Is Daytime Committed to Gay and Lesbian Storytelling?



Last year I loved One Life to Live’s Kish storyline, which followed the relationship of Kyle Lewis (Brett Claywell) and Oliver Fish (Scott Evans). It was probably my favorite love story I’ve ever seen on soaps. It was just a great romantic saga , that happened to be between two men, which, in today’s world, is a big deal, but I loved that OLTL didn’t treat it like it was.

TPTB didn’t treat Kish any differently than their other couples. They weren’t kept segregated from the rest of the canvas, which often happens when a show introduces gay characters. Individually, Kyle and Fish were just as well-rounded as the other characters. They weren’t just in Lanview to “be gay.”

What OLTL did with Kish was groundbreaking. You don't see too many soaps allow their gay couples to go as far as Kish did. Watching Kish’s story evolve, made me think that was about to change. Kish made me believe the soaps would finally see you could tell stories with gay charactersas honestly as you can with straight characters. Then the folks over at ABC decided Kish was costing them “mainstream” viewers.

Kish just sort of became another casualty in a long line of gay storylines and characters on daytime that disappeared once they’d served their purpose of making a few headlines. Daytime wants to seem like they’re “hip to the times.” They claim they want to show they are diverse and open-minded and most importantly, to attract younger viewers,  but  daytime's commitment to gay and lesbian storytelling is no where near reflective of what is going on in the world today. Most polls show that the younger demos the networks crave are much more accepting of LGBT people, so why is it so hard to keep gay characters and storylines on youth-obsessed soaps?

From a teenage Billy Douglas (Ryan Phillippe) on OLTL, to Bianca Montgomery (Eden Riegel, now Christina Bennett Lind) on All My Children, soaps  have told many powerful stories featuring gay characters. However, once they get past the "coming out" phase of the storyline and actually enter into romances, that's when the problems start.

As the World Turns’ Noah (Jake Silbermann) and Luke (Van Hansis) were the first, realistic male, gay couple on soaps and despite being hugely popular, there were 214 days between their first and second kisses. OLTL’s Kyle and Fish were the first to be involved in a full-fledged gay love triangle, see one man propose to another and the first to share a sex scene onscreen, all along the way garnering an insatiable fanbase and tons of mainstream media attention for the struggling soap they appeared on, but it wasn't enough to keep them in Llanview.

There have been a lot of “firsts” that have grabbed headlines in regards to gay storytelling on daytime. First couple, first kiss, first proposal, first wedding, first sex scene, but there hasn't been much in the form of sustained follow through for any of the gay or lesbian characters in daytime. Daytime can’t be truly committed to gay and lesbian storytelling, until there are no more “firsts.” Until it isn't a big deal for gays to kiss or be seen in the bed together making out, then soaps will always run the "risk" of upsetting someone in "Mainstream America". 

There was a time on TV when it was shocking and taboo for even a married couple to share the same bed. Once one did, however, the taboo went away. America got used to the idea of seeing a couple sharing a bed, by watching it take place week after week. Until a soap allows its gay characters the same privilege to love, scheme, exact revenge and yes, show sexual expression, that they

The Year 2009 was "The Year of the Gays" on daytime. 2010? Not so much.  Phillip (Thom Bierdz) was shipped off on The Young and the Restless. You rarely see Rafe (Yani Gellman). Bianca came back to Pine Valley—but left her wife in Paris, and Kish moved to the invisible section of Lanview. Except for ATWT’s Luke, Noah and Reid (Eric Sheffer Stevens), there really is no visibility for gays and lesbians.

It’s nice that there have been so many wonderful stories like Kish and Guiding Light’s Natalia (Jessica Leccia) and Olivia (Crystal Chappell) over the years, especially when soaps like Days of Our Lives, The Bold an the Beautiful, and General Hospital rarely touch on gay issues at all. However, these stories shouldn’t be “one and done.”

Otalia’s story ended because their soap was canceled. Thankfully, Crystal Chappell had the foresight to create Venice for the fans of that pairing. Unfortunately, not everyone can reunite wronged gay supercouples on the web. Kish fans would have loved a web series featuring Brett and Scott, but unfortunately those actors didn't see their story come to an end because of a cancellation.

OLTL is still on the air, and in my opinion, suffering greatly the loss of the one couple that set them apart from the pack, and that truly is a shame. When it comes to daytime and its commitment to gay and lesbian storytelling in 2010, I'm sorry, but I don't see much to be GLAAD about.

Follow me on Twitter @JennaMichelle29

 
 

Comments

Member since:
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Wonderfully Put Jenna

Member since:
22 April 2009
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I agree! It's heartbreaking when these shows create wonderful characters portrayed by talented actors, get us invested, and then drop the characters (Kish) or create all sorts of lame roadblocks to intimacy (Nuke).

If soaps are ever to become vibrant again, they need to go past their fear and their recycled storylines and instead embrace the future with fully-realized characters.

