Ever since Soap Central made its first hint that Bianca might be gay this past summer, fans have been hammering their keyboards, posting messages on our message boards, and rattling off email to weigh in with their thoughts. In the course of a one-hour time period last week, no less than 520 messages on the topic made their way to our mailboxes.
Here is sampling of the messages we've received. It should be noted that the majority of the mail received has been negative, or opposed, to the storyline.
"Homosexuality is wrong. And All My Children is wrong for promoting and condoning this type of behavior."
"I think a storyline with a 16-year old being gay is wrong. I know that it happens in the real world but not All My Children and NOT [Bianca]. I say it again good-bye AMC if you do this. I thought I would always be watching but this [is] sick, sick, sick"
"I support [the homosexual] storyline because I am a mother of three children and understand that my children may experiment [with their sexuality] or be gay."
"The writers have done this [gay] stuff before. I don't approve and I don't like it. If Bianca really is gay then I will stop watching AMC."
"I think the storyline has many possibilities for the ever image-conscious Erica, and hopefully, if handled with tact and sensitivity, it will end up addressing an issue millions of parents face every year with their gay and lesbian children."
One of the key complaints so far has been that Bianca is acting like a "spoiled brat" or that she's "ungrateful" for the life she's been given. Perhaps that's point.
One of the funny things about fear is that if you're truly convinced that something bad is going to happen to you, you subconsciously end up making whatever it is you fear become a reality. In psychology, I believe that they call this a "self-fulfilling prophecy." For example, if you're absolutely sure that you're going to fail a big exam -- you'll probably end up doing things that will result in your failure.
Bianca is terrified that her mother will hate her or disown her once she "comes out." So, inadvertently, Bianca's behavior is driving a wedge between her and her mother. That way, if Erica ends up "hating" her daughter before she comes out, Bianca won't have to worry about her mother turning on her after she comes out. If she already "hates" her, hating her because she's gay won't make much difference in Bianca's mind. Does that make sense? Yes, there are other factors, such as Bianca's inner struggle to accept herself, but there remains a fear factor for the 16-year-old.
All My Children's Executive Producer Jean Dadario Burke pledges that this storyline is not simply about being gay, per se. AMC has done that successfully in the past with the Michael Delaney and Kevin Sheffield storyline arcs. Essentially, those storylines ran for a short period of time as they had been designed. The storyline revolving around Bianca is unique in that the character is tied to a major character on the show, in this case her mother, Erica. According to Burke, this time around, the storyline will explore the relationship between a mother and daughter.
I truly do not believe that this storyline is about sensationalism. AMC has always been a featured forum for social issues. This is the same soap that featured the first legalized abortion on daytime television, a show that took a look at the AIDS epidemic, and the same show that has explored racism. As much as this is a testament to All My Children's commitment to equality for all people, the show has faltered many times by dropping storylines. Kevin Sheffield was featured for months during his "conversion" therapy. Then, after Holidays exploded, he vanished; a character that was the main story for months was gone in the blink of an eye. Along the same lines, AMC tackled interracial romance with Tom and Livia, but now neither of them is seen on-screen. In fact, there are few minorities of any kind as regular cast members of the show.
Eden Riegel has done an excellent job so far (and I don't expect that to change). I'm curious if the actress knew that Bianca would be gay when she signed onto the role. I'm guessing not, but then I think of needing to have some sort of "disclosure" when you cast an actor in a particular role. If someone signed on in the role of a mass murderer, you'd think that the performer would want to know ahead of time. Granted, being gay and being a murderer are not the same thing, but both do have a certain stigma attached. Sadly, though, I'm guessing that more people would want to play a murderer than a gay character.
The so-called mystery behind Bianca's sexual orientation is a bit of joke; almost everyone knew Bianca was gay many, many weeks ago. Two weeks or so ago, a sleazy tabloid ran a piece about a "Susan Lucci Gay Shocker," or something similar. The intent was to lead people to believe that Susan Lucci might be gay. At about the same time, another (or possibly the same) tabloid ran a piece about a "Hillary Clinton Gay Shocker." Of course, the purpose here is to use sensationalism to sell papers --- and by actually reading the Lucci article, you'd learn that the article was about Susan Lucci's on-screen daughter being gay and had absolutely nothing to do with Susan Lucci.
Even before the Star report, there were reports in soap opera magazines and web sites, like on Soap Central. The news even made its way to traditionally soap-evasive magazines like Entertainment Weekly.
It's too soon to tell how this extra publicity will affect AMC's ratings. In the past few weeks, though, the show's ratings have been steadily moving in the wrong direction. The true test will come in about two or three weeks, when the ratings for Bianca's "coming out" episodes are measured by the television ratings.
Dan J Kroll
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