Cheering OLTL’s diversity

It’s been a while since I gushed about One Life to Live, so I figure there’s no harm in dusting off my pom-poms today. Catching up on the Oct. 20 episode (Hi, Kevin! Nice to see you!) hammered in for me again how well OLTL has done with integrating its cast and treating everyone like normal people. (Minorities are normal; yes, I know it’s shocking.) Sure, there’s a bit of a bubble, but it feels organic. Of course Rachel and the Evanses are going to be clustered around Shaun’s hospital room. It’s not just trotting out the black characters for the sake of token diversity…like the complete waste of Tamara Tunie when As the World Turns brought back Jessica for one episode last week. Not only was it the first time in a long time that we saw Chauntee Schuler‘s Bonnie, but the whole set-up was ridiculous. Jessica flew in to tell Bonnie what most people already know: that Dusty is a commitmentphobe who’s Just Not That Into Her. Then, that was it. Bonnie went back to the backburner (maybe she’s hanging out with Jade, Dallas and Derek?), Jessica flew off for parts unknown and ATWT had done its good diversity deed for the quarter. How do you bring Jessica back and not have her in scenes with the rest of Oakdale? How do you actually write a solid  script that references Bonnie’s troubled relationship with her own daughter knowing that you’re not going to address it again for another four months, if you remember to do so at all?

And lest it look like I’m just calling out ATWT, don’t think I didn’t notice that Colleen’s newish Jewish (that rhymed!) heritage was left out of her death arc on Y&R. I know that Judaism is considered matrilineal, but still…where was Grandma Kaplan? Why were we hearing about a generic angel that Brad had given Colleen instead of a Star of David or a hamsa hand? It’s bad enough to erase Brad and Colleen from the canvas, but to scrub away their cultural background… it’s wrong. There is enough of that kind of behavior in the real world, taking away our voices, our identities. 

Maybe some soaps haven’t gotten this memo, but characters of color, religious minorities, and sexual minorities can sustain ongoing stories. We’re pretty good at doing it every day in our real lives. And that’s why I appreciate OLTL, which has the Evans family dealing with a soapy love triangle between brothers and the same woman, and Destiny’s crush on Matthew. Then there’s Markko and Langston, who are just teens being teens. Téa and Carlotta caught up this week. Cristian and Layla shared a sexy, dulce de leche-laced kiss…that was fraught with issues because of Cris’ history with Evangeline. And Fish got put on leave pending investigation by Internal Affairs…while Nick proposed to Kyle to help further Dorian and Amelia’s gay marriage initiative. None of this stuff is hit-and-run. It’s not just to go, “Hey, look, we remembered we have non-whites on our show! Give us a prize!” 

And that is a reward for viewers.

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12 thoughts on “Cheering OLTL’s diversity

  1. I’ve got to catch up on last week’s OLTL episodes, but I definitely agree with you on how ALL the characters on that show are treated like individual HUMANS, rather than the race, gender AND orientation they represent.

    It’s refreshing to see.

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    • Exactly! It’s incredibly refreshing.

      And when the orientation issue IS addressed in a political context, there’s also portrayals of extremism on both sides. For everyone who thought the Rivera parents and Fish’s folks were caricatures of conservatism, Amelia and Nick are pretty radically far left and the moderates on the canvas (Fish, Langston, Starr) are being shown as just as skeptical of them.

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  2. For everyone who thought the Rivera parents and Fish’s folks were caricatures of conservatism, Amelia and Nick are pretty radically far left and the moderates on the canvas (Fish, Langston, Starr) are being shown as just as skeptical of them.

    Exactly, yet we’ve got viewers nitpicking at it, because it puts Amelia and Nick in a negative light. I mean, c’mon now. Kyle was BLACKMAILING in order to GAIN a monetary profit for himself 8 months ago, and we didn’t know his sexuality at that point. Amelia and Nick are doing the gay marriage thing, in order to achieve equality for ALL residents of Llanview. I can get behind that, more than what Kyle did, but I’m enjoying the fact that TPTB don’t necessarily feel like making all of the GLBT characters innocent and pure little lambs, in order for viewers to like them. I also like that TPTB haven’t gone down the road of turning them into out right villians (especially Nick – even though that hasn’t stopped some folks from thinking he’s the second coming of Damian in keeping Kyle away from Oliver).

    I GET that some GLBT viewers are worried about how this storyline is going to be received by “everyday” viewers of OLTL, who are not exactly gung ho for marriage equality and/or GLBT storylines on this show, but why waste your time, energy and enjoyment in worry about THEM and their opinion?

    They are not worth it. At all, because at the end of the day, some of those folks are still going to not like it, just because the storyline does feature gay and lesbian characters (regardless if they’re shown in a positive or negative way).

    We are finally getting ALL the things that GLBT and some straight viewers have been demanding to see on screen for GLBT characters, storylines and their involvement in OTHER storylines and some folks are still unhappy.

