Is it too hard to be gay in daytime?
by, 03-14-2010 at 07:29 PM (12750 Views)
Last week, One Life to Live announced that it would be concluding a storyline involving two gay characters, Oliver Fish and Kyle Lewis. Collectively known by the nickname “Kish,” the couple has kept One Life to Live on the tip of many daytime viewers’ tongues.
Now as the show ends what ABC calls a “groundbreaking” storyline, there are claims of homophobia and backpedaling by a network that was supposed to be committed to telling a story. Fans, critics, and even the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation have weighed in on the end of Kish. For more on that, please check out an article I wrote,
Fans, GLAAD sound off on the end of Kish.
It seems that every gay story that has been told on daytime has been met with some sort of resistance. In the “old” days of the 1990s, gay storylines typically involved so-called reversion therapy – that is, psychological treatment to help de-gay someone. All My Children led the way, as Kevin Sheffield was convinced to live his life as a heterosexual, and even dated a young woman. More than a decade later, As the World Turns featured a similar storyline with core character Luke Snyder.
In 2000, All My Children dropped a bombshell when it revealed that Bianca Montgomery, daughter of the legendary Erica Kane, was a lesbian. I remember being inundated by email from AMC viewers who said that they would never again watch the ABC soap if it introduced a gay character. Now, ten years later, many of those fans continue to email me, offering their thoughts on other things that need to be changed. To put my own spin on a well-known headline: Yep, they’re still watching.
When the new millennium rolled around, it became chic to actually allow gay and lesbian characters to date. In an amazing twist, viewers, um, came out in support of these relationships. Web sites popped up devoted to All My Children’s “Bam,” “Lianca,” “Rianca,” As the World Turns’ “Nuke,” Guiding Light’s “Otalia,” and, later, One Life to Live’s “Kish.”
Reportedly, Procter & Gamble’s Telenext Media, the production company of As the World Turns, faced threats of boycotts over its inclusion of a gay couple – Luke Snyder and Noah Mayer. The resulting backlash prompted the show to retreat from any showing of affection between the two men.
The exploration of the love between Olivia Spencer and Natalia Rivera on Guiding Light was credited for bringing in viewers who’d never before watched a soap opera. During the height of the storyline, I received countless messages of Otalia support from fans.
Still, after the initial gay shock wears off – why are writers unable to come up with stories to keep these characters viable? More interestingly, why does it seem that gay storylines and characters seem to shoulder the blame for floundering ratings – and even cancellation? The Otalia storyline was popular for Guiding Light, but the show was cancelled. As the World Turns had Noah and Luke, but that show will end in September. One Life to Live has (or perhaps had) Kyle and Fish, but the show is gripped by cancellation rumors.
Are diehard soap viewers really not ready or interested in seeing gay and lesbian storylines play out on their televisions? Or do gay and lesbian stories not work in the traditional soap opera storytelling format? Perhaps, gay and lesbian characters are painted with too broad a stroke and the nuances that make each character unique are not being explored.
Playing devil’s advocate, if One Life to Live’s Kish storyline really is the reason for the show’s sinking ratings, is it fair for fans of the storyline to demand that story continue even if it means the end of the soap as a whole?
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts, so please put your fingers to the keyboard and drop those thoughts off here.