ATWT writers vs… THEMSELVES!

I’ve been trying to catch up on As The World Turns.  Much of it is watchable, even if it bears not even the slightest resemblance to the As The World Turns I use to love.  Douglas Marland spoiled me, when it comes to As the World Turns.  I compare almost everything that happened during ATWTs’ golden Marland era to what I’m watching now.  Remember Duncan and Jessica’s fear that Lucinda would stop doing business with Duncan once she found out about their interracial romance?  Remember how Jessica fought her growing attraction to Duncan and that despite their concerns about how other Oakdalians would respond, as Duncan kept pushing?

Lucy loved them and wished them well, while best bud Lisa Hughes turned on them.   I didn’t see it coming.  It was brilliant.  We were all challenged to face our own ideas about interracial couples.  I rooted for Jess and Duncan, I loved them. I was shocked by the response of some of my fellow soapers (heartbroken, actually) but most fans were like me and cheered them on.  Daytime writers spent a lot of time building up interracial couples during that time, and spent far less time getting rid of them.  I applaud shows that take a chance on doing something different – pushing the envelope and challenging our ideas about what ‘normality’ means.  While ABC is the ‘social issues’ network in daytime, it’s ATWTs that leads the way in challenging social conventions on the CBS network.  What I wouldn’t give to hire a team that would give the show more balance.

ATWTs feels like two different shows. There’s the sadly absurd half of the show – Decker, helping law enforcement?  An expert witness?  The storyline would have been better off played as straight camp – complete with laugh track.  Can you imagine his history coming up in court?  I applauded the writers for keeping Susan Stewart true to character and allowing her to  express her total revulsion at the sight of him.  Susan has never been the ‘forgive and forget’ type so it’s no a surprise that she hasn’t welcomed him back with open arms.  It was also no surprise that she threw all of his misdeeds back in his face.  Love her. 

There’s also the realistic and tender side of As The World Turns. It’s found in the several other plots, including the love story of Luke and Noah.  I’ve been trying to find my equilibrium since the writers opened up the issue of Luke’s sexuality.  Luke has always been a dear character, in my book.  He is, after all, the son of Damiangodofallmen Grimaldi – I remember Damian as he was, not the loser of a guy the writers transformed him into. With Luke’s coming out, I was fearfully sure the writers would take the same path with him that most daytime writers have taken with almost every other character who’s come out of the closet.  Hank Elliot.

WHO, you ask?  Exactly:

Hank was just one of the ‘tragic’ gay characters either killed off by TPTB of daytime, or sent away to deal with some tragic circumstance that hastened his exit from the show.  The word ‘tragic’ is in quotes because earlier gay characters in daytime rarely left for greener pastures.  There was almost always some emergency that required them to relocate to a new location.   Yes, even the much respected and treasured Douglas Marland fell prey to creating an AIDS storyline that centered around the only gay character on screen.

When I look at the difference between Hank Elliot’s storyline  and Luke’s I am amazed.  There’s such a sensitivity and care about developing Luke and Noah as people, not just ‘gay young adults’. For veteran soap viewers like myself, this is the gradual unfolding of a love story, the kind soap writers were once capable of penning.   For other soap viewers, this storyline is at a standstill.  Luke and Noah aren’t moving as quickly as other daytime couples. For me, it’s the fast moving couples that are the problem, but I understand the frustration.  There have to be questions about why the writers have taken more time to advance this couple:

1.  Is it because they’re still young? The answer to that question will be found in the Parker and Liberty relationship.  Like father, like son; like mother, like daughter.  Parker and Liberty have already shared a little kissing and groping.   If they become intimate, or anything close to it, that will make it clear that the writers aren’t concerned about Luke’s and Noah’s ages. They’re significantly older.   While we’re here, writers, I’d appreciate if you slow Parker and Liberty down just a tad – or a lot. 

2.  The writers still believe in a good old-fashioned romance?  Two words for you: Jack – Janet.  Considering the fact that Jack has been watching Janet work like a mad fiend to get Brad into bed from the moment she hit town, it’s amazing to me that he could fall into bed with her so quickly himself.  Surely Jack’s forgotten the G man’s rules of self righteousness.   Oh that’s right, the rules are for other people.  Carry on!  Jack and Janet know more about one another’s working parts than either of their physicians does.  Add Holden and Carly’s affair and I’m going to have to believe that good old fashioned romance isn’t what’s delaying the writers on the Luke and Noah score.

3. Is there are greater sensitivity to Loah/Nuke becuase they’re sexual minorities and the writers are afraid of advancing stereotypes?  I think it’s possible that there’s some merit to this one.  The writers have not only kept the storyline around, but have found ways to deepen the commitment the two have for one another.  Maybe it’s a combination of both 2 and 3. 

Luke, via the writers,  has made me as proud as if he were my own son.  He’s compassionate (something he gets from the REAL Damian).  He also has a steely resolve that’s served Noah well as Noah tends to seek out self-destructive behaviors (the marriage that never should have been, his need to please his father, is attempt to enlist as a way of running from Luke and his father’s death- not because he believes in what he’s doing).

Luke is like any other great romantic partner who falls for someone who is broken and has been hurt, and can’t stop putting himself in jeopardy. Luke is a bit like his other father, Holden (the irony of Luke having two fathers and being the best of both of them).  Holden spent much of his time standing back and aching for Lily.  Lily, on the other hand, did everything she could to push Holden away for a good part of their early relationship. She chose actions that ultimately ended up hurting her, and often fell for men she could never commit to in the long run.  Holden made his share of mistakes, and he made a ton of them, but still he waited.  I see Luke and Noah as a young Holden and Lily… I know, not exactly comforting, given where Holden and Lily are in their relationship.

Many fans believe that the best explanation for the “Nuke slow burn” is that the writers are cowardly.  I think they’ve shown an amazing amount of courage, so far.  I think this is a storyline that, like the Jessica and Duncan storyline, is challenging the audience to open a new discussion about what ‘different’ means.  Jessica and Duncan weren’t the end of soap civilization.  Noah and Luke won’t be the end, either.  Both couples have added to the diversification of daytime television.  I only wish the writers would do as good a job giving us a slow build to every other couple on screen,  rather than throwing them together and leaving the audience puzzled about why they should care.