I’ve recently come back to Days of our Lives after a several-year hiatus. In a sea of new faces, there are still the familiar characters. Jennifer Horton. Hope Brady. Marlena. Sami. My geriatric Greek tycoon boyfriend, Victor Kiriakis. And Elvis “EJ” DiMera. To my dismay, it appears absence has made my heart grow fonder…because I’m having a difficult time holding onto the giant grudge I have against the character.
Make no mistake: I have successfully hated EJ for seven years. Ever since his introduction as a race-car driver/shady character in 2006. It did not matter to me one whit that actor James Scott is tall, dark and handsome. And when EJ raped Sami in a car in exchange for saving Lucas Horton’s life — and then still left Sami and Lucas to die — I was done with him. Of course, the Powers That Be at DAYS were not. And they continued to develop him as the son of legendary villain Stefano DiMera and a leading man…going so far as to have his rape of Sami hand-waved away so the characters could fall in love.
Hell. To. The. No. I’ve said it before: Falling in love with your rapist is a one-trick pony, a gun you only fire once, and daytime’s been there and done that. General Hospital’s Luke and Laura. There is no need to try and recreate that “magic.” EJ and Sami’s “rapemance” is as deplorable as that of OLTL’s Todd and Marty in 2009 and GH’s Carly currently falling in love with the man who engineered her son’s rape and raped her best friend’s wife. There are some things no amount of retconning (aka “retroactive continuity”) will fix, because viewers don’t forget. You can erase it from the timeline, but you can’t wipe a mind.
But being a soap viewer for 30-plus years means knowing that rape culture is alive and well and never going away. As much as we wish they’d stop telling these stories, they don’t. And there are “evil rapist stories” (i.e. GH’s Liz, AMC’s Julia and Bianca) and there are “sexy rapist stories.” In the latter, the perpetrator almost always gets to stick around and turn into a hero. GH’s Ric took advantage of a drugged Carly and then locked her, pregnant, in a panic room for months. A few years later, he married the show’s purported moral compass, Alexis Davis, who didn’t seem to care about his deeds. GH’s Franco saved Michael from drowning…so we’re supposed to forgive that he sent Carter after him in jail. And, of course, teen Sami drugged and slept with Austin and turned into one of DAYS’ signature characters. Albeit not exactly a heroine.
And EJ is not a hero.
And maybe what’s cooled my thousand-suns-fiery-hate is the fact that DAYS has finally stopped trying to make him one. All props to this new writing regime. They get it. If EJ and Sami are together now, it’s because they are too damaged, too terrible, to make it work with anyone else. They are horrible, screwed up people who might as well be together because they’re the only people who can handle the crazy. Sami’s do-gooder ex-husband Rafe deserves better. That insipid sister of Nicole’s, Taylor, probably deserves better (I have, personally, retconned her out of existence). And Abigail Deveraux deserves better, too…but damn if I’m not enthralled by her asserting herself sexually and putting the moves on EJ this past air week.
Because it just reinforces that he’s no good. He knows it. We know it. The whole town of Salem knows it. Boning EJ DiMera is The Worst. He is not the wacky curmudgeonly town alcoholic, like GH’s Luke Spencer. He is not a “good man” like GH’s Sonny Corinthos. Salemites mildly tolerate his existence because he’s fathered some Brady babies and therefore tied to the core family. And no sane woman — i.e. anyone not Sami — should want to be with him.
That makes sweet, smart Abigail seducing him interesting. It gives EJ some new layers and ways to play his own sense of self-loathing and not deserving redemption.
It makes me keep tuning in.
But it hasn’t made me forget what he did in 2006. Or 2007. Or 2008. Etcetera.
So, what exactly does that mean? Well, it means you can’t solve the problem of the Sexy Rapist. But you can change how you tell the story.