My Rachel Maddow Moment: ATWT

It’s rare when when reel and real collide.  I hate when it happens, but not this time.  This time, I’m grateful for the reel and the real.  They inform one another at times, and in the most interesting ways, putting feelings and thoughts in perspective.  The last Brian Wheatley scene I watched made me so incredibly sad, and a little frightened of the character – Lau is the master!  Any actor with that angelic of a face who can create such apprehension and fear with a  single look knows his craft.  He’s one of the few actors who knows how to express more dialogue with a look than most actors can do as part of an ensemble team.  Despite my decades long love of Lau and his work on AMC, ATWT, OLTL, and other projects, I’m not yet a Brian Wheatley fan.  I don’t hate Brian, but I hate what he potentially represents.

My African-American family lived in the pre-civil rights American south.  The legacy of the pre-civil rights south is a living one for me because it lives in the memories of my mother, my father, my uncles, and my grandparents.  I’ve long considered myself Southern bred and Northern born.  I get stereotyping.  I get anger.  I get fear of the ‘other’, the ‘different’.  I get it, and I reject ALL OF IT.

I’ve said in prior blogs that the problem for daytime is that it’s a genre that is stuck between time periods.  It’s trying to move into a modern age but can’t.  It’s dragging along outdated thoughts about certain groups of people and outdated storylines.  Those outdates storylines are  weighing the genre down like an anchor.   The only way daytime execs can seem to ‘identify’ with the modern age and attempt to move soaps forward is to take old plots and up the ‘raunch’ factor on them.  In the last blog, I lamented that Lily Snyder could revenge hump any man she wanted (and the her husband Holden could, too).  In other blogs I noted that Alison is a porn star turned nurse extraordinaire (notice that on their honeymoon, Aaron had to be ‘surprised’ at the tricks she knew in bed – completing the sanitizing of the character).  Emily is a former prostitute dating the younger son of the man she seduced and with whom she had a child.  Leo’s plotting date rape,  Brad nearly killing Leo, the subsequent cover up…the Snyder men sharing enough of the same women between them to produce an Army of pointy headed babies – are, folks, all on the SHORT list of seriously shady behavior). 

At the same time, Luke and Noah can never consummate their love.  They can’t live together.  They don’t spend much time with other couples – except with Luke’s freakin’ grandmother and her date – and I love La Walsh, but not as a dinner companion and best buddy for Luke.  Why is Nuke still marginalized?  Who knows?  But I find it stunning.  I watched television some of “DeGrassi: The Next Generation” when my teen nieces visited this summer.  These are the sort of scenes teen kids watch regularly:

They’re not ‘freaked out’ by stories that embrace all people.  They don’t understand dramas and other forms of entertainment that don’t.  Apparently, the writers at ATWT thinks that the daytime audience is far less adaptable than the DeGrassi crowd.  They’re selling us short and I resent it.

Reading about the big Nuke-Lucinda camping trip made me think about that last scene, the look on Brian’s face.  Was he in that tent because he wanted to show respect to Lucinda, or at least con her into thinking he was respecting her?  Were his interests prurient ( was he curious about Nuke, a bit of a peeping tom)?  Was he there to keep them apart for his own selfish reasons – a crush on Luke, or a crush on Noah? Was he there for another selfish reason- to stop the boys from ‘sinnin’?  I thought about that earlier look on Brian’s face when I read the camping summary.  I’d thought about it just a few days earlier when I ran across this clip on YouTube again (oh, fast forward to 3:50 minutes into the clip if political coverage makes you squeamish). 

If you opted to skip it,  Maddow recalled being 19 when she heard Buchanan’s speech about the raging culture wars and thought about just how much people she didn’t even know hated her, didn’t think there was room for her, how it led her to embrace the Democratic Party because she knew it didn’t want her to disappear (not an exact quote).  Maddow’s comments helped me further realize why Brian’s ‘look’ made me feel so queasy.

The shock (and disgust) in his face when Nuke touched one another was palatable and made me shudder.  It reminded me of so many events in my own life – the number of times racial epitaphs were used.  The extended hand that was met with a cold and/or  mortified expression. Our stories are different on the surface (reel Nuke’s, real Rachel’s) but they’re the same in other ways.  Death to the -isms! 

My hope is that while Noah is in ‘Rome’, the writers are thinking of what they need to do to rewrite the Wheatley character.  My hope is that they’ve decided to not take Brian down  that dark and ugly road.  I believe that the writers meant well when they began the Nuke storyline.  I believe they still mean well, but I also believe that the longer they marginalize Luke and Noah, the more they run the risk of giving an implicit nod to the ‘raging culture wars’.  I don’t think that’s where they want to take this storyline, either.

Luke made a mistake?  Brian wasn’t really trying to shove him back in the closet?  OK, I’m willing buy it.  So take it one step further, writers.  Do something proactive.  Have Brian use his considerable skills to help  Luke and Noah become an advocates and defenders of human rights.  Let Luke use some of that money to set up a shelter for kids who need a safe space when home is no longer safe for them after coming out.  Steal a page or two from ‘DeGrassi’.  I won’t tell.

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