Member since:
16 October 2008
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Great article!
As a gay man I remember how excited I was just one short year ago! We had Luke & Noah and were eagerly anticipating the arrival of Mason , Phillip III was back in Genoa City shocking us that he was alive and gay , we didn't know how far Adam & Rafe were gonna go in their affair and Oliver & Kyle were just getting started with hints of a past where they were "more" than frat brothers. Now except for Luke/Reid/Noah whom I adore but will have for only 2 more short months.....all that is gone. And the soaps don't seem committed to any gay characters/stories in the foreseeable future. Very disheartening for this soap fan...

Member since:
11 March 2010
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OLTL ratings are continuing to crash and burn even after Kish has been off for months. Hmm, maybe it wasn't the gays after all Frons.

While I love Kish and Nuke, it's the European soaps like Alles Was Zaehlt (AWZ), Verbotene Liebe (VL), Emmerdale and EastEnders that are leading in the world when it comes to gay storytelling. VL will have a gay wedding in August.

giftofamber's picture
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Great article. Smile I've been wondering why I'm bothering to watch soaps lately when there is no reflection of anything I can identify with. On Guiding Light, at least there was Doris and her non-canon gf (yet) Blake. I don't count the "whatever this is" couple b/c they hadn't figured it out yet. On OLTL, there was Dorian pretending to be a lesbian, but that was dropped along with Kish.

marknsprmo's picture
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I don't think of "daytime" as an organic creature, although the shows frequently act like it by copying eachother. So is daytime commited to gay issues? Absolutely not. Are there people in daytime who are? Certainly. Chris Goutman has shown that he is commited to the issue even if he has been extremely slow in doing so. Someone at OLTL certainly was commited to the gay issues. I think the problem with OLTL and ratings are that gay issues turn off some people. So they lost those people. And those people have long memories and aren't coming back just because the gay issue left. Then the new viewers that were coming to OLTL got kicked in the gut by the show dropping the gay story. So now those people have drifted away as well. They should have stuck with the gay story and their fan base would have continued to grow. Now both parties (pro and anti gay) are offended. You might survive if one of those markets are in your pocket but both? I don't see how.
Now my last thought is that General Hospital has the longest running gay couple. Sonny and Jason. They are such a married couple it's not even funny. The older mature top(Sonny) and the starting to not be so young bottom boy(Jason). Jason has attracted his own bottom boy ( Spinelli) which is not uncommon in gay marriages. And now he is stepping on the wild side with Franco. These boys might NOT be romantic but they give Queer as Folk a run for it's money in showing different aspects of some gay relationships.
Too bad that GH masks this gay marriage in a mob story.

Member since:
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Kudos to ABC and CBS for at least including LGBT issues although somewhat inconsistently over the years.

As loyal a fan as I have been to Days of Our Lives, it is saddening to admit that I can never even recall the word "gay" being uttered on this show. Maybe I blinked and I missed something over the past 20 years. Someone please tar and feather me if I'm wrong.

I get that Days doesn't do socially-concious storylines, but they do seem to have a very heavily Catholic agenda at times, a huge contradiction given the twisted nature of the Horton family tree.

Member since:
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Sonny and Jason are the GH most non gay couple on GH, next to FRanco and Jason, LOL. But Will and Chad on Days have great chemistry together and Days should go that route. After all the crap Days does, why not? I think it is time to tell gay and lesbian stories and stop worrying about Middle America because they not tuning into the soap anyway.

Mrs. Forrester's picture
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DAYS had a gay guy, Harold 04/05? He worked at the paper with Jack who pretended he was gay to get Greta off his back, yes it was as lame as it sounds. Harold was around maybe 6 months and never has a love intrest.

Member since:
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They weren’t just in Lanview to “be gay.”

Unlike all the "gay" characters on Y&R....

BBWSTL's picture
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Personally I feel OLTL is sitting on a gold mine with another potential super-couple, but they are going to ruin their chances by killing off one of the characters. A Blair/Tea pairing could be the new Otalia like couple. Too bad OLTL, the only thing that can save you is pairing Blair/Tea and doing something incredible with our Jessica Leccia's character.

Member since:
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No. Find another outlet of entertainment that is not stuck in the days of old or carter to a shrinking niche audience of allege homophobes. You did make an excellent pt. Jenna that all of the soaps that did the INITIAL stuff great and was met w/fan approval and big upping by the press, but after that Wanda Jean says "No, NO", and that is that.

alstonboy4315's picture
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Simple answer?? No. Daytime is SCARED of the truth, but perfectly willing to force us to suspend disbelief with outlandish stories that insult our intelligence, as well as dumb down formerly smart characters. Why tell a simple gay romance when you can tell a story about a woman being buried alive (although I am looking forward to that story on DAYS!) or a two dopplegangers running around town at the same town??

It's an insult to me as a gay man that TPIC find it so "disgusting" to see a gay couple kiss or make love, yet can champion incest, masochism or torture!!!

I think that a certain member of the Daytime Confidential staff said it perfectly before: "That which does not evolve DIES!!"

Homophobia, racism, greed and complacency REMAIN the only caveman-like institutions that the people in daytime continue to promote and support.

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IA with you, Alstonboy.

