HOUSTON VOICE www.houstonvoice.com
JULY 7, 2006 15
arts cower story
More gay characters found on daytime soaps than ever
SOAP OPERAS, continued from Page 1
Whitney's half brother, Simone's skullduggery barely registered a blip on the
family melodrama radar.
So what's a sexy — but ignored - vixen
like Simone to do? The answer is simple:
Leave town and carry on an affair with a
slightly older woman, then come home to
come out as a lesbian to her mostly supportive family and friends, of course.
Welcome to Harmony. Population:
"Passions" also throws together a 300
year old witch, a mermaid and American
daytime television's very first African-
American lesbian in Simone.
And you thought the Gay Pride floats
Viewers who tune into soap operas for a
little "love in the afternoon" might get a different kind of love — one that dared not
speak its name much on soaps for years —
now that the well appointed bedrooms and
boardrooms of four shows regularly feature
active, young — and hot — gay characters.
Since Bianca Montgomery, daughter of
Susan Lucci's Erika Kane on "All My
Children" came out to her mother in 2000,
soap scribes began fiddling with the sexual
kli'iitities of tortured teen characters. With
four current openly gay characters, daytime
soaps stir up more gay drama than any other
era in the genre's 54-year history on television.
THE SOAPS TOOK THEIR FIRST SHOT AT
offering a gay character back in 1983 on "All My
Children." Dr. Lynn Carson, played by Donna
Pescow, came out as a lesbian to a patient with
a crush — and that's about as sexual as the
good doctor, or any other gay soap character,
would get for quite some time A gay man
whose never-seen partner with AIDS came
later, followed by a couple of gay teens who battled community homophobia in the 1990s.
Before and after the first wave of gay
characters on daytime, "Dynasty,"
"Dallas," and "Melrose Place" fans would
get to see the steamy - albeit sexless -
suffering of gay men who would question
their sexuality, confront familial pressures, homophobia, and the growing AIDS
crisis during primetime soaps.
"I think prime time did that first lute
grating gay characters - and now daytime is
playing catch-up," says Film and TV Studies
professor Stephen Tropiano, author of "The
Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and
lesbians on TV" (Applause Books).
Tropiano says that historically, one of
the largest hurdles for gay characters on
any show is interference from nervous television network executives.
The characters "would not only be
denied fulfilling and lasting relationships
with other men, but their identities as gay
men would be filtered through their positioning as heterosexuals within their
respective plot lines," he says.
Before Bianca's gay character was written into "All My Children," the purpose of
gay characters was to make a point or
explain homosexuality for the audience — a
(| MORE INFO
When Simone (Cathy Jeneen Doe) came out as gay
on the NBC Daytime drama 'Passions,' she became the
first African-American lesbian in soap opera history.
(Photo by Paul Drinkwater courtesy NBC Universal)
task handled within the course of a few
episodes. The distraught parents or angry
bullies who caused the early gay characters
so much turmoil would suddenly see the
light. Then the story — and the character -
would simply vanish.
Since the idea of making a central character on a soap gay wouldn't fly with network brass, the secondary characters were
simply too difficult to write. Daytime dramas are always set in close-knit communities where the characters know each other
and are usually connected in some .way.
"The gay person who has no family on a soap
opera is a sitting duck. TTiey're there to suffer,
teach us a lesson, and then go away" says Daniel
R. Coleridge, TVGuide.com soap columnist and
author of "The Q Guide to Soap Operas
(Alyson), which hils bookstores in September
THE DAYS OF GAY CHARACTERS WHO
exist simply to be thrown away appear to
have slipped by like so much sand through
the hour glass.
"Welcome to the real world," says Jean
Passanante, head writer of "As the World
Turns." "Things have evolved enough now
'All My Children' ^^^^^^^
Weekdays at 1 p.m.
'As the World Turns-
Weekdays at 2 pm.
Weekdays at 4 p.m.
Weekdays at 2 pm.
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
Luke on 'As the World Turns' btog
that we're able to make Luke Snyder, the
son of a central couple, gay. as opposed to a
day player character that nobody really
knows," she explains.
