first half of the 20th century I assumed she hadn't been afforded any choices. My assumption was wrong. My grandmother spoke frankly about 8 of her children having been planned in advance. She was frank, too, about the 9th baby having been an unexpected, but pleasant, surprise. She also spoke about traditional, home-spun birth control methods she'd used during the times when she definitely did not want to become pregnant (a sea sponge and a spermicide made mostly of lemon juice. Don't laugh - it worked.) My grandmother was speaking to me about choice. And, really, if a woman doesn't have freedom of choice about her own body, does she have a choice about anything?
It was not inappropriate for Celina to explain abortion to a young child who asked. If anything, I honor my grandmother's decision to raise me, from an early age, with the idea that women have choices, that our bodies are our own, that motherhood is a wonderful thing for women who want it, and that there is no dishonor in not wanting it. When Celina planned 8 pregnancies, she was making choices. They were good choices. But they were her choices. Other women would have chosen differently.
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If you need one reason to watch OLTL, look no further. Robin Strasser's Dorian is one of the last of a dying breed on daytime: a long-term character who still raises hell, and who hasn't been mellowed by age. Dorian is the woman so many fans love to hate and hate to love, and it's all because of the fire that Strasser brings to the role. Just when you think she's done it all, shocked you in every way possible, stooped lower than humanly possible, she'll prove you wrong. And you'll love every minute of it.
Sexy, gorgeous, hot-tempered, tortured by their past:Todd and Blair have always been red hot together. Their chemistry has always been off the hook. They seemed poised to become the Roger and Holly of Llanview . Until Tea entered the picture. Florencia Lozano's Tea gives Kassie DePaiva's Blair a run for her money in every way. Smart? Check. Sexy? Check. Fiesty? Check. Underhanded? Check. Full of secrets? Check.
Todd, Blair and Tea make for a classic triangle unless, like me, you've started thinking the pairing that makes the most sense would be Blair and Tea. I'm just saying these two exude mad chemistry with each other - hotter than Todd and Blair, hotter than Todd and Tea. When DePaiva and Lozano share the screen, it's like a house on fire. Will Tea and Blair ever give in to the passion they have for each other? I have no clue, but this is OLTL, so don't rule anything out.
Shenell Edmonds doesn't look, sound or act like most teens on daytime. She looks, sounds and acts more like a teen you might meet in the real world. She's chubby. She's a smart-aleck without sounding like a junior Noel Coward. She has the normal insecurities most teens live with but, unlike other tv teens, she hasn't parleyed them into a full-blown drinking problem or eating disorder. She's a breath of fresh air, and the next great buddy team may just be Destiny Evans and David Vickers.
4. Production values
During a time when the name of the game is "cut back," OLTL still looks and sounds great. What's more, in 2009 they gave fans a rare bit of joy by going back to something we've been missing for quite a while: location shoots. I'm not talking about Natalia and Olivia trying to talk over the sound of Peapack traffic. I'm talking about rich-looking, movie-quality outdoor shoots with no outside noise.
OLTL is rich in history, and the writers don't forget it.
When Vikki and Dorian go head to head over an issue, it's never, ever just about that issue. It's about their history as rivals. It's about Victor Lord. It's about Nickie. It's about every other time they've gone head to head.
The irony in Cole and Star falling in love isn't lost on viewers who know about Todd and Marty's history.
As a stand-alone story, Nora leaving Clint for his brother, Bo, is interesting enough. It's way more, interesting, though, when one takes into account the Buchanan men and their history with each other, the women in their lives (Deliliah!) and their inability to establish and respect healthy boundaries.
30 years ago, light-skinned Carla Grey arrived in Llanview and passed for white until, to her surprise, the white man she fell in love with not only didn't care, but wanted to marry her. Daytime's first black heroine pushed the envelope, riled fans up, but never backed down.
Today the Delgado, Vega and Evans families keep the tradition of diversity on OLTL alive and well. They are more than just furniture in Llanview, and they're more than token nods to ethnic groups.
Does OLTL do a perfect job of showcasing a diverse cast of characters? No. But they do a better job than any other show on daytime, and most on night time.
7. The NYC Angle
When All My Children moved production to the West Coast, OLTL become one of only two soaps still filmed in New York City. When ATWT goes off the air in 2010, OLTL will stand alone. This is no small thing. To the Broadway stage, this is no small thing. To the community of men and women who make their livings rigging and lighting and doing hair or makeup, this is no small thing. To the NYC landscape, this is no small thing.
Patrick Erwin pointed out how what he so aptly deemed "the ripple effect" would change the NYC cultural landscape. If you think soaps exist in a vacuum, think again.
If OLTL doesn't survive, it will truly mean the end of an era for creative people in the greatest city in the world. (Sorry - this bit is not up for discussion. NYC is, was and always will be the greatest city on earth.) Supporting this show means supporting every actor who goes to NYC to hone his craft, work on the stage, and be discovered.
One Life to Live always knows when to stop and laugh at itself, and no daytime show does intentionally funny as well as this one. Actions speak louder than words.
9. The Wacky Factor
Time travel, underground cities, fictional blood types, middle-aged women who can't remember having given birth 20 years before, genetically-inherited multiple personality disorder ....OLTL goes overboard, and then some, but it's almost always well-executed and fun. There must be a sign hanging in the OLTL office that reads, "Impossibility is NOT an obstacle."
I've done my share making fun of Eterna, but seriously, God love that crazy mess of a story. I did watch every second of it, didn't I?
10. The Gays!
With apologies to Denzel Washington, it must be said: Guiding Light didn't have shit on OLTL when it comes to The Gays. Not satisfied with presenting a sanitized, neutered same-sex love story (which, let's face it, is what Otalia turned out to be, after all was said and done, and everyone was finished backing down), OLTL gave us KISH - a star-crossed couple who not only kiss, but make love in the same pretty, cornball, schmaltzy way that every other soap supercouple gets to make love. Truly a thing of beauty.
Not happy to just rest on their laurels, OLTL's gay storyline is a fully-integrated Llanview storyline, involving a whole cast of characters- gay and straight. We've got Oliver Fish who, thanks to the love of a good man and several supportive friends, has stopped being a self-loathing, closeted queer, and embraced his true nature. We've got Kyle Lewis, who isn't a bit ashamed of his sexual identity, and who's carried a torch for Fish ever since college. There's Nick, the would-be spoiler who'd like nothing more than to have Kyle all to himself. There's Mayor Dorian Lord who, in typical , cunning fashion, has feigned homosexuality (and a love affair with openly gay Amelia Bennett) in order to secure the LGBT vote in her bid for mayor.
Make no mistake about it, though - this is no rose-colored view of gays in America. OLTL has the guts to include violent homophobia in the mix, even a brutal gay-bashing.
When OLTL does gay, it does it all the way. These gays don't live out on in a remote farmhouse. They haven't been sent for an extended overseas journey. They've got their heels firmly planted in downtown Llanview. They're connected - to each other and to others in the community. With Stacey carrying Oliver Fish's unborn child (the result of a one-night-stand while Fish was of less than sound mind) I'm thinking we may see KISH raising a little one as a couple, any day soon.