I try to present an unbiased view of the goings-on in Bay City in AWHP files, but I'd like to take
this opportunity to present my opinions on various controversial issues. I welcome any feedback.
JOHN, SHARLENE, AND FELICIA
JOHN, SHARLENE, AND FELICIA
Personally, I don't like this story. In fact I hate it. Part of me wants to like it: John and Felicia have some very romantic scenes, both actors are exceptional, and it's always enjoyable to see two people who really love each other fight to be together.
I have found the John/Felicia pairing so distasteful that for the first time in my life I'm actually using the fast-forward button. After some reflection, I've come to the conclusion that what I find so abhorrent is that this story destroys the most basic and fundamental principle of soap opera: that love is special, that love is good and strong and worthwhile. It destroys that tenet by wiping out John's love for Sharlene without any reason other than the show's desire for a John/Felicia pairing.
In the future, of course, the writers may resurrect that love for storyline purposes, but that, in my opinion, would even further discredit the character of John. Since last fall, John stopped loving Sharlene, completely and utterly. In fact he grew to dislike her so much that he could hardly stand to be in the same room with her. When she wasn't around, he gave no thought to her and didn't miss her, and for all he cared she might have dropped off the face of the earth.
The thing I hate most though is hearing so-called reasons why John is justified in feeling the way he does, for both Sharlene and Felicia. I'd like to take this opportunity to debunk some of those reasons.
FICTION: Sharlene put John through a lot, including sleeping with other men while in an
alternate personality, and therefore John is justified in seeking attention elsewhere.
FACT: Yes, John has been through a lot with Sharlene, but (1) he didn't blame her for them when they happened, and (2) he has never pointed to them as the reason for his wandering. And neither of Sharlene's alternate personalities has ever slept with another man since Sharlene came to Bay City in 1988.
FICTION: Sharlene abandoned John soon after they were reunited by going to Chadwell.
FACT: This is often quoted by John and Felicia supporters, but it is full of bunk. Sharlene re-emerged, and thus John and Sharlene reunited, in August 1994. She and John were henceforth shoved onto the back-burner until February 1995 (their, how shall we say, reunion lovemaking scene wasn't even shown), then they had the Bailey Thompson story for two months. In May they were remarried. In July Sharlene left for Chadwell to deal with the lingering affects of her childhood rape. John didn't like the thought of being away from her, but they parted on good terms. At the time she left, Ben and Laurie Michaels had not even been introduced.
FICTION: Sharlene wasn't there to help John through the Ben Michaels crisis.
FACT: When Sharlene found out about John's suspension, she asked him if he wanted her to come home. He said no. As it is, Sharlene cut her trip short and came home early anyway.
FICTION: John really needed Sharlene's support because Ben's death brought some painful
memories of Vietnam to the surface.
FACT: Initially, John's involvement with Ben Michaels was not about Vietnam; it was about John being sued for malpractice. (Even that was a stretch; Courtney Evans was the one criminally responsible for Ben's death by purposely neglecting to inform anyone that Ben was misusing his inhaler. John decided to take the blame for her because she saved Gregory's life.)
Sharlene made the decision to stay with her sister Emma, to whom she'd always been close, for a few days when Emma was felled by a stroke, instead of staying by John's side during the hearing into Ben's death. Perhaps she thought Emma needed her more, especially considering John had already gone through a similar experience (he was also unjustly suspended in 1991). The Vietnam angle wasn't introduced until three and a half months after Ben died, conveniently enough, just in time to "justify" John's affair.
[It was actually extremely bad planning on the part of the writers. They initiated John and Felicia's involvement about 2-3 weeks before Anna Holbrook came back from her maternity leave, which was 8 weeks long. Not only did they ignore John for those first 5 weeks, but since they timed things so badly they had to give poor Emma a stroke so they could get Sharlene out of town once again. The story seems hastily slapped together when it should have commenced the day Sharlene left for Chadwell the first time.]
I'm surprised David Forsyth voiced no objections over the use of the Vietnam experience. When John and Felicia were trapped in his jeep during the ice storm, John equated allowing himself to grieve over both boys who died (Ben and Tai) with allowing himself to give in to his attraction to Felicia. Drawing a parallel between adulterous lust and the horrors of Vietnam is disgusting, and using the latter to justify the former is really awful.
FICTION: As John himself says, his and Sharlene's marriage was in trouble long before Felicia
entered the picture.
FACT: The marriage was rock solid. If you have a copy of the Match Dare episode, which occurred just a few weeks before Sharlene left for Chadwell, you'll see John and Sharlene happily dancing together. John's claim of marital difficulties is a lie, not from John, but from the writers, who must realize it's a bogus claim since they weren't even interested in retroactively establishing those problems.
The writers have yet to make clear the reasons for John's actions. Was it because he fell out of love with Sharlene? Because their marriage was in trouble? Because he felt abandoned when she left to visit Emma for what amounted to two days within the time cycle of Bay City? Because Felicia was able to help him through a rough time? Because he fell in love with Felicia? If anything, the show would have us believe that *all* those reasons are to blame, which is simply overkill.
FICTION: John wanted to make his marriage to Sharlene work, but Sharlene kicked him out.
FACT: That John told Sharlene, "I'll do anything to save this marriage" is in complete contradiction to everything he has done and said before, during, and after he first slept with Felicia, and as such, is an insult to the viewers. As it is, Sharlene was willing to take John back, on the condition that he give up his obsession with Felicia. John refused, and Sharlene kicked him out.
FICTION: John and Sharlene were boring.
FACT: For most of the time, yes they were. Why? Because, for most of the time, they were languishing on the back-burner. Whenever they did have a story, their great chemistry usually resulted in some great drama. The point is that absolutely every couple is boring when they're not being used.
