Monday, March 29, 2010

Fear and Self-Loathing (and bitchiness) in the LGBT Community

Pop singer and former soap opera actor Ricky Martin announced to the public today, via his website, that he is a "fortunate homosexual." Sadly, his announcement has been met with a mixture of "Duh, who didn't know?" and "Now he comes out - big deal!" Even sadder, most of the people I've noted making these comments are homosexuals. 

What you think you know means nothing

If you're a gay person who has come out to his or her family, think back to the day you came out. Do you really think everyone you came out to was shocked? If you're like most homosexuals, by the time you came out, at least one person who knew you had a feeling you might be queer. Did the fact that Aunt Bessie thought you were "funny" all along make disclosing any easier? Did the fact that Dad "always knew you'd end up being a faggot" ease the tension? Did Mom fearing you'd never make her a grandmother make your coming out a day of simple, stress-free pleasure? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, you're a liar. You just are. 

The fact is, when it comes to telling the world that one is a homosexual, other people's preconceived ideas mean nothing. So what if Uncle Jerry always thought you walked funny and had a limp wrist? You're still standing before your nearest and dearest and summoning up your strength to tell them, in your own words, that you're a homosexual. This isn't about Uncle Jerry's gaydar, it's about you publicly acknowledging who you are.

If other people's preconceptions made coming out easier, no one would jump through hoops to keep people from forming such ideas in the first place. If having Uncle Jerry and Aunt Bessie speculate about you felt good, the stereotypical high school jock who secretly likes to suck cock would not be sucking cock in secret and making a public show of his prowess on the football field. If Mom's worry about never becoming a grandmother felt good and paved the way for self-esteem, there wouldn't be middle-aged wives and mothers suddenly deciding to come out as lesbians. 

A True Story

In 1991, a few days after my grandfather died, my mother received a phone call from one of her brothers. He was about 55 at the time. He called to tell his sister the truth about himself: he was a homosexual. Now, my mother had known her brother was gay since the late 60s. We'd all known he was gay. By 1991, he'd lived and travelled with his "friend," Roy, for more than 15 years. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment and shared a king-sized bed. Everyone knew he was gay, but no one ever mentioned it. 

My uncle must have known that most people around him had figured out his badly-kept secret, yet he waited until his father was dead to actually speak the words, "I'm gay." What's more, he cried when he disclosed this to my mother, and begged, "Please don't hate me." 

I'm proud to say my mother did not respond with, "DUH - I've always known you were gay" or "Now you tell me? Big deal!" She said, instead, "How could I ever hate my own brother? I love you."

What you're really saying

When you say, "Duh" to Ricky Martin's coming out - or anyone else's - what you're saying is: This experience, of you stepping forward and embracing who you are - it has no value. It's lame and pointless because I already guessed your secret long ago. My knowing about you being gay is more important than your being okay about being gay. 

When you say, "Big deal - I've known for ages" what you're really saying is: This is all about ME. Since I already knew, I see no reason why you should let go of that little bit of yourself you keep holding back from the people you care about, why you should try to be free of shame, or why you're so hung up on being completely honest for what might be the first time in your life. Since my curiosity was satisfied ages ago, there's no point in satisfying your need for self-worth.

When you say, "Wow...Ricky Martin is gay...and water is wet!" (Yes, I saw this as someone's Facebook status today), what you're really saying is: I knew he was gay because he acts like such a faggot. Only a faggot would act, sing and dance like that. I quietly hate faggots. I may not even know that I hate faggots, but I do....and I can spot them a mile away.

If you're saying any of these things, and you're gay, yourself, what you're really saying is: I'm a self-loathing homosexual. I may say I'm out and proud, but I'm actually miserable and, if I'm miserable, I don't want any other queers to be happy or secure or teeming with self-esteem. I'm the Uncle Tom of faggots.

Big Deal! 

A few people I've talked to have used the phrase "Ricky Martin's coming out is too little too late." Excuse me, but...back the fuck up. I must have been out of town the day pop singers started owing us their souls. 

Ricky Martin didn't come out for me or for you. He came out for himself. Just like I didn't come out to my family for you any more than you came out for me. Again, if you claim you came out to your loved ones for a higher cause, you're a liar. You just are. Seriously, stop lying!

