When I was a kid, I remember distinctly the first time Jack and Jennifer had sex on DOOL.
I remember the years of build-up, the work done on Jack's character to get him from guilt-wracked marital rapist to insecure lost man-child, and finally to leading man. I remember Jennifer fighting her feelings, trying to convince herself she was better off with Emilio Ramirez, until being kidnapped by Jack on her wedding day, whisked off... only to fall asleep before hearing Jack's confession of love. I remember the time taken to reform Jack, and the time taken to make sure Jennifer was no longer a baby-faced, wide-eyed teen - but a tough, sarcastic, witty, caring young adult. And I remember them still not crossing that line, until after one fateful shipwreck, and that cave...
The headlines on Soap Opera Digest, Soap Opera Magazine, Soaps Opera Weekly proclaimed it to the heavens: JACK AND JEN FINALLY MAKE LOVE! And on that day, as millions of fans watched, an entire episode was built around Jack - the man who brutally raped his wife years earlier on-camera, and Jen - Days' version of America's Sweetheart, barely out of her teens... finally made love. In a cave. (With Jen's diaphragm somehow surviving the shipwreck, of course)
Why this walk down memory lane?
Because yesterday, the Nuke fans finally got what they've waited years for. Noah and Luke finally lost their virginity! And it was... not mentioned to the press. And it was... after another one of their Oldtown fights over commitment and their relationship - the same fight I've seen a few times this year through various storylines. And I'm not sure Luke or Noah have grown or evolved in any kind of way since they first met a year and a half ago. Noah's been in and out of the proverbial closet as many times as... well, Brian, the step-grandfather who proved to be the latest obstacle of the week in their relationship. (In fact, I'm hard-pressed to find much of a difference at all between the characters of Brian and Noah, other than thirty years.) They've faced shame, psychos, prejudice... and then, uh... more prejudice and another psycho, and another dash of shame thrown on top. Apparently in Oakdale, homosexuals have three great foils: shame, psychos and prejudice.
Noah and Luke, as daytime's first gay male on-screen couple from a core family (the first gay couple, of course, goes back to Hank Eliot and his lover on ATWT under Doug Marland), represent the first time in years a show has been committed to telling a "long-term love story". This is their way of skirting around standards and practices... they're not "testing the waters with the censors", but rather they're "taking their time, like any great soap love story". It's a fantastic spin on words, but unfortunately, ATWT plows through every other story like they're in a race with the other soaps to see who can fit the most storylines in one year, so I don't really understand why anyone thinks they want to take their time with Nuke, and this isn't (in fact) a struggle with the censors. But let's say, for the sake of argument, that they wanted to wait a year and a half before the boys finally sealed the deal. (And before I go on, let me add that I'm not trying to change anyone's minds. This is just my personal opinion about yesterday's show, but the great thing about television is that it means different things to different people. What I love, you might hate. And what I don't love, you might rejoice at. Doesn't mean one is right and one is wrong. So no need to tell me "I'm wrong", but opinion in regards to art is never about who's right and who's wrong.)
I brought up Jack and Jen before because in their year of waiting, work was spent on getting the characters to where they needed to be in order to take that controversial step. Jack HAD to be, even in just the audience's eyes, forgiven for what he did to Kayla. And Jennifer HAD to be viewed as a woman, not everybody's teen daughter, after her popular teen romance with Frankie. So the writers worked really hard to take what was, on paper, such an improbable couple, and make them the couple you cleared your schedule for.
So based on that super-couple theory, Luke and Noah each needed to have their own steps taken. Luke's journey involved - I don't know. Possibly learning not to make everything about gay activism? And Noah's journey involved getting over a domineering father who tried to kill them, and... well, his possible bisexuality, I guess, although even that's a grey area.
And so once these two character finally faced down their... uh... demons, they finally jumped in the sack/shower on yesterday's air show after... well, a fight. The same fight they've been having for weeks, mind you.
I went to the Nuke boards yesterday, just to get a feel for what the Internet fans were thinking. And they were rejoicing to the heavens. And God bless 'em, they have every right to be rejoicing. They've been campaigning for this hard for years now. It's a small step for two B-characters on a soap, but it's giant leap for disenchanted gay television-viewing men all over the world, who finally feel like America and ATWT have joined the ranks of Hollyoaks as a soap that finally represents their struggle, their joys, their passions, their loves. And for that, I applaud their efforts, I raise a glass to the script-writers who worked their magic to try and make this work, and I give a standing ovation to the advertisers for letting it make it to air.
But what do these characters want? Jack Devereaux wanted to overcome his demons and feel worthy. Jennifer Horton wanted people to see her as somebody other than "Squirt". Whereas in Oakdale, Luke wanted... love? (Who doesn't?) And Noah wanted... I'm still not exactly sure what Noah wanted. He still feels like a plot point to me, after all this time. Losing their virginity was born out of an argument, but it was an argument I've seen so many times over the last year (always in the same set), that when I started to watch the episode last night I half-wondered if I was watching an old repeat on my DVR by accident.
And now what? We send Lau's Brian off into the sunset in a week or two, and hang on until the next external plot point shows up to drive a wedge between them. (Paging Paolo Seganti...)
Lest my vinegary subtext turn everyone against me, I assure you I couldn't be happier that the event finally happened. But after P&G's insistence that this was their "old-fashioned soap love story", I can't help but compare it to other old-fashioned soap love stories where the men battled personal issues to finally consummate their relationship after much hand-wringing. The Nuke fans held their own and campaigned for this in all the mainstream publications. The show gave them what they wanted, slyly and with zero fanfare, hoping not to anger off the conservatives aligned with their show. Anyone who reads my blog knows I campaigned for Nuke just as hard - I published the phone numbers, and gave to the charity, and hoped against hope to see something ground-breaking and beautiful and wonderful and phenomenal happen when Luke and Noah finally consummated their love for each other. Because I've always been in their corner.
But for this viewer, there is no sitting back on his couch, feeling like I've just been on a wildly romantic journey, like those many years ago in a watery cave.
Instead, it just feels like a hollow victory.
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