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.