Ricky Martin may be a famous person. He's also a person with a family, and relationships, and with the same self-doubts every person has. Being famous does not exempt anyone from having feelings of insecurity, or shame, or sadness, or confusion. If anything, living in a fishbowl might make a person even more self-conscious than the rest of us are. Martin's coming out may not be a big deal to you, but I guarantee it's a big deal for him. It will have an impact on his relationships and on his career. More importantly, I'm 100% sure it is already having an impact on how he feels inside.

The bottom line is Ricky Martin doesn't owe any of us anything. He doesn't owe us any information about his sexuality, and he certainly didn't owe us this information at an earlier date than the date he chose to disclose. Why would he? This is not a man any of us was about to marry - we're talking about a pop star who is barely even on the American radar, anymore. 

What does "too little too late" mean? That you never would have downloaded She Bangs if you'd known a pansy was singing it? That Cup of Life wouldn't have been as fun at sporting events if you'd known there was a queer dude singing it?

I don't know Ricky Martin. He seems like a nice enough guy, though, and I like a few of his songs. I'm happy that he feels good enough about where he is in life that he's decided to come out. I feel that about anyone who finds themselves ready to come out as homosexual. I didn't officially do it, myself, until I was 30. Most of the people I came out to already had a pretty good idea I was gay. I'm really glad none of them were bitchy enough to dismiss how significant it was for me to take that huge step. 

Bien hecho, Ricky! Orgullo. 

© 2010 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

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dear Chloë: How About Some Love for Big Love?

It was awful this season, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not allowed to say that! [Gasps.] It was very telenovela. I feel like it kind of got away from itself. The whole political campaign seemed to me very farfetched. I mean, I love the show, I love my character, I love the writing, but I felt like they were really pushing it this last season.....It’s too much. It’s too much. But I hope the fans will stick with us and tune in next year. There’s a lot of people who really love this season, surprisingly.
- Chloë Sevigny discussing season 4 of Big Love with The A.V. Club

I like Chloë Sevigny, and Nickie is probably my favorite character on Big Love. I have to wonder, though, how in-touch with the show's premise, the genre she's working in, and the reasons for Big Love's popularity Ms. Sevigny can be. What, I wonder, does Chloë Sevigny think people watch Big Love for? 

Excuse me? 

First off, I'm not sure how much Spanish language television Ms. Sevigny has been exposed to. I suspect it's not a hell of a lot, or she wouldn't be comparing Big Love to a telenovela. There's absolutely no similarity between the structure of Big Love and the classic telenovela, which airs nightly, has a finite story arc which is limited to one season, and more often than not revolves around one particular protagonist in a struggle to find happiness and love.

What Big Love is like, on the other hand, is a traditional, American, night time serial. It's got all the elements: a weekly format that runs from season to season, multi-layered story structure revolving around a whole cast of characters, relationships, family drama, intrigue, wheeling and dealing in the world of business, secrets, lies and a host of moral and ethical conflicts. It's got supposedly good guys who aren't always likable, and bad guys who we can't help but sympathize with from time to time. 

Big Love is more Knots Landing (with a touch of Twin Peaks, perhaps) than it is Marimar. 

The comment comparing Big Love to a telenovela is clearly meant as a slight. Wake-up call, Ms. Sevigny: you're not on a telenovela, but you're definitely on an American night time soap, and the two are closely related.  You may have convinced yourself that you were working on something "BETTER" or "MORE IMPORTANT" than that, but you're not. Serial drama - it's a genre, like any other. It can be as good or as bad as the writing and acting associated with it. You're a good actress, and Big Love is better than most shows on television, but know this: it's a soap opera, and has been since its debut.

Too Much?

Ms. Sevigny notes that season 4's political campaign was "farfetched." I'd challenge her to consider our last presidential election: One candidate was embroiled in a paternity scandal involving a woman other than his wife and a toddler who he refused to acknowledge as his child. Another candidate was a woman who many will always think of as the doggedly loyal wife of an ex-president who abused his position of authority by having an affair with a White House intern. A vice presidential candidate, who actively promoted an abstinence-only sex ed curriculum in the public school system, was forced to admit her teen daughter was in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy. This person was also surrounded by controversy involving the parentage of her youngest child, allegations of abuses of power during her tenure as governor of Alaska, and misappropriation of GOP funds. We even had a Mormom in the race.

