Okay, so don't get me wrong - I love Nora. I've always loved Nora; she's one of my all-time favorite soap characters. But, dude. Dude. What the hell, Nora? She just shipped Matthew off against his will to boarding school on another continent. Without a word to friends or family, or the courts, or doctors. At this point, it's a toss-up as to who's the better parent: Nora, Todd, Mitch Laurence, Darth Vader, or the father of the "Balloon Boy" who just totally narc'ed on his parents' publicity stunt on CNN. (Did you guys see that? What the hell, Wolf Blitzer?) Seriously, though, look, from a certain point of view I can understand Bo and Nora's reasoning. They're terrified for Matthew's well-being, and fear that the dreaded "Dr. Nance" will turn him into sushi on the operating table. (Mental note: Get spicy tuna roll after column.) They're frightened, irrational parents who are striking out based purely on preservation. But still, it's just not cool. In any event, that brings us to the title of this week's column, and the theme of the week: People driven to extremes to protect what they love.
There were a lot of people taking it to the limit in Llanview this week, but first, a few more words on Bo and Nora. It's impossible not to root for Matthew at this point. The kid did all the right things - he followed the proper channels, went through the courts, stated his case, and won the right to make his own medical decisions. His parents are now essentially spitting on that judge's ruling, and worse, traumatizing Matt by ripping him away from his entire support system. I grew up with my own set of issues with my legs and muscles, and did my share of physical therapy, so I know all too well that in Matthew's case, time is as precious as he says - his muscles will weaken and atrophy, and if he doesn't get his operation soon, his quality of life may not be the same should he get the surgery at age eighteen. So, really, no amount of "OMG Bo and Nora I WUV THEM SQUEE" hysterics on my part - and I am good for plenty of that, I assure you - could wipe away my slack-jawed disgust at their actions at the end of this week. But both sides of the argument (or rather, kidnapping) also had valid points about Grandpa Asa this week. On the one hand, Asa would've done as Matthew did, he would've stopped at nothing to get his way. On the other, he also would've easily ground his offspring into the dust "for their own good" in far worse ways than Bo and Nora chose to. I feel for all three people, but Bo and Nora have gotta pay. There's just no way around it. How are they going to explain this to Rachel or Clint, or all of Matthew's other extended family? Does Matthew have any legal recourse? If they have any sense they'll confiscate his phone, too, otherwise Téa will be halo-jumping her butt into London to regulate.
Speaking of Téa. She is still a fierce attorney, but oh lord, as usual, she's got her own issues. And her issues have issues, and on and on ad infinitum. Where to start? Probably Window Fu. Téa finally got revenge on Blair for that whole 'defenestration' thing back in '97. But let's face it, I remember those scenes, and back then, Téa was asking for a beatdown so as to hurt Blair in court; she just didn't expect to take to the sky. Téa's a wonderful character when she's unrepentant about her insanity, and not trying to shine herself up - for example, only Téa would be bananas enough to help someone out a window, then show up at their hospital room and order them to not say a word about her deep dark secret. Fortunately for her, Blair can't seem to recall Téa's secret child.
The thing is, while I've said before that I think Todd is dragging both ladies down (did you see Téa with Elijah? whoo!) and they can do much better, I still feel that what Téa's doing is still petty and wrong. Her jealousy oozed from every pore this week when she seethed about how Todd "always went back to Blair" and abandoned her, clearly rationalizing to herself why she was keeping his kid from him. I don't think she has much defense, though, because whereas to the rest of us he is a criminal, to Téa, Todd is usually golden. For example, when Todd left Téa on the island in 2002, she seemed to have made peace with it; she urged him to go and follow his heart. She prides herself, then and now, on being (in her mind, anyway) the "honest truth-teller" who will give it to Todd straight and not make him "more dysfunctional," as she claims Blair does. She consistently presents herself as "the healthy alternative" who will help Todd become more well-adjusted, even though their interplay is always twisted and masochistic. In '02, Téa knew about what Todd had done with Jack, and excused him for it because she loved him. There was nothing so horrible that Todd had done in the short window of time afterwards that could have justified her deciding to hide his child from him - even his second rape of Marty has not fazed her - other than a single cardinal sin: Leaving her for Blair. Téa was snubbed, so she decided Todd didn't deserve to know his kid, and what's more, she cruelly ripped the kid away from Ross, who was apparently a good parent. Her rationale seems to be that of a petulant sixth-grader, if she can't have Todd, then no one can have her child. And the child can't have a mother.
