September 10, 2010By Mala Bhattacharjee Posted: Sep 10, 2010
Confession time: Now that I've seen it...? I think the end of the Reid/Luke arc might be one of ATWT's better wrap-up stories. And to don my trusty flame-retardant suit and espouse an even more unpopular opinion, I don't think the death of Reid is inherently homophobic. In fact, I'm not exactly certain how the term, defined as an "unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality," applies to a show on which the importance of Luke Snyder as a legacy character has been stressed over the course of nearly five years. That he is loved, that he has fallen in love, has never been in question; never been treated with derision or scorn. That ATWT has had to deal with behind-the-scenes network constraints and vocal opposition from bigots is a separate issue from their actual narrative.
If ATWT were really homophobic, they wouldn't have gay characters at ALL. Or their gay characters would be cartoonish, predatory stereotypes who'd last about five minutes for some asinine storyline and then be summarily forgotten. The character certainly would not be the heart of the Snyder family, or a cantankerous doctor that viewers would grow to love.
I was a mess during Tuesday's episode, but it wasn't because Reid died. Y'all know I loved Reid. I was on the Reid train (oops, poor choice of metaphor) before most of ATWT fandom got on board. (Heck, I'm pretty sure I coined the pairing name "LuRe.") But I wept because Luke was suffering, and Van Hansis portrayed him so well that I felt an intense amount of empathy. We've shined a lot of light on Eric Sheffer Stevens and Reid this year, but Hansis is no slouch. His Luke is half of LuRe, the key character in this equation, and, for me, the one whose development ultimately matters the most.
Does Reid dying and Luke ending up alone suck for them and their fans? Of course. But that suckitude is hardly something unique to daytime. While gay characters in media frequently bite it in tragic ways (a fact I even pointed out in a recent issue of Weekly), the death-by-godawful-circumstance rate on a soap is high for everybody. Brad died last year on the same day that his son was born...and his brother, Jack, is the one who killed him. It was a soapy decision. Maybe not a wise decision, but one that was made without taking his sexuality into consideration. And the same goes for Reid. Was Reid being sacrificed so irresponsible moron Chris could have a heart a dopey twist? Yeah. But I seriously don't think the-powers-that-be are so sinister that they're going to create a character that viewers adore, that they clearly love themselves, and then wreck him just to teach gay viewers a lesson. Lest we forget, real, live gay people work behind the scenes at ATWT. They weren't drinking the haterade over there while crafting this story. (The Kool-Aid, perhaps. But not the haterade.)
As mind bogglingly silly as the train accident was, we got to watch Luke prove just how deeply and passionately he can commit to someone. We got see Reid make the most heroic gesture in recent Oakdale history. Their story might be the most tragic, but it's also one of the most resonant. I know it hurts; I have seen all the message board posts and read all the angry e-mails. But it also hurts to see that all this grief is blotting out the strides ATWT made with Luke and his story.
As someone who has been watching the show for a while, I can't tell you how significant it is that we got this much time devoted to Luke's love life and a relative newbie like Reid in these final weeks. The death of matriarch Nancy Hughes garnered one episode to Reid's three. Unlike Reid, she had other family besides a random uncle out there in the world, and they weren't even acknowledged. I mean, I actually groaned at yesterday's episode being devoted to dear ol' uncle Angus and Reid's back story. We already knew how amazing Reid was (and were told by every character that aired this week), so it was totally unnecessary. I can't say the same about forgetting mentions of Penny or Don Hughes!
Characters like Aaron, Andy, Daniel, Lien, Frannie and Sabrina weren't brought back for the end of the series. Bonnie and Jessica and the other black characters were sent off to parts unknown long ago. Lisa, the grand dame of them all, does not land a man, while Casey, Alison, Dusty, Janet, Chris and Katie all settle for people who aren't their soulmates. Holden and Lily, the show's signature couple, don't even get a concrete happily ever after. But their son, Luke...? He loves, loses, and lives on to love again. His World keeps turning. And the actor who portrays him, Van Hansis, gets to do some phenomenal work in the process. That's not "an unreasoning fear." That's not "antipathy." That's hope.
And that's my .02 cents.