LGBT characters in the daytime soaps

Discussion in 'US Soaps Forum' started by Carrie Fairchild, Mar 3, 2019.

  1. Carrie Fairchild

    Carrie Fairchild Soap Chat Well-Known Member

    Message Count:
    691
    Trophy Points:
    682
    Location:
    Central Park West
    Ratings:
    +1,687
    Medals:
    1
    Inspired by the Santa Barbara thread, I did some further reading on the show and found that Channing Capwell Jr was bisexual. Most of the LGBT characters that I'm aware of on the US soaps are from the 90's onward, so I was wondering when did the US soaps actually start to include LGBT characters? I know SB premiered in 1984, only a few years after Dynasty broke new ground with Steven Carrington, so was Channing the first LGBT character on any US daytime soap? Or did anyone pre-date him? With the UK soaps, it was the mid-80's before Brookside featured the first gay character on any British soap. However, the Aussie soaps included gay characters as far back as the early 70's.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

    Message Count:
    2,704
    Trophy Points:
    5,327
    Location:
    Sunny South Florida
    Ratings:
    +4,874
    Medals:
    3
    Member Since:
    June 10, 2000
    Soaps sort of nibbled around the edges for most of the 1970s and into the early 1980s. Y&R had alcoholic Kay Chancellor develop what the producers called a "dependence" upon a female friend that (to some viewers) looked like the beginnings of a lesbian relationship. Y&R enough negative reaction from fans that they sent the 'friend' packing (I can't remember her name right now). For years afterward, people claimed that the negativity about Kay and her friend turned him off from exploring gay/lesbian stories. On Another World, the head writer sought to write a coming-out story using Michael Randolph, a legacy character who had been sent away to college. The plan was to bring him back with a boyfriend and thus reveal his homosexuality to his parents (this was the late 1970s). At the last minute the production company chickened out, so the story never happened. I never watched All My Children, but I know that in the early 1980s they had Donna Pescow (of the sitcom Angie) play a lesbian character briefly, and later in the 1980s As The World Turns introduced Hank Eliot, a friend of Iva Snyder's who ultimately moved to Oakdale for a while. Hank even got to have an (off-screen) boyfriend.

    It seemed every time a soap worked a gay/lesbian story into the mix, they advanced the depth/length of the stories, sort of pushing the door a little bit more open each time. I think they were so afraid of negative reactions that they felt they had to take baby steps. The Santa Barbara producers likely felt comfortable making Channing bisexual since he was already dead (or at least the one they thought was Channing). It was much easier to say a character was gay without having to show them doing what gay folks did--witness Hank's off-camera boyfriend (who ultimately was revealed to have AIDS). That's why it took so many more years for them to develop fully-formed storylines featuring gay romances and relationships. I think the producers likely felt that half-hearted attempts were enough to pay lip service to that segment of the fandom, but the half-hearted attempts often ended with mixed results. All My Children wrote a story about a schoolteacher (played by Chris Bruno) who was fired for being gay (1996 or so), and there was a concurrent story involving a questioning teen, but the story kind of went south because Bruno was so visibly uncomfortable playing the role. One Life to Live wrote a story around the same time about a gay teen (played by Ryan Phillipe) coming out and dragging about half the town into the drama (as we saw who was supportive and who wasn't) when the town's minister offered his support...but the character wasn't connected to the other characters enough for the story to have an impact. A few years later on the same show there was that disastrous story with the shady politician (married to DA Nora Gannon) who committed arson and a murder in order to cover up the fact that he was having an affair with a younger man (leading the town's tabloid newspaper to publish the hilariously mean-spirited headline, "Like Her Husband, DA's House Aflame"). It sent quite a negative message that a supposedly intelligent man would rather commit murder and destroy his career, life and marriage rather than reveal he was gay. On Y&R, Phillip Chancellor III had faked his death twenty years before and moved to Australia rather than come out to his mother, Jill. He returned to let everyone in on the secret, but it played out onscreen as ridiculous as it sounds on paper and he went right back to Australia.

    I think it wasn't until the mid-2000s that we saw more mainstream stories like Oliver/Kyle on OLTL, Luke/Noah on ATWT, Will/Sonny on Days Of Our Lives---stories most viewers know more intimately simply because of the internet. By the time Bianca came out on AMC it was a lot less of a 'big thing', and the gay characters got to have all the usual soap staples (love triangles, who's the daddy plots, and amnesia). Guiding Light did a more adult (age range) story with Olivia and Natalia, two characters who had been involved with men in the past and had children. I'm sure I've forgotten some...but the overall theme seems to be that it took a long time for daytime to embrace LGBT stories despite their reputation for being at the forefront of other social issues.
     