What's worse is the way Téa seems to regularly marginalize the child's very existence. Not only has she never mentioned the kid to anyone, but in her crazy wedding vows (and other various conversations) she declared that Todd and all his present and accounted for children (all by other women) were "her new (real) family," finally giving her something she supposedly has never had, despite the Vegas always being there for her. Téa has gone on and on about how Jack, Starr and Sam finally give her a sense of home, family, and parenthood, and she seems frightfully honest and genuine when saying these things, compartmentalizing two aspects of her life so the twain might never meet. What about her real child? What is left for that little boy or girl while Téa is having the time of her life building a quasi-nuclear family with Todd and his kids? One gets a vision of something like Harry Potter, living under the stairs with the Dursleys in the Hogwarts off-season. Wicked aunts and uncles, indeed. Bottom line is I think this choice by Téa is going to run her character through a buzz saw, and there's really no way for her to justify it given her own history, behavior, and stated feelings for Todd. She always believes she knows best, that she is the truest and healthiest person in Todd's life who can help him work through anything, but when push comes to shove, she is willing to cut an innocent child out of her life and its father's life over petty romantic grudges. Téa has got to both love and hate Todd on a level previously undetermined to be willing to do this to him while simultaneously mouthing vows of love. And sure, maybe Todd deserves that kind of pain. But Téa's got to pay for her own behavior. This is when the character is best, when she's being bad and loving it, or shocking people with her choices, and her secret this time verges on Kristen Blake from Days. I look forward to seeing where this story goes next. This is a classic soap setup where someone's horrible secret is set to be outed - hopefully OLTL will be willing to play the fallout that should be coming to Téa for her actions, as opposed to soft-pedaling it.
Unfortunately, Blair's latest round of injuries (this woman must be made of titanium) mean we're back to Todd cooing over her in the hospital while poor Ross gets tasered over and over by Oliver. I'm so over it. Give me Bloss, and apologize to Jerry Ver Dorn for co-opting his old GL couple name! Ross is Blair's sexy bohemian future and I can't get enough of him. But what was really annoying about Blair's latest hospital stay was how OLTL once again managed to shoehorn Marty into a Todd storyline on Friday - guess who Blair's psych consult is? Of course, Todd requested Dr. Saybrooke personally, drawing her back into his orbit. The message from the writers is clear: If they can't do Todd and Marty one way, they'll do it in another. It's an unsubtle writing trick and I resent the continued push towards this regrettable material. They ruined Todd and Marty's dynamic forever last year; why do they continue to try to salvage it with these sickening "meet cute" sessions that ring more false and misogynistic than ever before? Poor Susan Haskell doesn't get anything to do on the show anymore unless she's worrying about John's doe eyes at Natalie, or more often, doing something for or with Todd. I remember when Marty was a strong, fierce heroine in her own right. Now, once again, she's all about men taking advantage of her one way or another. Ugh.
As for John, I think he's got it all wrong on Jared. In some of John Brotherton's most spellbinding work on the show, Jared "confessed" to Natalie this week that he was somehow involved with creepy Wayne Landers (a.k.a. "Jared Padalecki's Stunt Double") and the whole stalking campaign. Until someone threatened him on his Sidekick or iPhone or whatever. And then he ran off, telling Natalie it was "too dangerous" and it would "all make sense" soon, and he headed to the Buchanan lodge to talk directly to the camera. Oh, please! I've seen this red herring before. Jared is being blackmailed or forced by someone to take part in their evil schemes in order to protect his loved ones; he is being used as the patsy for the true villain, who I'm pretty sure I can put a name to, but won't. Anyway, what incredible work by Brotherton and Melissa Archer; the mixture of icy, chilly clinicism and painful self-loathing that battled across Jared's face was a sight to see, and the ragged "con man's" edge the character used to have came roaring back with that predator's glint in his eye. Jared has been forced back into old habits by a third party, and his remarks to Natalie indicate that he probably hates himself for it, but must do wrong in order to protect her, by any means necessary. I could be wrong, and Jared could always turn out to be a serial killer next week, but I don't see it. I see a crackerjack storyline that presents a conflicted Jared in keeping with the one I've always watched, and I'm still loving this stalker mystery. The only pity in all this is the thought that we could soon lose Jared forever, when it's doubly clear after this week that this is an active, vital, exciting male lead with chemistry and depth to spare, more than a match for mopey old John.
