13 September, 2013

We Can't Have Nice Things: General Hospital Edition

Much like romance the daytime drama (soap) genre frustrates the hell out of me. I'm an ABC girl, so my shows of choice have always been All My Children and General Hospital. I drop in, I get mad, I drop out. General Hospital recently (in soap years) changed leadership. The prior team often seemed to hate women. Women were props for men, things to be shot or raped or put in peril so the men could have feelings about it. They were slut shamed, marginalized, institutionalized. Women were impetuous creatures who failed to think ahead and men were awesome sauce. The new show runners seemed far less hostile to women (although still deeply problematic). It was too good to be true.

GH & I are on a break because they are retconning a serial killer rapist who terrorizes women without being named Jerry Jacks. (Sebastian Roché or it doesn't count, people.) I didn't like Franco before and (although I love Roger Howarth) I don't want Franco now. This brings us to today and me slogging through my DVR backlog. The clip below is a pivotal day in two characters history. This scene is building on decades of ground work. It is comprised of a guest appearance by one of GH's most beloved actresses (Genie Francis, of course.) and a very popular recast. I'm going to sum up what you need to know about these women and where the episode of 6/10/13 finds them.

Lulu is the young married daughter of the famous Luke and Laura. In 1981, shortly after Luke and Laura's first wedding, Laura disappeared from Luke's life. She was abducted by Stavros Cassadine who forced her to bigamously marry him. Held captive by Stavros and his mother Helena, her family  believed her dead. Upon her return to the show several years later Laura largely refused to speak of the ordeal. In 1996, when Lulu needed a medical miracle (This is a soap!) it was revealed that Laura had given birth during her captivity. While the son saved Lulu's life, his existence destroyed the Spencer family. Rejected by her father, her mother mentally ill, Lulu becomes a cynical careerist.

In 2013 Lulu is awaiting the birth of her daughter (via surrogate) when she is kidnapped by the still deranged Stavros. Laura and Luke reunite to rescue her. When they confront Stavros Laura is visibly terrified. She offers to return to her position as his wife in exchange for her daughter's freedom. Stavros isn't interested. Laura is too old for him, too damaged by time and life. Stavros has switched his obsession to her daughter. Luke, Laura and Lulu's husband Dante kill Stavros and Helena to rescue Lulu. The next few months are occupied by an amnesia storyline as Lulu represses the knowledge that she too has been forced into a bigamous marriage with Stavros. On 6/10/13 Lulu has recovered. Mother and daughter are meeting for the first time with the decades of damage Stavros did to them in the open. Roll tape.

If you're like me you just said WHAT THE EVERLOVING FUCK? I mean, is there any other response? Are these female characters or man-pain hand puppets? Genie is reading lines like she can't believe the pages. "Hey baby, you've had a total mental breakdown and while I was on my honeymoon you remembered a nightmare experience I am uniquely qualified to understand. But forget that, let's gush about your poor husband! It must have been so difficult for him to deal with you being terrorized. Really, how did he stand a few months without your adoration? Let's cook a meal!" No. Seriously. WHAT THE EVERLOVING FUCK?

"Here honey, I got you candy and a baby present. Let me reduce your life to these traditional gender roles while ignoring this massive generational storyline payout. Why don't you talk about what a failure you are for not being a chef while gushing on about Dante's hangnail? Really. It's fascinating. Tell me more." Genie's busy getting paid. (Genie, I adore you. I know what you could've done with a real script here. We'd all be crying on the floor while you put your baby girl back together and helped her redefine her childhood in the face of this new firsthand knowledge of your trauma. There wouldn't be enough Kleenex in the world. People would be sobbing on those scenes into 2035.) It's like there's a giant water cooler at GH labeled We Hatez Wimmin and every writing team must eventually drink from it.

I'm going to go watch  Lucy break down over BJ's 1994 death and remember the good times. BJ is a kid in a school bus accident. Her cousin Maxie (Lulu's eventual surrogate) is dying. Tony is BJ's father, Bobbie her mother. Lucy was her stepmother for a time. This was one of GH's golden ages, where real human relationships mattered and women were actual people. (Ok, Maxie's mom was a pouty white Aztec Princess but we try not to think about that.)

1 comment:

  1. You are making me nostalgic for GH in the Claire Labine days. I stopped my intermittent viewing around the time Liz and Lucky's son was killed off in order to give Jason something to angst about, so I haven't seen this new actress playing Lulu before. I'm glad to hear that the new regime isn't quite as antagonistic toward women as Guza & company, but yeah, the missed opportunity in this clip is huge. Why don't they bring back the Labines? Those were the best years on the show.