Passanante has arguably created more
gay characters for daytime television than
any other writer. She was head writer on
"All My Children" when Bianca came out
and worked on "One Life to Live" in the
1990s when the character Billy Douglas,
another troubled gay teen, came out to his
priest and inadvertently sparked a massive
wave of homophobia in fictional Llanview,
where "One Life to Live" is set.
Even the priest became the target of an
anti-gay witchhunt. Billy's most significant
connection to anyone in Llanview was to
Joey Buchanan, the teenage son of the
show's main character. When the story culminated, so did Billy's presence in Llanview.
"At that point, I don't think there would
have been any question of making the son
of the central couple gay," Passanante says.
"It gives you an idea of how much better
things are now."
Damon Romine, media entertainment
director for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance
Against Defamation, says that the newest
batch of gay characters make soaps worth
"It is significant that the soaps are including these characters, and I hope these shows
continue to explore their lives and all the interesting stories that can be told," Romine says.
"When a daytime character comes out, it's still
news because it's so rare, and it's historic that
three soaps on three different networks each
feature a gay character, and that these characters are part of the soap's core families."
Since soaps are all about telling stories,
the gay kids get into their share of hijinks.
On "As the World Turns," 17 year old Luke
Snyder, scion of super couple Lily and
Holden, is grappling with a crush on his
straight best friend, being blackmailed for
being gay, coming out to his parents, and
avoiding the sticky tentacles of a stream of
"ex-gay" counselors ready to whisk him off
to aversion therapy camps — and perhaps
most troubling — just being a teenager.
"The 'world turns' around Luke's sexuality." laughs Coleridge. "Its 'when am I
going to get over this crush on this boy who
isn't interested in me?' He isn't a PSA ad;
he's a real person."
That said, Van Hansis, the actor who
plays Luke, appeared alongside soap legend Martha Byrne, who plays his mother,
in a Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against
Defamation Public Service Announcement
that aired immediately after an "As the
World Turns" episode in May.
THE PSA ITSELF CAUSED SOME MINOR
■ turbulence with the Traditional Values
Coalition, a conservative national political
lobby, which asked its members to boycott
the episode and fire off letters to the
Hansis, unlike Luke, is both straight
and undaunted by the minor controversy.
"How can accepting somebody for who
they are be a negative thing?" Hansis asks
Luke, the latest soap character to come
out. joins Bianca. Simone. and Lucas Jones
on "General Hospital." The boys are garnering attention, but their female counterparts
are, so far, garnering the most affection.
On "All My Children." Bianca. who
drops in from time to time for big stories,
currently resides in Paris with best friend
and longtime crush Maggie. The two left
with a loving but strictly platonic relationship, but Bianca since revealed that they
are very much in love and raising Bianca's
daughter, Miranda — don't ask — together.
In 2002. Bianca got lucky, sort of. by scoring
a hot goodbye kiss with Lena, the corporate
spy who was raiding Erika's company.
Simone is currently without a girlfriend,
but she shared several steamy onscreen kisses with Rae, her first girlfriend. She is enjoying a much better life since coming out.
"Basically, her role was to be bitchy to
her older sister, who was nothing but kind
to her," says Coleridge of Simone. "She just
became a much more likeable character
because she was no longer obsessed with
stealing her sister's boyfriend."
Coming out hasn't been easy for any of
the characters, but the male characters
seem to face the most danger when they do.
A gay basher who tricked Lucas attacked
him. It's a device soap writers use to hedge
bets about how fans will react to the characters. Coleridge says.
"As is typical on a soap, Lucas had to be
gay hashed," he says. "Once you place
someone into the victim role, we at home
have to feel sorry for them."
Still, the gay storylines do make an
impact, according to Romine.
"These stories have the ability to reach
the many different generations of viewers
who watch daytime and share with them stories of our lives." he says. "What viewers are
seeing is that more and more of their own
neighbors and friends are dealing with these
issues, and the soaps are merely reflecting
the reality of the world we live in."