If you'd told me, just ten years ago, that the U.S. would have in the White House a president who was mixed-race, with a Kenyan father, the child of divorce, had spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, and had a name like Barack Obama...I would have thought it a far-fetched fantasy.

Bill Henrickson is running for office and he has a secret. Big deal.  Forget his three women and sets of children he supports on his own and longs to publicly acknowledge as his own; it's the real life American political landscape that's often unbelievable and "too much." Marion Barry, anyone? 

It's interesting, though, that Ms. Sevigny considers season 4 of Big Love to be the point where the show became "far-fetched." Think about the entire premise of the series, starting from season 1, and it's clear the audience is expected to suspend disbelief:

No one in a conservative, Mormon community seems to think there's anything even remotely odd about two women - one who is clearly from the compound - who have small children, but no husbands around

No one questions how two single moms can afford to own or rent large, rambling houses or drive nice cars

No thinks it's odd that these two women also happen to live in houses on either side of a well-known public figure and that he and his family seem to spend a lot of time with these single women

No one has ever taken note that the three houses have an open plan and a communal yard in the back - not the mail man or the meter reader or a nosy neighbor 

No business owners in this sleepy community notice that, when Nickie or Margene or Barbara enter their stores, it's never to buy just one loaf of bread or two steaks, but enough to feed an army

With three houses full of children, no one ever slips and calls Bill "Daddy" in public..and I guess none of the kids actually look like Bill, even though he's their father

No one in the community seems to have taken note of the several times refugees from the compound have landed on Bill's doorstep, en masse

The public seems to buy in to the whole thing about Bill, who is the face of Home Plus, being a regular, old LDS member, but no one seems to notice that he doesn't actually go to temple, and neither do any of his family members

Big Love is full of unbelievable details. Newsflash: it doesn't matter. No one is watching this show for its accurate depiction of the real world we live in. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who watches this show and says, "Wow...Barbara's relationship to the sisterwife who nursed her through cancer is EXACTLY like my relationship to the sisterwife who cured my lumbago" or "That's EXACTLY like the time I was forced out of my community at 16 by someone who feared I was a prophet!"

Why we watch

Soaps are a funny medium. They're often equal parts slice-of-life and  bigger-than-life. Even in the days when soaps dealt only with very real, human situations, things like a favorite character's death, the birth of a baby, and the level of devotion between star-crossed lovers were presented on a grandiose scale. People didn't just die - they died beautiful deaths, in the arms of their beloved, after uttering moving, coherent, meaningful speeches....and looking like a million bucks, the whole time. Babies weren't just born - their mothers went into premature labor after sustaining great trauma, struggled for life and were saved at the last minute by emergency blood transfusions from their REAL birthfather. Young lovers didn't just hug and kiss and promise to be true: they broke into abandoned churches and took secret vows, hours before the young "groom" went off to Vietnam. 

Soap viewers? We love this stuff. And Big Love is full of it, if you know where to look: Nickie's late-onset adolescence, Wanda's madness, J.J.'s creepiness, Lois slicing off of an enemy's arm to defend her son (thank God for the great Grace Zabriskie!) What are these stories really about? The sadness of a lost childhood, post traumatic stress, hunger for power, and mother-love. Slices of life displayed in a bigger-than-life packages. 

Strip away the far-fetched elements of season 4: the political campaign, the embryo implants, the Mexico debacle, and what you have is simple. It's a story about an ambitious man, an extended family coping with dysfunction, women who have no control over reproduction, people who just want to be accepted, even tough they're different, and a world where "different" is always "wrong." 

Ms. Sevigny: Big Love season 4 was awesome.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Daily Serial: Signs of Life

To anyone paying attention, the signs are clear: if the daily soap opera is going to survive, something has got to change. What sort of changes, though, are called for? What will it take to make the daily soap a good investment for networks and sponsors, while ensuring good, solid storytelling that attracts viewers?

