In mid-2006, my girlfriend of a few months began watching All My Children with me almost every afternoon. She had no choice, really; I'd been watching with my sister for close to a decade at that point and vehemently refused to miss a single episode. What eventually became my girlfriend's addiction began similarly to my own infatuation with Pine Valley's citizens: passing interest in a storyline here, recognition of a name there, and my stubborn refusal to do anything else at 1:00 p.m. every weekday afternoon.
It was the Greg Madden murder mystery that finally caused her to take a regular seat on the couch. Who buried him alive?, she wondered. Was it Kendall, who almost had her baby sold on the black market by the evil doctor? Or maybe it was Dixie, who had given her baby up for adoption while under pseudo-duress from the wily fertility specialist. My sister and I had our own suspicions: Tad hadn't ever gotten the chance to hold his child; Zach had gotten chummy with Dixie and vowed to do whatever it took to return little Kate to her mother; and maybe, just maybe, Erica Kane had decided to enact vengeance on the man who had taken away the bold choice she made early on in the show's life.
Autumn's arrival brought a merciful end to the buried alive storyline, but to my surprise and delight, my lovely lady continued to watch. She confessed to enjoying Tad, JR, and even Ryan occasionally. After asking for my favorites, I replied without hesitation that while I liked all of the performers, Zach, Tad, Adam, JR, and David Hayward were my top picks. She considered this, and then asked if I liked any of the female characters.
Out of all the constant leading ladies, I couldn't name one that I enjoyed watching, let alone could tolerate. There were a few I liked, but none of them seemed to be on-screen enough to warrant a mention. Dixie has always been a favorite, but her latest return was handled less than capably. Brooke's disappearance happened long before it was made official in early 2007. Erin Lavery had potential but was dropped after her failed romance with Aidan Devane. As for La Kane and her eldest daughter, I'll save them for later.
I grew up respecting strong, independent women. While my father always played an active role in my life, my sister and I were raised primarily by our mother. She worked a night job, but still had time to help us get ready for school every morning. She finished her college education during the day and was always ready to play video games with me or help my sister experiment with makeup after picking us up from school.
For a show with a predominantly female demographic, I find it to be a sad fact that All My Children has very few respectable women. Erica Kane, matriarch of Pine Valley and a woman in her early 60s, has founded several successful careers with her own blood, sweat, and tears. And yet, when faced with relationship problems less than a year after finally achieving marital bliss with soul mate Jack Montgomery, Erica decided to sleep with an old flame because she believed Jack wasn't letting her pick her own path. The real reason, of course, was that Erica Kane felt that Jack's children were receiving more attention than she was. What more mature way to get your husband's attention than by cheating on him?
This week saw Erica unwillingly go on the run with fellow inmate Carmen, a feisty character who seems to be breathing fresh air into AMC's female cast. Seeing Erica carrying her own storyline was a great relief to this fan, who is unable to so much as tolerate the fashion diva when she deigns to interfere in her children's affairs (literally). Unfortunately, some of Ms. Kane's momentum was stolen after she broke a shoe which apparently sold for $1800. Up until that moment, Erica had appeared strong and gutsy. Up until that moment.
Her daughter Kendall isn't much better; in fact, I'll go one further and say she's worse. I had the dubious pleasure of discussing the vow Ms. Hart--sorry, I mean Mrs. Slater--made with BFF Greenlee in my last column. For those who don't remember, or for those who were mercifully able to erase it from their memories the same way the mind prevents us from recalling a horrible accident, Kendall and Greenlee vowed to stay faithful to their significant others even though they were enjoying the attention from Ryan "I love 2004!" Lavery. Ugh. Just pass notes in class and write "K.H. and G.S. Luv R.L. 4-Ever" on the mirror in the girls' bathroom, why don't you?
Their scenes this week weren't any less painful. They went to ConFusion, had drinks, and went over the exact same conversation. It wasn't good the first time, and it was even worse the second time.
But Kendall and Greenlee are both savvy executives, right? Of course! They built a successful cosmetics company with their own bare hands, and Kendall wrote and published a book in less than an hour (or so it seems). Surely their professional scenes demonstrate a work environment efficiently run by two powerful women eager to take on the world? Nope. While working, the women of Fusion spend a few minutes going over reports which are probably filled out with crayons before gossiping, going out to lunch, and sometimes just going home. At Fusion, more than one hour a week is overtime. Their scenes are petty and frankly insulting to women who work hard at their jobs. Yes, this is a soap opera, and is thus a medium driven by gossip, adultery, and catfights. But ask AMC fans what they want to see, and I practically guarantee that interesting work scenes will be in any Top 5 lists.
Depressed yet? Fear not! Characters such as Annie Lavery and Angie Hubbard represent hope for female viewers. After spending almost a year as a doting stepford wife, Annie stood up for herself and kicked Ryan out of his own penthouse when it became apparent that he was making no attempt to regain his memory--the part of his memory that contains his life with Annie, at least. Anti-Annie fans instantly re-embraced this character who had come to Pine Valley in mid-2006 as an independent single mother who would do anything to keep her daughter safe. This week, despite enjoying the couple, I almost cheered out loud when Annie laid down the law after learning that Ryan had been faking memories of his wife.
Honestly, I would like to see Ryan and Annie patch things up. But round two of "Ryannie" will need to see Annie keep the spunk that helped her survive a horrible childhood and terrifying first marriage. Annie could be proof that it's perfectly fine for a woman to worship a man without relinquishing her own wants and desires. Annie herself said it perfectly this week when she yet again showed Ryan the door: "I deserve better."
You go, girl.
Angela Hubbard's situation is almost as annoying, but very understandable. Angie has established a career as the disease specialist; she raised her son without a father; and she has overcome more than her far share of obstacles. Now, after 20 years, she finally has her one true love, Jesse Hubbard, back in her arms. What's wrong with that, you ask. Surely it's understandable that Angie wants to make up for two decades worth of lost time with her man. Of course she does, and I support that. But Angie's attitude toward the threat posed to Jesse for so long is one of willful ignorance, and that I don't support. With a smile that seems fixed in place, Angie is content with playing house: cooking dinner, fixing up Josh's old apartment (I thought Angie bought a house...?), and making love to Jesse before curling up in his arms for a good night's sleep.
Wake up, lady. You've got more sense than that. Angie's burning desire to reclaim her family and the life they've missed out on seems to be overriding her common sense. What has happened to convince her that the threat to Jesse has truly been overcome? Is it because the alleged Pappel has been killed? Seems that way, and yet Angie has only recently stopped to wonder why Mrs. Remington was killed and why, exactly, her necklace was so important.
I do sympathize with Angie. I love her pairing with Jesse and am hopeful that they'll get to enjoy a brief period of happiness before the next disaster happens across their path. But seriously, Angie, open your eyes! Take off the rose-tinted glasses and look around. You're smarter than this.
I'm tired of affairs, of catfights, of playing house even when danger could be lurking nearby. I'm sick of the women on this show being completely dependent on their men for every little thing. Yet again I find myself imploring ABC Daytime to use the roster of talented actors and actresses they have at their disposal. I am a man, and I love AMC, but I'm in the minority. If I as a red-blooded male want to see more Pine Valley women stand up for themselves and take control of their own destinies, what do you think your female viewers want?