May 25, 2010By Mala Bhattacharjee Posted: May 25, 2010
I'm usually quick to sound off when something pushes my buttons, but watching GH's Michael yesterday actually left me silent. Yes, silent. Me. I sat there, drained, like I'd been exposed to Kryptonite. Joe and I tried to record our podcast a half hour after the show ended, and I had so little energy I might as well not have been talking. I couldn't even muster up fury.
I came out of the wonderful We Love Soaps weekend, at the Villa Roma resort in upstate New York, hanging out with ATWT's Colleen Zenk Pinter (Barbara) and Evan Alex Cole (ex-Hunter), GL's Robert Newman (ex-Josh) and Michael O'Leary (ex-Rick), and OLTL's Ilene Kristen (Roxy), Kathy Brier (ex-Marcie), Bree Williamson (Jessica) and BethAnn Bonner (ex-Talia). My love for soaps, for the people involved with them, was at an all-time high. And then I watched a GH episode about Michael being raped in prison, and it was like someone killed the lights, pulled the plug, punched me in the gut. I went from the best of our genre to the worst of it in 24 hours.
Oh, sure, GH danced around the topic. The word rape wasn't mentioned, and it probably won't be for quite some time. But I didn't just fall off the tikka masala truck, folks; visual cues are all I need. Especially when Michael is curled up in a ball, back to the wall, like he's in the Rape Shower of Angst. You know, That Scene in the shower that soaps always pen for female characters after an assault? There may not have been any water sluicing over him, but endless minutes of silence, flinching, the stark shots of the bruises on his face...? Yeah, Michael was raped. My question is, why? In his short life, he's already been raised by criminals, kidnapped by psychos, shot in the head and killed his stepmother...so why THIS? I've probably asked this before (too many times before, at that), but is there a key rape-story fan demographic out there that I'm missing? Do focus groups go, "Hey, you know what I'd like on my soaps? More rape!" Did someone at the top think, "Wow, this is going to be ground-breaking, and great material for Chad Duell (Michael) and Steve Burton (Jason) to play?"
Great material, sure. Ground-breaking? No. More like "unnecessary." As usual. This is May and June, an opportune time for lighter fare after Dante's shooting and Kristina's abuse at the hands of Kiefer. Michael could be trying to recover from the past two years of trauma and falling in love with Maya's sister, Zoe...except, wait, the show never got around to casting that character! But they cast Michael's prison rapist, Carter. How sweet.
Soaps are at a precarious place. I've tried to be Pollyanna and a cheerleader, but we have to be a bit realistic, too. Losing ATWT this September is a huge blow. Is a storyline about prison rape really a genre-saving move? REALLY?
I can only speak for myself, but I don't watch soaps for stories about violence. I can turn on the news for that, or flip on CRIMINAL MINDS...where I know that Hotch and his team will try their hardest to catch the bad guys. On GH, there is little distinction between bad guy and hero...except when they bring on someone worse.
At least I can console myself with the knowledge that Carter and Michael won't be getting married ala Luke and Laura, since gay wedding storylines are bad for ratings. Yup, ponder that for a minute: Gay marriage plots involving characters like OLTL's Kyle and Fish supposedly will tank a show, but prison rape is a ratings-grabber for May sweeps? In light of this dark storyline, I really hope no one drops the soap.