SuperSize Me

In the past, changes have mostly been about expansion. First was the move from radio to television. This was followed by an extension of episode length: soaps started at 15 minutes long, moved up to 30 minutes, and then an hour. (Another World actually did the 90 minute thing for a short time.) Then there was an expansion regarding sets and locations - where, once upon a time, the drama used to take part in a kitchen over a cup of coffee, soaps started adding work places, restaurants, country clubs, casinos. No longer happy to keep the action in small town America, soaps started doing elaborate location shoots in places like St. Croix and Santo Domingo.

The logic behind these changes was simple to understand: bigger is often thought of as better. In all fairness, many of these changes garnered positive results. The lavish sets of the 70s and 80s were aesthetically pleasing. The occasional location shoot can be a lot of fun to watch, and made it possible to tell a wider range of stories that attracted viewers who may not have been all that interested in the traditional domestic dramas that were the bread and butter of the genre.

Bigger, in my opinion, sometimes was better. Times, though, have changed. These days, bigger is just more expensive.

Backlash: the Peapack Model

When Guiding Light seemed doomed for cancelation, a drastic turnaround was made. The show that had once boasted some of the biggest and most beautiful soundstage sets on daytime and whose location shoots in Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico were the stuff of soap legend made the move from NYC to Peapack, New Jersey. Gone were the huge, lavish banquet rooms and oak-paneled executive board rooms that made it possible to shoot scenes with crowds of 20 or more. In their place: actual rooms in an actual house - none big enough to reasonably shoot more than four or five actors in one scene at a time. Gone, too, was the rich quality of film, in exchange for handheld, shaky video. Rich lighting? Buh-bye! Hello, harsh, overhead lighting controlled by an ordinary light switch on the wall.

Some people considered the Peapack model a bold experiment. Others considered it a mess. I think it was a little bit of both. Cutting back, in my opinion, was a move in the right direction. Whereas the trend, for many years, had been towards expansion, the choice to move towards something more compact and manageable was a wise one. The decisions about where and how to get smaller, though, could have been better.

Smaller AND Better?

There's a common rule in business: if you want to be successful, study what successful people before you have done, and take your cues from there. Best-selling books have been written about nothing more than the habits of highly successful people. Professional development trainers make a lot of money running workshops that pretty much take 4 hours to tell students just that: if you want to succeed, find some successful folks to copy.

Soaps became bigger than life because their smaller incarnations were successful. Now that the big-budget, lavish soap opera model is no longer financially viable, it makes sense to go back to basics, and look at what made these shows so successful, in the first place. The only elements that need to be in place in order for a daily soap opera to gain a loyal audience are:

  • A core of fully developed characters who relate to one another, brought to life by decent actors
  • Good, solid stories that people can care about
  • Continuity

That's it. The rest is all icing. A daily serial does not need a huge cast, elaborate locales, special effects, or special guest stars in order to be good or to capture the interest of viewers. In fact, if it has all of those things, but doesn't have a good story or decent acting, a soap is pretty much doomed. Soaps, after all, have their roots in radio. Television is a visual medium, but the television soap was born out of an audio medium. What happens and who it happens to are the most important things about a serial drama.

It may well be that the best thing the networks and sponsors can do, if they wish to rebuild viewer loyalty for their daytime lineup, is go back to basics, and return to a simpler form of daily storytelling: smaller acting ensembles, a handful of key, core characters who are connected to one another, very basic sets, and a half hour format.

Imagine if, instead of the Peapack model, TPTB at GL had decided to slash their cast of characters down to the Bauers (they could have brought back Ed and Michelle, given Rick more of a story, and integrated both Mel and Leah), Spauldings, and Lewises, with just a couple of other characters who were connected to these families (yes, Otalia.) No Edmund, or Remy. No Christina. No Coopers (an extraneous family that it made no sense to hold on to.) No Cyrus. No Doris Wolf (sorry, Orlagh, but you were not necessary.) Imagine, too, if the drama had been limited to the Spaulding and Lewis offices, the Bauer kitchen, the farm house living room and Cedar's. No more Towers. No convenience store. No Company. No wobbly, noisy outdoor shots, full of traffic and airplane noise. Just compelling stories (no clones, or magical Bosnia) about people we all knew and loved, driven by strong dialogue, solid acting, and quality cinematography. Imagine if this version of GL had been doled out in 30 minute episodes, five days a week, with a chance to catch up on all five days via late-night and/or weekend marathon. Imagine, too, that this version of GL had been seasonal, running for 13 weeks, and airing reruns while the show was on hiatus.

