Soap Operas Turn Rapists Into Heartthrobs

I’ve watched soap operas since I was a wee one — my first memory, practically, is of Luke & Laura’s wedding on General Hospital, which incidentally took place on November 16, 1981, my 2nd birthday. Over the course of my 28 years on earth, I have watched for long , devoted periods of time, All My Children (back when Janet threw her twin Natalie down the well), Days of Our Lives (I’ve been there through Sami’s many, many ups and downs), General Hospital, One Life to Live, and The Young and the Restless (remember when Victoria slept with the guy she thought was her brother?). Soap operas are magnificent at being both really visionary and forward thinking — Stone’s battle with AIDS on GH, Ryan Phillippe playing the first gay character on OLTL, and the transgender storyline on AMC — as well as totally backward and dangerous in the messages they send. There is no better example of this than a current storyline on DOOL. The short recap — Sami was married to Lucas, father to her son Will. She was then raped by her next-door-neighbor EJ, one of the evil DiMera’s kids. She got pregnant with twins and it turned out the father was EJ. She and EJ are now in love. I am not joking you. The producers and writers of the show are “trying to move past the rape”, but I find the notion incredibly disturbing. Rape is one of those issues that soap operas handle really, really poorly. Previous to getting married on my second birthday, Luke famously raped Laura. Since then, the show has done it’s best to discuss the rape, including having Luke and Laura’s kids find out about it. It was clear that when the storyline was written, the writers didn’t bank on the actors having such strong chemistry — for years, they swept the rape under the rug but in the late ’90s realized that the viewers were crying out for an explanation. Likewise, on OLTL, Todd was introduced as a rapist — but when his portrayer became popular and started to win awards, they wanted to keep him around. Thus, Todd the Rapist became Todd the Heartthrob. Do any of you watch the soaps? What do you make of storylines like this?

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