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Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Battles, on-screen and off

So I think political stories on soaps are usually not very interesting.

Months spent on Kevin Buchanan's run for... Lieutenant Governor? Will Blake be mayor of Springfield? Somebody kills a never-before-seen mayor on Days of Our Lives? Meh. I like my stories to cut under the surface, to study characters' actors and reactions, and to explore them in a world I can relate to. Whether or not Tico Santi used blood money to fund Kevin Buchanan's career is not something I can relate to.

But this has been a stellar year in politics (unless you've been living under a rock, I don't need to elaborate on that), and in the next twenty-four hours there is potential for a lot of hope in this country... and consequently, the world. It's on my television twenty-hours a day, I don't really need to see it on my soaps.

Except As the World Turns is doing something really interesting with politics... and it's definitely caught my eye.

Moving a study of characters into a gubernatorial world usually leads to viewers' eyes glazing over, but Luke Snyder's run for president at his college instantly makes it young, fresh, and interesting. Part of the quagmire of older characters in politics is that nobody wants to write scenes of characters meeting with lobbyists, or fighting small-town politics, or taking part in debates, or disappearing for months on end while "the House is in session". (I loved Grant Harrison, but his move from Congressman to Senator was pretty much the most un-realistic take on politics I've ever seen.)

But with Luke's run in college, we don't need to worry about real scenes of Luke in his personal life being sacrificed for endless scenes of politcal hot bed issues - because it's a COLLEGE, not A STATE. There are no trips to the capital between commercial breaks, no visits by day-character governors to slap you around. He's running as a liberal to represent his student body.

And then ATWT really fanned the flame - they put him against his high school crush, Kevin. NOW I'm really paying attention. Some fans really want it to be revealed that Kevin is secretly gay now, but frankly, to me, that's a cop out. I know this is probably a personal preference, but having numerous straight male friends, I'm always constantly fascinated by the psychological dynamic between gay and straight men. Very few writers have been able to bottle that kind of energy - Armistead Maupin did it beautifully between Michael Tolliver and Brian Hawkins in his Tales of the City series. Christopher Rice started to do it with his book, Density of Souls... until in the third act, he decided to relive some high school fantasy and the "straight" guy became the gay man's lover.

Watching Luke try to keep his integrity in the election while struggling with the self-esteem issues Kevin left deeply embedded within him years ago has been really great to watch. Suddenly, Luke feels like he's in high school again - and who among us hasn't felt that emotion, once or twice or twenty times? Kevin isn't a gay-bashing homophobe, but of course he's struggling as well - with Luke's coming out to him, and subsequent reveal of his feelings for him. There's so much inherent drama there, between these two HUMAN BEINGS, that whether gay or straight, it can be great television.

And this week, Luke gets in touch with his inner Grimaldi, and rigs the election. I love this idea - let's not forget Luke's paternal bloodline, and the psyhoses that run through THAT genepool. I love exploring Luke's dark side, and I love that it's truly driven by something that happened years ago that scarred him for life - THAT WE SAW ON-CAMERA. (When did seeing things happen on-camera suddenly become uncool in daytime?) How this will affect his relationship with Noah, and his friends and family, is yet to be seen. But I'm ecstatic that there's a storyline being developed here that I haven't seen before on daytime - a young male gay character is driven to the dark side because of something we saw occur on-screen years ago, that has both personal and political ramifications for the viewers.

That doesn't mean I don't have concerns. As the World Turns is known for racing through stories at break-neck speed. (How many weddings have Katie Peretti and Jack Snyder had in the last few years?) I prefer my soaps to take their time, to explore all the emotional beats. But ATWT has a tendency to get impatient and move on to the next story. (I still can't believe the Holden/Carly fallout is all but non-existent these days.) So I really hope they take their time and really dig under the surface of Luke's character, reveal new shades of him and explore what this means for the people he loves the most... and in the process, hopefully find something new and intriguing in the characters of Luke, Noah and Kevin.

As we head into November 4th, I have a renewed sense of hope for this country - but also a renewed sense of hope in a storyline that came out of nowhere, and is quickly becoming the only non-Genoa-City-related story the daytime landscape is presenting me these days that's making me think. One part fluff (Allison's kooky kidnapping), two parts social issue (homophobia, whether real or merely projected), two parts real-world (the election), one part romance (Luke and Noah), and it all adds up to quite possibly the most intriguing character study short of Victor Newman's depression?

I vote yay.

I just hope, like certain politicians, I don't feel let down when all is said and done.

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