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.
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