And then there were the rest. Precious little Stacy this week, but what we did have was tolerable only by virtue of Schuyler reading her and Kim the riot act for their schemes. I can take a lot more of this storyline with a lot less Stacy, so OLTL seems to be obliging me by sending Kim into the fray instead and focusing on Rex and Gigi's home-grown issues, which are very real. Thankfully, Kim's a lot more fun to watch. Meanwhile, Rex finally admitted that he was a big douchebag and agreed to try and work on his relationship with poor, put-upon Gigi, which is good since his marital behavior was beginning to border on that of Satan-worshipping famewhore John Cassavetes from Rosemary's Baby. I was all set for a scene in which Gigi (who increasingly resembles Mia Farrow) demanded Rex get a paternity test from Stacy, only for Rex to protest, "It wouldn't be fair to Dr. Sapirstein!" Sorry, in-joke. The good news is, Shaun finally woke up, while Greg and Rachel finally got biz-zay with a minimum of chair-throwing and racing through the streets. Greg may be mental but I'll be gosh-darned if he isn't still hot as blazes in the clinch with our Rachel. Maybe it's silly for me to still be totally into that storyline after Greg's Big Internet Freakout which has surely gone viral by now, but come on, they are hot and I think their romantic build-up is still written quite well. I'm still for Greg and Rachel. I left my pride under those chairs that he threw. Haters to the left.
You know what time it is now, don't you? Yes, I think you do. Now we enter Queerview, because "Gaytown" just sounded wrong. What can I say about the gay/lesbian storyline in Llanview that I haven't already said? Not much, except it continues to astound me. By introducing sly Amelia Bennett and the "gay wedding" angle with Dorian, OLTL has created a hilarious plot twist, but also opened up a much larger queer canvas than soaps - or most American network television, for that matter - have ever dealt in before. First of all, to my knowledge no soap has ever dared show someone as "transgressive" to its "traditional" audience (which is not nearly as quaint and 'traditional' as the executives believe) as an African-American lesbian. That is the kind of conflation of minorities that daytime TV and its snail's pace is usually not very comfortable with; you can usually have a black character or a white homosexual, either/or, but not one character with both 'types.' Yet gays and lesbians of color do exist, are an important part of the modern GLBT social fabric and very likely of the OLTL viewing bloc. Amelia just shattered that ceiling.
More importantly, though, the mayoral storyline itself has created an expanding and shifting GLBT landscape onscreen, full of nuances and permutations the likes of which no gay or lesbian story on soaps has ever seen. Amelia and Nick Chavez are political activists, dedicated to the cause of equal rights under the law; they're willing to bend the rules and get in bed (literally?) with vipers like Dorian to further a righteous cause - again, "by any means necessary." This does not make them bad people. That kind of political calculation happens in real life, just as it's happened with hundreds of other characters on soaps who have done equally dubious things for people they love or ideas they believe in. Yet on the other end of the line, we have Kyle and Oliver, apolitical gay characters who look askance at Amelia's scheme and are focused instead on their individual issues. Neither side is right or wrong, but here's the truly revolutionary touch: All of them are gay. For the first time, every side of a "social conscience" story on daytime is populated by characters who are not "safe" audience identifiers like Joey, Viki, Andrew, or Michael and Marcie. Who can forget the lame "gay marriage debate" story of 2004, which came down to the "inoffensive" Michael and Marcie fighting for months about her brother's right to wed, even though we only saw her brother maybe three times, and never saw his partner (okay, I think we saw him for one day a year later)? Here, we're being thrown into the lion's den, and shown a complex social strata of different types of onscreen gays and lesbians, all with different personalities and philosophies. They can be shy and retiring or out and proud, strong and noble or cunning and manipulative. No one is just a day player with a couple lines; no one is a mascot or a stand-in holding an AIDS quilt. These characters are all fully realized, and what's more, the issues they are clashing about are issues native to them, gay and lesbian issues. Your opinion may vary on this storyline, or these characters, or their respective value to OLTL as a whole. What I don't think can be disputed is that this storyline represents a quantum leap in terms of gay-centric storytelling, not just on daytime, but on all television. I have never seen a show, with the exception of the gay-friendly programming on HBO or Showtime, that has presented a fully immersive queer canvas of many developed characters. The old shame of this, however, is that soaps are still always taking two steps forward and two steps back providing the same three-dimensional canvas for other minorities - African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, and so on. Perhaps OLTL was able to go this far with its GLBT canvas because it already boasts a strong minority cast and is already telling substantial tories with those characters. All I know is that I'm very proud of my show, and I hope it continues to take risks with its storytelling, not just with gay stories but with characters of all color and creed. This kind of fierce dedication to diversity and challenging audience perception is what Agnes Nixon's baby was built on, starting with Carla Gray.
So that's our column this week: Swift, smooth, and to the point, just like Dorian's fiancée. See you kids in two weeks for Halloween! Personal recommendation: Go see Paranormal Activity. It's scary!