    • Informative Informative x 2
  3. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

    Message Count:
    5,927
    Trophy Points:
    6,136
    Occupation:
    INFJ
    Location:
    Haunting that cozy cellar under Falcon Crest
    Ratings:
    +7,698
    Medals:
    7
    Member Since:
    September 2000
    Yes, I recall vividly seeing that, though I don't watch daytime soaps. Phillipe would occasionally step out of a shadowed corner, whisper earnestly his pleas for tolerance, and then disappear again back into the shadows. Like a little gay ghost haunting the set.

    It was rather funny at the time. But all I could think was: who's the gorgeous kid that whispers so much??

    [​IMG]
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Funny Funny x 1
  4. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Warrior

    Message Count:
    5,044
    Trophy Points:
    2,638
    Ratings:
    +8,485
    Medals:
    3
    Member Since:
    July 2007
    The ghost of whispers past.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Funny Funny x 1
  5. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

    Message Count:
    2,704
    Trophy Points:
    5,327
    Location:
    Sunny South Florida
    Ratings:
    +4,874
    Medals:
    3
    Member Since:
    June 10, 2000
    One other early character/anecdote that I forgot when I was writing that bit above:
    When the character of Sandy Cory was introduced on Another World, the plan was for him to be gay. They had him furtively discuss his 'past involvements', careful to omit names or even descriptive pronouns. It was all supposed to be this big secret he had to keep in his past, one that would be so sensational when it was revealed that the show would ride this wave of controversy back into relevancy, since the ratings had sank a great deal in the early 1980s. Again, Procter and Gamble swooped in and expressed their displeasure (just like they had with Michael Randolph's proposed storyline), ordering the writers to edit the plans. So instead, it was revealed that Sandy had been a 'paid escort' (translation: male prostitute) back in New York, because...you know, being a (straight!) rent-boy is so much more palatable than being gay, right? :re:
     
    • Like Like x 2
  6. Carrie Fairchild

    Carrie Fairchild Soap Chat Well-Known Member

    Message Count:
    691
    Trophy Points:
    682
    Location:
    Central Park West
    Ratings:
    +1,687
    Medals:
    1
    Thanks for the very informative replies @Daniel Avery

    I've never watched One Life To Live but I've seen Ryan Philippe's role referenced in a few interviews that he did when he became a film star, so I'm presuming the storyline generated a lot of reaction at the time.

    And to correct my original post, despite sources stating that Brookside was the first UK soap to feature an openly gay character, it would appear that Crossroads actually pipped them to the post by a couple of years. When Doris Luke's niece Gloria appeared in 1983, it was stated that she'd left a female lover behind in Greece.
     
  7. Emelee

    Emelee Soap Chat Star

    Message Count:
    2,903
    Trophy Points:
    2,242
    Occupation:
    Teacher
    Location:
    Sweden
    Ratings:
    +4,950
    Medals:
    6
    The one soap that should be deeply ashamed for not having any gay main characters is B&B!!!! It's set in the L.A. fashion world for crying out loud. Lots of male designers have been on the show, none of them gay or even bi. It's odd to miss such an opportunity.

    However, on the plus side, B&B had US soap's first main character that was transgender. Maya Avant Forrester was born Myron Avant. Unfortunately, the character is not played by a transgender actor like Matty Barton (formely Hanna) on UK's Emmerdale.
     
  8. GillesDenver

    GillesDenver Soap Chat Fan

    Message Count:
    333
    Trophy Points:
    277
    Location:
    Moldavia
    Ratings:
    +492
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
  9. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

    Message Count:
    1,966
    Trophy Points:
    892
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Instigator
    Location:
    Alexis' studio
    Ratings:
    +3,271
    Gender:
    Male
    Member Since:
    2017 I think (unless it is 2016)
    While I enjoy watching B&B for its pacing and focus on core characters, it is a very, very patriarchal soap. Triangles are usually women fighting over a man (Brooke/Ridge/Taylor, Hope/Liam/Steffy). When two men fight over a woman (Ridge and Thorne over Caroline and later over Taylor; Nick and Ridge over Brooke, and then Bill and Ridge over Brooke) it always lasts a fraction of a women's fight over a man. And for years the soap wrote the book on the Madonna/Whore complex with the cartoonish caricatures of Taylor and Brooke. So, I was sure I would never see a gay character there, despite the obvious crying of the setting for one--or more.

    But, the way B&B handles "issues," I think it has actually been a blessing.
     
  10. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

    Message Count:
    2,704
    Trophy Points:
    5,327
    Location:
    Sunny South Florida
    Ratings:
    +4,874
    Medals:
    3
    Member Since:
    June 10, 2000
    I give them that one in terms of it being an "important" character. AMC had the first transgendered character (named Zarf, later Zoe I think) who was a musician. The story was a mess and I don't think they planned the storyline very far in advance. Maya on B&B was a much better story (and actor).
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1

Share This Page