Is it crazy to think American audiences would watch a show structured in such a way in 2010? They already are.

A Flicker of Hope: In Treatment

Any lover of serial drama who hasn't caught seasons 1 and 2 of HBO's In Treatment really should get the lead out. Based on Hagai Levi's highly successful Israeli series, In Treatment is the closest thing we now have to the old fashioned, small scale, 30 minute daily serial. (Do not send me emails about B&B. Seriously - don't bother.)

The show revolves around Dr. Paul Weston, a psychotherapist. It airs five nights a week, with each episode coming in at under 30 minutes. Each night of the week focuses on Dr. Weston having a one-on-one session with a particular patient. (He also sees a couple or a family, now and then.) Friday episodes usually revolve around Paul's own sessions with his mentor and psychotherapist, played by Dianne Wiest. The patients and their lives provide a series of mini dramas, but the main focus is Dr. Weston - how his work and personal lives have collided, how he finds himself at a crossroads in both his profession and his marriage (to a wife played by soap vet Michelle Forbes,) how his relationship to his children is effected by his relationship to young patients. It's about the demons Paul lives with, both as a man and a doctor...his obsession with events of the past, his struggles to maintain appropriate boundaries with his patients, and his midlife crisis.

For all intents and purposes, In Treatment is classic soap opera. If you miss an episode, you've missed something important, because each episode builds on the next one. Each patient's issues somehow touch on issues Paul is struggling with in his own life.

Shooting locations are basic: Paul's patients see him in his home. Paul sees Gina (his therapist) in her home. No board rooms or banquet halls. No television station or light house or foreign locales.

There are no gimmicks here. No evil twins. No clones. No secret cities or time travel or plots to control the world via weather machine. No car chases or hostage situations. In Treatment is about people talking. That's it. And it's compelling. What's more, HBO has renewed it for a 3rd season.

The Old and the New

While In Treatment is throwback to the way serial dramas used to be made, it's also fresh and modern. Episodes are available on-demand and for download via Itunes. The show is seasonal, which gives new viewers a chance to pick up during down time, and loyal viewers a chance to catch up or re-watch episodes. It's also available on DVD. Just last week I spoke to someone who'd just discovered In Treatment, watched seasons 1 and 2 on DVD, and is now eagerly awaiting season 3. This is virtually impossible with a soap opera that runs 52 weeks a year, with no breaks.

The people involved with making In Treatment have noted how exhausting the process is. Who would be better equipped to work within the grueling schedule than soap opera veterans? If anything, actors and crew who have cut their teeth on the one-hour-episodes-five-days-a-week-52-weeks-a-year schedule that is de rigueur in the production of American soaps would find the shooting schedule of In Treatment a walk in the park.

If the people who develop programming for daytime television are truly interested in fare that will attract viewers (and viewer loyalty), that they can sell to sponsors with confidence, they should take a look at the model HBO has adopted for In Treatment. It has all the elements of classic soap opera, in its barest form: short episodes, minimal sets, a small cast of interesting characters. By relying on the classic elements of soap opera, and putting some thought into the way people get their entertainment these days, the makers of In Treatment have created what represents the first glimmer of hope for the daily serial we've seen in a long time.

© 2010 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

Friday, March 19, 2010

Breakfast of Champions: Is there hope for The Great American Serial?

Recently, a friend and I had a discussion about the future of soaps. What, we asked each other, will daytime television look like once the few remaining soaps are gone? What will the networks and sponsors come up with to fill in the empty space? Infomercials? Talk shows? Game shows? All of these are distinct possibilities. In my opinion, not a one of them has a chance in hell of gaining the sort of viewer loyalty that a well-written, daily soap opera can elicit. Only time will tell what the daytime landscape will look like, but there are certainly several factors for TPTB should take into consideration when making decisions about programming.

