A Safe Harbor in Troubled Times
In a world where the stock market is crashing, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs decide they would be better off as banks, the price of a barrel of oil jumps $16 in one day, and a Federal bailout plan threatens to balloon between $700 billion and a trillion dollars or more, everyone needs a little Emma Snyder in their lives.
I thought today was a strong episode of As the World Turns. The Chris/Alison/Aaron triangle continued to make less and less sense given that we (the online "we") know that Dylan Bruce is leaving as Chris Hughes while the "Who's The Baby Daddy?" story line is apparently ramping up. Lily and Holden got closer after bringing Ethan home from the hospital. Derek made an outrageous request of Bonnie to be his lawyer, which she wisely refused (although we know Paul is going to rope her into it to help find Meg). Colleen Zenk Pinter was phenomenal with the little bit that Barbara was given to do. Dallas increased his line count to about eight while Ethan officially became The Cutest Kid on Daytime.
But the pure pleasure for today was Kathleen Widdoes as Emma. She certainly wasn't the star of today's show. She's not hip. She doesn't fit the desired 18-34 demographic. She's not a size 0 and she's not a hair model, but that's the point.
In an age where soap great grandmothers are in their early 40's and leading ladies have barely grown out of their Dora the Explorer phase, Emma remains as the one of the last true soap matriarchs, supporting and guiding her family through thick and thin.
The interesting thing about the last week or two on ATWT has been how Emma has been ever present in most of her families' stories. Sure it has been completely supporting, but that is as it should be. She lends an ear, attempts to shore up the self-esteem of those in need of an encouraging word and provides safe harbor even when her hard headed ass brood doesn't quite deserve it. Most of all, Emma tells the truth as she knows it, as appropriate, and always has the best interests of her loved ones in mind. That was never more evident than today as Emma reaffirmed her faith in Jack, cautioned Aaron about his expectations in marriage, and supported Lily and Holden during the party. Even her little moment of embarassment at Ethan's question "What do married people do?" was completely natural and charming.
Kathleen Widdoes brings just the right touch too: a look here, a touch on the arm there, a direct look in the eyes when she's being serious and wants to be heard. This in turn forces her acting partners, whether it be Jon Hensley, who she's been playing opposite for a couple of decades; Van Hansis and Marie Wilson, for only a couple of years; or Noelle Beck, who has been on the show for a few months after a high profile recast, to interact with Widdoes on a completely naturalistic and down to earth level.
To this day, in good times, soaps are wonderful entertainment and in troubling times, they can be a source of comfort and escape. Yet, the years have not been kind to other pillars of soap families. Yes, Caroline Brady still holds down the fort in Salem as does Viki Lord in Llanview. Dorian Lord and Katherine Chancellor are more grand dames than anything else and Maureen Bauer was run off a cliff by Jill Farren Phelps. Mamie Johnson packed up and left town. Myrtle Fargate, Nancy Hughes and Alice Horton are off baking cookies together in Bay City most of the time. Audrey Hardy is babysitting and Lesley Webber is wearing very bad mumus somewhere far out of sight. Mona Kane, Bert Bauer, Bridget Connell, Lila Quatermaine: gone.
Only Emma remains, baking pies and cookies, doling out sage advice and trying to keep her loved ones on the straight and narrow. As in days gone by, Emma was a safe harbor for the Synder clan, and she reminded us that soaps still have the capacity to be a safe harbor for the audience as well.