Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Because It IS Turning, After All--But We Don't Expect It to WHIRL!

I just read this article today about an unusual sort of protest over gay characters kissing in the daytime soap opera "As The World Turns."

And the protest is all about the fact that they haven't kissed--at least in several months.

The organizers of the protest say that Luke Snyder and Noah Mayer haven't kissed on-screen since September, and they're anxious to see those lips lock! There was the insinuation of a kiss in December, with the camera panning upwards to some mistletoe when the two were clearly ready to suck face, but protesters say that's not really enough.

Jeannie Tharrington, the Proctor & Gamble spokesperson interviewed for the article, says that the camerawork was a "creative decision" and that there's no squeamishness over this storyline.

Well, call me crazy, but I kind of believe her. I mean, if they were squeamish, would they even be showing this storyline at all? But they are showing it, so they clearly understand that society is beginning to recognize these relationships as legitimate, and that it exists in all spheres of society. And I mean ALL spheres: we're not just talking about the janitor's son and the butcher's boy here--Luke Snyder is the son of Lily Walsh Snyder, one of the town's leading citizens, and the grandson of corporate dragon Lucinda Walsh, THE town matriarch (since Nancy Hughes don't get around much no more). The fact that the storyline involves such high-profile characters testifies to the fact that it is an important priority for the show. When the storyline first began developing, there were several discussions between Luke and his adoptive father Holden (who is HIMSELF a walking wet dream), in which Holden was very uncomfortable with it at first, but gradually began to come around to accepting it. From what I saw of it, it was a very sensitively-developed theme.

In an unrelated twist, CBS announced this week that Martha Byrne, the actress who's played Luke's mom Lily off and on since 1985, has decided to leave the show. The show is expected to recast the role, and I don't think the gay-Luke storyline figures into her decision. The fact is, Byrne is nearly 40 and has been playing the role since she was 16. The role has defined her--she's played little else aside from a teenage shoplifter in "Kate and Allie" back in the 80s. So she probably figured it's time to amscray, and I can't blame her. Everything runs its course eventually, except for Susan Lucci.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, which is the two teenage queens! Right. So anyway, no, I don't think CBS is skittish over the gay characters, although when asked about backstage debate over the storyline, Tharrington laughingly says that "you wouldn't believe." (No further details offered on that.) I don't know if that debate involves the actors playing Luke and Noah, or if both of them are gay, although I know that Van Hansis, who plays Luke, is, and has appeared off-Broadway as gay son Lance in Charles Busch's "Die Mommie Die," so that tells me that he's also comfortable playing gay characters.

Also, we have to remember that these characters are teenagers (which is surprising, given that Luke was 8 years old in 2001--according to the SORAS* calendar, he should be pushing 30 by now), and the show shouldn't be expected to show heavy sex between them. It did show Lily and Holden literally lying in the hay when they were teenagers, but no boobage or assage was flashed--I think it's OK to be demure with sex when characters are young. We know they're going to do it--we don't need to see it all the time.

And that brings me to a final point which might be subconsciously driving this debate: the pressure to affirm these sorts of relationships in the media might somehow be leading to an almost prurient desire to see lots of sloppy kissing and poking where it wouldn't be expected between a boy and a girl. But I think to expect more sexual activity between these two characters because they ARE gay would be a double standard that implies that gay men are somehow more promiscuous than their heterosexual counterparts.

I can't speak for anyone else, but that sure isn't the case with me!**

*SORAS: Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. Nearly always affects children from infancy through early adolescence.

** And not for lack of trying, either!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be kinda good if gay couples would be so common on TV that the writers wouldn't be compelled to show them as sex crazed morons and dying of AIDS. I've reached the ripe old age of 55 without getting AIDS or having anal sex. (TMI?) Ed

2:28 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

You've given me that information before, so no it's not too much. :-) But I do think portrayals of gay couples on TV have become much more diverse now--even heterosexuals are beginning to imitate us! (I think "Will & Grace" had something to do with that.)

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Maybe if the networks knew that many women like seeing attractive men suck face (straight women in gay bars - hello!), they might jump on this ratings booster like it's nobody's business.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Well, it's true that a lot of ATWT's viewership has traditionally been female, and pretty loyal. They should have tried this story out years ago!

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke and Noah did share a kiss several months ago (check YouTube) and fans seemed very supportive (I believe they refer to the couple as "Nuke").

From what I've read about Martha Byrne's departure, it involved a non-monetary matter the producers didn't want to give into during contract negotiations. The recast is being treated as a big deal with several "names" being courted to take the role (presumably to drive home the point to Martha that no one is irreplacable).

Unfortunately for ATWT, I think this move will come back to bite them in the ass. Byrne is Lily to viewers (Heather Rattray took over the role many years ago and was never accepted) and with daytime ratings soft, kicking a fan fave to the curb seems very risky. Then again, this IS the show that recently let another fan fave (Scott Bryce who returned to the role of Craig last year) go via phone.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I never saw Heather Rattray as Lily (although I knew that she'd played her), but I'm not surprised that she didn't catch on: she wasn't much more than a dishrag in those "Wilderness Family" movies of the 70s. An OLDER version of her was scarcely likely to appeal (although I went to EVERY one of those damned movies, just so I could drool over the lusciousness that was Robert F. Logan!)

And don't even get me started on the Scott Bryce thing. To me, he always WAS Craig--Hunt Blotox was always very suave, but he turned Craig into a tenderfooted, blow-dried metrosexual waiting for his next mani/pedi and chasing Carly's poontang, when she clearly wanted nothing to do with him...

1:23 PM  

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