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The "targeted"demographic hardly reflects the ads which are targeted to an audience with osteoporosis, depression, bladder problems, etc.

dkp's picture
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Great article. Funny how OLTL, ditched it's gays due to "ratings trouble" yet 90210 is doing a gay story in an attempt to bring up ratings.

Last year was far better for gays on soaps. We had Nuke, Kish, Otalia, the brief attempt by Y&R (if one can even call if an attempt). Now 2010, we have Otalia gone, Kish gone, Nuke soon to be gone, Rafe on Y&R who has no personal life, Phillip who knows how long his return is, a recast Bianca.

GLAAD took out a page add against The View, where was the full page ad when OLTL scapegoated Kish? Or during Y&R's bait & switch "we're telling gay stories...haha, not really, fooled ya didn't we"?

cheryl85's picture
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If only Will and Chad could be a couple on Days I would Chill out in happiness!

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"Until it isn't a big deal for gays to kiss or be seen in the bed together making out, then soaps will always run the "risk" of upsetting someone in "Mainstream America"."

great point. People will not get used to something if they never see it. You don't have to go from nothing to everything right away but making some sort of forward progression is important. I think ATWT, AMC and certainly GL could have gone further than they did, thats especially true of ATWT now that is is cancelled. Although to be fair to ATWT it has at least shown passionate kissing scenes on occasion which is something AMC has rarely if ever done.

celticbelle's picture
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Excellent article Jenna and i feel exactly the same way you do about Kish...as a 30 year 'straight' female viewer of soaps this was definitely my all-time favourite love story and Brett and Scott completely captivated me as Kyle and Oliver..their time in Llanview was much too short and the continued drop in ratings since they left is proof that they were not the reason for the decline as was then claimed...OLTL had a golden couple with Kish who have established a large fan base in a short period of time and were like a breath of fresh air for the show...ABC just needs to admit that they made a mistake in cancelling this wonderful story and bring Brett and Scott back again to continue it...no doubt they would see the return of most of those 'mainstream' viewers who left not because kish was on the show but because they no longer are...

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Dumping Kish was a monumental mistake by TPTB at OLTL. They were, by far, the best couple to come along in years and were such a breath of fresh air to viewers. I watched every episode of the Kish storyline 2-3 times each, every single day. Most of the other storylines I didn't even care to watch at all. It was refreshing to see two young men in love that were just like everyone else in Llanview. Both had careers, contributed to the commmunity, fit in with others in Llanview, and were well-respected. And, this is exactly what the majority of gay individuals are like. They are just like their "straight" counterparts in every way except their sexual preference. Yes, there may be some that act a bit freaky, and are over-the-top in their mannerisms and dress. But, let's face facts. There are a lot of "straight" people out there who are a hell of a lot more scary and over-the-top than any of the gays are.

As a middle-aged, straight, married female from the midwest, I found the Kish storyline to be a breath of fresh air and one of the best I have seen on a soap in many years. Maybe if they would have kept the storyline, people would see that "gays" are just the same as everyone else. They live, laugh, and love just like straight people do. All they ask is that they be treated the same way and be given the same rights. Some of the most gifted people in history who have contributed so much to our society have been "gay". They contribute just as much, if not more, to society as straight people do. Therefore, don't you think they should finally be ACCEPTED as members of society and be given the same rights as everyone else?

Yes, I think OLTL made a monumental error ditching the Kish storyline. And it's also the reason I no longer watch the show, or watch anything on the ABC Disney network or its affiliates. I saw two young men put their hearts and souls into the Kish storyline which they truly believed in to try and "erase" homophobia among its viewers. Instead of being praised and rewardeed for their incredible performances, they were "kicked in the teeth" and fired. And if that weren't enough, they were then blamed for OLTL's sinking ratings, and also trashed in the media by TPTB who spewed lies about their on-set behavior and professionalism, all just to take the heat off the show itself and TPTB! (And the Kish storyline was the most popular one on the show at that time having just come off the brilliant and infamous "love scene").

There is no way I will ever support a show like OLTL or a network like ABC Disney after seeing how they treated two of THEIR OWN employees just to cover their own asses. I'm sure these two young men pride themselves on their hard work and professionalism. (That is evident in their superb acting). To have someone purposely lie about you to the media was really pathetic on the part of TPTB at OLTL and ABC Disney and totally uncalled for. After all, these two young men brought so much talent and professionalism to the show and network, not to mention bringing in a whole new fan base and an entire "international" audience for the show that it had never had before. Sponsors beware ...... international viewers ALSO buy American products. Therefore, dumping Kish was also a slap in the face to those international viewers as well as the long-standing, regular viewers who quit watching when Kish left. I was a 40+ year viewer of OLTL and it was my favorite soap. I will never watch the show again now unless KISH returns. And to be frank, there really isn't anything left TO watch on the show anymore. I don't need a rehash of the series 90210. And the Ford boys are a total snooze! To be honest, I think Oliver Fish had the BEST "shirtless" body on the show and would put the Ford boys to shame. He was a "man", not a muscled-up 17-year-old, hairless twit.