The Myth of Youth

I keep hearing about how what has killed the American soap opera is the fact that young people aren't interested in this old-school style of entertainment. People under 30, we're told, don't have the attention spans of the generations that preceded them. This may be true to some extent, but something else is true: there are more of us than there are of them. Ever heard the term "baby boom"? This is an aging population. While networks have kept busy trying to court young audiences, the writing on the wall has become clear: there are not only more older people than young people in America, but older people have significantly more spending power. And, make no mistake about it - advertisers know this.

Most young people may never be fans of a traditional, daily serial that is character-driven, requires perseverance, loyalty, and an attention span of more than ten minutes, but that doesn't really matter if networks and sponsors are trying to develop programming that caters to people who have spending power.

The Melting Pot vs. The Box of 64 Colors

Remember that line in your grade school history book about America being a melting pot? Well, forget it. It was a lie. No one moves to America, anymore, and identifies as just "American." I don't care if people like this, or not (I love it), but there is no such thing as the American melting pot. Immigrants who arrived in the USA during the last 100 years have, by and large, retained their ethnic , cultural and racial identities. This isn't a nation inhabited by one, homogeneous race of human beings. We're black, white, Asian, Hispanic....we're Christian and Jewish and Buddhist....we're straight and gay and all things in-between.

This is how America looks. It's how the real world looks. Television should look more like the real world. We notice when it doesn't. It pisses a lot of us off when it doesn't. It pisses us off even more when it's clear that it doesn't because someone is making a concerted effort to make sure it doesn't.

How We Watch

I'm old enough to remember a time when, if you missed an episode of All My Children, the best you could do was have a friend fill you in and then read the Soap Opera Digest recap. No VCRs. No Soapnet. No YouTube.

Times have changed, and technology has moved at lightning speed in the last 40 years. These days, when fewer people are at home during the day to watch their soaps in real time, there's no reason to miss them. Soapnet airs rebroadcasts of several shows during the evening and on weekends. Television networks make episodes of their soaps available via streaming video on the web. DVR technology makes it possible to digitally record and store literally hundreds of hours of programming for later viewing.

If the way we watch television has changed, it follows suit that the way television is made, marketed and evaluated for ratings should also change.


When I was a kid, growing up in a major, urban market, there were three television networks, three local stations, and one public broadcasting channel on VHF to choose from. (UHF was, in large part, dedicated to Spanish-language programming, and aimed at what was then considered a negligible demographic. See "The Melting Pot..." above.)

Today, the rare person who is at home watching television on weekdays has hundreds of cable channels to choose from. Add to that video games and the internet, and it's astounding how many choices people have when it comes to choosing sedentary entertainment.

If television - any sort of television, not just serial drama - is going to attract viewers, there has to be a damned good reason to watch. Word has it that CBS is disappointed with the ratings for Let's Make A Deal, the game show that replaced Guiding Light late last year. Is it really all that surprising that people who are home during the day consistently find something other than this low-budget, out-of-date costume party game show to devote their time to?

A Good Story

Everyone loves a good story. Storytelling is about a lot more than just throwing random characters together, and assigning them arbitrary tasks to perform. Good storytelling relies on characters who have depth and history, relationships to one another and the world they inhabit. Good storytelling revolves around conflict that is interesting on the surface, and strikes a chord on a deeper level. With so many entertainment choices available to the television viewer, this fundamental tenet cannot be ignored: human beings love a good story. Our stories are who we are.

Next: Part II - The Daily Serial: Signs of Life

© 2010 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

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Biting the hand...

An Open Letter To TPTB at One Life To Live

Dear decision-makers,

Word on the street is that you've decided to throw Kyle and Fish to the wolves and, in one fell swoop do away with the only interesting, promising same-sex couple on daytime television. Way to go, idiots.

For years, people have complained that soap operas were rife with cliches, that there was nothing new under the daytime sun, and that the days of soaps pushing boundaries and taking chances were long over. Last year, you guys stepped up to the plate and gave us KISH - the last, best hope daytime television had for portraying two people of the same gender falling in love and making a go of it. Kyle and Fish are attractive, likable, sympathetic, and they share chemistry. And they're accessible: these are guys people can relate to. They're like men we know - our friends, our brothers. With KISH, you didn't give us boa-clad camp, or tragic faggots just waiting to meet the right women. These were normal guys, guys with friends and connections to the community. Guys the public could and did root for. Guys the public still roots for.