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      • The nitty gritty of the topic on love is more than just the political aspects OR the making light of love and “traditional” marriage.

        Today’s episode (even the Gigi/Rex and TAWD and his harem stuff) was all about love and what folks do, in order to attain and keep love in their lives.

        btw – I read your piece on the ABCD promos for Jonathan Jackson as “Elizabeth’s True Love Returns”. I wish JJ nothing but the best in his return to GH, but again, I still feel like GH, the writers of the show and Brian Frons have wronged Greg Vaughn for 7 years of loyalty. That’s just my opinion, but I’m not trying to harsh any JJ fans buzz and happiness on his return.

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  3. Yes! to the praise of OLTL’s diversity and your criticism of ATWT – I wasn’t able to completely enjoy Tamara Tunie because I was so upset that she was there to usher off the last black character standing. I am ecstatic every time I turn on OLTL and see Latino, Black, and gay characters doing a variety of soapy things.

    I think yesterday’s OLTL episode did a terrific job of showing how marriage is both political and sacred. Nick and Amelia made a convincing case for the mass marriage as a demand for legal rights and Kyle and Langston made moving appeals to marriage as sacred in their skepticism of the tactics to secure those rights. And David deftly reminded viewers that marriage has always been treated as less than sacred by soaps.

    I don’t get all the Nick hate either DifficultDiva. Nick is a political activist who also has real feelings for Kyle. He’s a political opportunist and a lover. Totally sexy if you ask me. Oliver said some pretty hateful things to Kyle before he came out so, though I love Oliver, I don’t think he’s above suffering some.

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    • Nick is a political activist who also has real feelings for Kyle. He’s a political opportunist and a lover. Totally sexy if you ask me. Oliver said some pretty hateful things to Kyle before he came out so, though I love Oliver, I don’t think he’s above suffering some.

      I don’t want to get all “church in here”, but AMEN, Karen. As much as I adore Oliver, he really needs to deal with the aftermath of what he did to Kyle all those years ago. As much as he loves him, he made him feel like crap. I’m glad that TPTB haven’t made Kyle completely accept Oliver into his arms of forgivessness and love. They wouldn’t do it for a straight couple, so why in the heck should it happen for the gay couple?

      I thought that’s what GLBT viewers really and truly WANTED for fictional GLBT characters and their storylines in this genre.

      Maybe, I was wrong.

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    • We keep hearing that Bonnie will be back, but even if that’s the case, it’s certainly not going to be this week or next or even next month. But, hey, we’ll get a pop-in from Ben, so that should make it okay, right? LOL.

      I know a lot of people in both the pro-gay and anti-gay camps have problems with the gay marriage issue being portrayed thusly on OLTL, but I agree with you, I think it’s being handled very well and with all kinds of points of view.

      And I like Nick as well. I like that he’s a decent guy, with a believable political agenda, and that he provides angst for Kyle and Fish that works. It’s not like he’s “OMG! TEH EVIL.”

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      • And I like Nick as well. I like that he’s a decent guy, with a believable political agenda, and that he provides angst for Kyle and Fish that works. It’s not like he’s “OMG! TEH EVIL.”

        Maybe, TPTB should have turned Nick into “OMG! TEH EVIL.”, because maybe then I would get the issues that some folks are having about him and his involvement with Kyle.

        Or, just be honest about it and say that with Nick being present, he’s delaying the “endgame” of KISH.

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      • I’m so old school soap that I don’t really understand why anyone wants a Kish endgame so soon. I honestly love it when love stories drag out over the course of a year or two. I love angst and longing looks and stolen kisses and “I want you but no…no, we must’n’t!” I feel like we’ve turned into such a “Now! Now! Now!” culture, all about instant gratification.

        But back to your observation about Nick…sometimes it seems that being a spoiler in a love story is all you need to be considered TEH EVIL, regardless if you’re an innocent spoiler or a malicious homewrecker.

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      • I honestly love it when love stories drag out over the course of a year or two. I love angst and longing looks and stolen kisses and “I want you but no…no, we must’n’t!” I feel like we’ve turned into such a “Now! Now! Now!” culture, all about instant gratification.

        It’s very strange, because I also recall the long, winding road that MOST of my favorite couples in the past (Jenny/Greg, Angie/Jesse, Tad/Dixie, Eden/Cruz, Mason/Mary and Mason/Julie) had to take during their glory days in the 80’s and 90’s. Yet, we don’t get that in this day and age in soaps anymore. TPTB feel like the audience doesn’t have the time, won’t make the effort OR have the compacity to deal with long and drawn out storylines and from what I’m seeing in reaction to Oliver/Kyle/Nick, they’re right.

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      • Me too!!! I really don’t get the emphasis on endgame. Angst is beautiful. Longing is beautiful. Having to wait for want you want is beautiful and should be valued. Not getting what you want immediately or ever doesn’t render life meaningless. Soap operas are serial dramas. Long running stories that show people changing and interacting with lots of different people over time make the most of the genre.

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