Can You Be Openly Gay and Star on a Daytime Soap?



That’s the question TV Guide Canada’s Nelson Branco is asking in his latest feature article. Branco interviews some of daytime’s biggest names, including Eden Riegel, who shot to fame as Erica’s lesbian daughter Bianca on All My Children, brilliant actor/artist/writer Thom Bierdz who played Phillip III on The Young and the Restless and later came out as a homosexual man and openly gay General Hospital: Night Shift actor Chad Allen. Branco also speaks with such industry insiders as uber talent manager Michael Bruno, Emmy-winning soap scribe Tom Casiello, Soap Opera Digest columnist Carolyn Hinsey and  Y&R’s top lady Maria Arena Bell, among many others, including the infamous Perez Hilton.  Check out the must read article here.

11 Responses

  1. Avatar of MissAmanda
    MissAmanda

    As GLBT advocate, I found this commentary fascinating, as I’ve never seen this issue addressed before (sad, I know). However, I found it unfortunate that Branco did not include the sad fact that the reason many actors have not been able to come out or have networks write gay stories is because daytime dramas have such a large conservative audience. I was shocked when reading comments surrounding Luke and Noah’s story. I can’t imagine what kind of hate mail and ridicule an actor or an actress may get for coming out of the closet. Perhaps daytime actors do not want to risk subjecting themselves to disproval from their “fans” or risk the network losing ratings (I however, would be more inclined to watching a show with an openly gay actor).

    Another reason why many daytime actors are unable to come out is because of the sheer factor of making a story line believable. Lets face it, some soap fans take the reality vs. fiction deal a tad too far. An openly gay actor in the eyes of an overly obsessed fan can no longer be the macho romantic male lead. The distinguishing of reality vs. story may throw some soap fans for a loop but may ultimately be just what the networks and the industry need to overcome this last taboo.

  2. Avatar of hunterforrester
    hunterforrester

    The Christian right is an organized group, but ATWT ratings were much higher when Nuke was on the front burner. Focus groups and ratings don’t show that the conservative groups have any say in daytime — seriously, would they ever watch soaps?

  3. Avatar of Trudi
    Trudi

    It’s a personal decision. Just like a heterosexual performer may not choose to reveal details of their personal lives regarding their marital status, their romantic liasons, whatever, homosexual performers should not feel compelled to share details of their personal lives. As Tom said, most of their colleagues know they’re gay. It’s not some deep dark secret that they hide from their friends. It’s something personal they don’t choose to share with the fans, nor should they be required to.

  4. Avatar of Luke Kerr
    Luke Kerr

    Another reason why many daytime actors are unable to come out is because of the sheer factor of making a story line believable. Lets face it, some soap fans take the reality vs. fiction deal a tad too far. An openly gay actor in the eyes of an overly obsessed fan can no longer be the macho romantic male lead. The distinguishing of reality vs. story may throw some soap fans for a loop but may ultimately be just what the networks and the industry need to overcome this last taboo.

    I wonder if CBS and ABC did any did any analysis on whether or not T.R. Knight and Neil Patrick Harris were no longer romantic leads for their hit and popular shows….Granted neither is "macho" but did either of their shows show a significant ratings decline once they came out? I honestly don’t know the answer to this question, if anyone remembers reading anything about it from back then I’d love to read about it.

  5. Avatar of MissAmanda
    MissAmanda

    Hunterforrester, to answer your question, yes they would. Given the relative conservatism of daytime sponsors and the female demographic who buy such products from advertisers geared towards the home and family, it is safe to say soap opera audiences are relatively conservative in comparison to primetime viewership. Jennifer Squires Biller wrote an interesting piece over at Tube Talk where she addressed the outraged she witnessed over Luke and Noah story. The outrage over the “immoral” story came as a surprise to her, for the same outrage was never shown when characters turned to prostitution, porn, and murder. Those unhappy with Nuke were long time fans as well as right-wing Christian groups. That is where the hypocrisy comes in.

    A gay story has never been well done because it is still taboo. Who makes it this way? The audience. Look at Bianca’s story over at AMC. Look at Lucas on GH. They dealt with his sexuality for a couple weeks and sent him on his merry way. Its not that those in the industry are homophobic. In fact, as Branco states, a person’s sexual orientation isn’t a big deal on set. It is the audience that sets the tone.
    Nuke increased the ratings over at CBS because it happened to bring in younger viewers (such as myself) and many viewers who would normally never watch a soap opera because of the controversy and media attention.

    Ultimately, what I am trying to say is that based on the insensitivity given to gay story lines and the negative response from some viewers, some actors may feel uncomfortable making themselves vulnerable to attack from close-minded viewers.

  6. Avatar of At50
    At50

    (quote) gay story has never been well done because it is still taboo. Who makes it this way? The audience. Look at Bianca’s story over at AMC. Look at Lucas on GH. They dealt with his sexuality for a couple weeks and sent him on his merry way. Its not that those in the industry are homophobic. In fact, as Branco states, a person’s sexual orientation isn’t a big deal on set. It is the audience that sets the tone.
    Nuke increased the ratings over at CBS because it happened to bring in younger viewers (such as myself) and many viewers who would normally never watch a soap opera because of the controversy and media attention. (quote)

    I know that daytime viewers are said to be more conservative than other audiences but I know a lot of longterm viewers who were initially opposed to Bianca being gay came to tolerate and even like the storyline. A similar thing might happen if an actor or actress came out. The fans might get used to it. That being said I can’t say I’m certain how fans would react. I think most likely the reaction would be polarized but you can’t know for sure until it happens.

  7. Avatar of elbugten
    elbugten

    It doesn’t matter to me if an actor is gay, straight, purple, whatever, it’s his/her acting abillity that I care about. It’s sad to think that anyone feels the need to hide who they really are from TPTB or the fans. I don’t really care about an actor’s personal life, unless it affects their ability to act on the show. If an actor felt more free to be openly gay, then maybe they would have more confidence in their acting ability, which could produce better product. Knowing Neil Patrick Harris is gay doesn’t make me think he’s any less of a romantic lead; in fact, it mekes me even more impressed with his acting skills! I alos think it’s an interesting double standard that seems to exist, that if a male actor comes out as gay he won’t be considered as a romantic straight lead, but if a female actor who is straight plays lesbian, that’s considered “hot”.

    Lots to think about here. Hope someone is brave enough to take the first step.

  8. Avatar of n69n
    n69n

    this hilights the BIGGEST problem in soaps…the audience being so much more advanced than TPTB….

    …& TPTB constantly underestimating/condescending to their audience.

    we are generally sophisticated people, we can handle real stories & we can handle our actors being real people with real lives.

  9. Avatar of Jamey Giddens
    Jamey Giddens

    These execs live in a bubble. Even if they are homophobic, you’d think they would have the good sense to be good old fashioned capitalists, at least in terms of storytelling. R. Kelly’s "Trapped In the Closet" Video Opera, which featured gay storylines was wildly successful. Brokeback Mountain made Heath Ledger and Jake Gylenhaal bonafide Hollywood leading men and ATWT’s own Luke and Noah are the most buzzed about soap couple in the last ten years. But I guess the fear of not being able to sell Quaker Oats to some radical in Nutbush is enough to keep soaps from cashing in on all things gay.

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