Early this year, you put your money where your collective mouth was, and actually allowed Kyle and Fish not only to kiss, but to have a full-on love scene. No Otaliaesque head-butting for these two; Kyle and Fish actually had a full-scale sex scene, complete with candles, corny music, soft lighting...the whole nine yards. What's more, with Stacey recently giving birth to a baby whose father is none other than Oliver Fish, there was the tantalizin prospect of - dare I say it? - a gay couple actively parenting a child.

In short, KISH was and is a ground-breaking story line. Where Otalia chickened out, KISH had the goods.

So, what do you do, oh powers-that-be? You stomp on the very thing that, at this moment in time, is the one truly unique aspect of your show. You kill KISH.

You. Fucking. Idiots.

Who do you think watches soaps, writes about soaps, interviews soap actors, promotes soaps, and keeps soaps alive? If you think it's young housewives, who watch between cleaning the oven and making brownies, you're even dumber than I thought. There are no more housewives in America. There are busy home-makers who juggle housework, parenting, yoga, volunteerism, school, and social lives....but the housewife of 1955, who could stop everything at 2 to watch soaps? She's gone the way of the dinosaur. Today's fans DVR their soaps, watch them, and discuss them online with other fans...and do you know who many, if not most, of these fans are? Gay people. To be specific, gay MEN. Shocking, huh? Shouldn't be, because everyone knows it's a bunch of queers writing the damned programs. Newsflash: soap operas are gay entertainment. DUH.

Gay men have a long history of watching and supporting their "stories." I only started watching OLTL, again, after quitting for good, when a gay man I know started singing the show's praises, and convinced me to give it a go one more time. Almost all of the online promotion I've seen for OLTL has been instigated by gay males. And, no, they haven't talked only about KISH, but about the show, as a whole. Gay men - both those with official press credentials, and those who just love their soaps - have lobbied hard for OLTL. How do you choose to repay this loyalty? What do gay men get in return for their support? More invisibility.

Thanks for making this sad moment a little easier by being such assholes. I quit. I'm finished with you. OLTL is officially off my DVR schedule. Soapnet can suck it. You, my friends, are dead to me. This gay woman has drawn a line in the sand. I'm too good to waste any more time on a show produced by gutless bigots. And, anyhow, you'll probably be cancelled soon enough. It's not like you've got anything original to offer.

It's been real.

- Snapper
© 2010 Lana M. Nieves

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Cousins...identical cousins

Julianne Moore is a great actress. Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Safe, Far From Heaven, The Prizewinner of Defiance Ohio, I'm Not There. And do not get me started on The Hours; she was robbed of an Oscar by a prosthetic nose and, as my friend Robert points out, Hollywood's desire to stick it to Tom Cruise. But let's put it out there: in a world where Meryl Streep is as close to thespian perfection as it gets, Julianne Moore owned The Hours and outdid even Meryl Streep. Poor, old Nicole Kidman was far, far out of her league.

Soap fans know, however, that before the Oscar-nominated performances and the Tom Ford dresses and ad campaigns for cosmetics and flawless skin, Julianne Moore played dual roles on As The World Turns: Frannie and Sabrina Hughes. Cousins, identical cousins. And half sisters, because that's how soap operas roll, baby.

Another thing about Julianne Moore: she's a class act who, unlike some actors who hit it big and play down their time on soaps, has always spoken fondly of her days on ATWT, and referred to that time with love and respect for the show and the people who make it happen. It was confirmed today that Moore will be making a final appearance on ATWT, as the show wraps, after more than 50 years on the air.

I'm sure Moore's appearance will be brief, and will add nothing to the drama at hand, but it means a lot. To people like myself, who used to be avid fans of ATWT, Moore represents a time when the show was truly worth watching, when soap actors were chosen for their talent, when production values were high, when core families mattered and story was EVERYTHING. Julianne Moore's return may be nothing more than a cameo, but I, for one, will tune in for it.