FICTION: Adultery happens all the time on the soaps, so why make a big deal out of John's infidelity?
FACT: Adultery, real adultery, is extremely rare on a soap, at least on Another World. I need to distinguish between adultery and real adultery. Adultery happens all the time, to everyone, but for insubstantial reasons: the spouse was thought dead, or was thought to have been having an affair of their own; or one of the partners is a recognized villain who would do such a thing easily; or the couple were estranged. By real adultery, I mean the conscious decision of a good or neutral character to commit adultery, without any misconceptions over the reasons or the outcome. In all the years I've been watching AW, real adultery has happened only one other time, with Amanda and Evan. And even then, the show built up to it for a year and a half, battering Sam and Amanda's marriage on various fronts. When it finally allowed Amanda to take the final step, she was guilt-ridden. What John did, and the circumstances under which he did it, can not be treated as casually as everyday soap opera infidelity. That, and his cavalier attitude to it, constitute for many of us insurmountable obstacles in appreciating John and Felicia on their own merits.
FICTION: The story is good because it puts David Forsyth, Linda Dano, and Anna Holbrook on
the front-burner in a meaty story.
FACT: Such thinking is extremely destructive. Ask yourself this: Would you rather have the story the way it is now, or would you rather the show had given John and Sharlene a front-burner story that remained true to their personalities as they had been portrayed to that point? Soap fans have to learn that they have power over their show's content, and do not have to settle for an inferior story structure in order to see their favorite actors.
If you accept that John could stop loving Sharlene without reason, then you have to accept that the same thing could happen to Carl and Rachel, to Cass and Frankie, and to anyone. If you accept John and Felicia, then you accept what they represent, and you give the writers the power to, at their whim, break up couples and destroy relationships without any rationalization whatsoever.
FICTION: John's actions make perfect sense. It's the sort of thing that happens all the time.
FACT: The bottom line is that the story doesn't have to make sense. It's not about "making sense." Making sense implies there is a correlation between was has gone on before and what is happening now, which is impossible considering the idea came from Executive Producer Jill Farren Phelps, someone who has little knowledge of past history and even less desire to learn. There is no past history between John and Felicia; they have never been more than casual friends. With a little effort, and some concern for history, Phelps might have uncovered the John and Frankie story from 1991-1992. (After Sharlene was presumed dead, John fell in love with Frankie and sought to marry her and make her a mother to Gregory.) When he felt abandoned last fall at Sharlene's absence, it would have made perfect sense for John to turn to Frankie for support. What would have given the story even more potential was that Sharlene never knew about John and Frankie's relationship.
FICTION: John and Felicia are great together!
FACT: Well, if you like them, then you like them. It's probably a personal judgement whether John and Felicia have chemistry. To me, having chemistry means the couple complement each other in most every way and become, in a sense, one entity. I don't feel that with John and Felicia. Don't make the mistake of confusing chemistry with good acting. The question of chemistry aside, a lot of us will never be able to get over the stumbling block of the shabby way the show broke up John and Sharlene. We can have no confidence in John's love for Felicia if he could treat Sharlene the way he has.
FICTION: John and Felicia can be enjoyed on their own merits.
FACT: The show is asking us to overlook John and Sharlene's history so that we may appreciate John and Felicia (who may in fact make an excellent couple, objectively speaking). In so doing they are asking us to betray the foundation of soap opera, its continuity. (This is incredibly destructive. Despite what anyone might think, the show needs neither historical rewrites or character overhauls to find fodder for great drama. John and Felicia supporters are harming the spirit of the show by supporting such destruction.) But the show's own failure is that it fails to wipe the slate clean, by writing the story from the perspective of the betrayal of Sharlene, so that the audience is hard pressed to judge John and Felicia on their own merits. Like I said, I personally can't stomach their love scenes, but that has to do with the indelible memories I have retained of John's character than with any value judgements of John and Felicia's compatibility.
FICTION: More and more people will forget the circumstances of last year and will accept and
even root for John and Felicia.
FACT: Unfortunately, that fiction is fact. The more a soap fan is exposed to something the more likely he or she is to accept it. And that is this regime's main weapon against our memories. As John and Sharlene, Jake and Paulina, Matthew and Donna, Carl and Rachel, and Cass and Frankie, and their chemistry and excitement, fade from our memories, so will our desires, our expectations, and our standards. But only if you let them...
THE DEATH OF BRIDGET
The death of Bridget was a travesty for at least four reasons:
(1) Barbara Berjer was fired because her age didn't fit into that regime's conception of the show. That Bridget was killed for storyline purposes is a lie. Her death lent nothing whatsoever to the plug-pulling story.
(2) Bridget's role on the show was indispensable. Because the show needs Vicky to be free to have adventures and romances, someone has to be around to take care of her two kids. With Bridget no longer around to fulfil this purpose, Vicky will most likely have to hire a nanny for the kids.
(3) If Bridget had to die, her death could have been the catalyst for a terrific story, as were the deaths of characters like Mac, Lucas, and Ryan. Vicky, Jake, Donna, even Michael would have been incensed at her death and inflamed with fury, more than enough fuel for a compelling story filled with motivation, something sorely lacking nowadays on the show. Instead, Andrew Miller has already been dealt justice and a tremendous opportunity has been lost forever.
(4) With Bridget gone, the show didn't have a single cast member, on- or off-contract, over the age of 55. This was unprecedented in the history of the show, not to mention in most shows at most any time in their history.
(1) The Lack of Romance
(2) The Increase in Violence
(3) The New Sets
(4) The Rewriting of History and Characterization
(5) The Focus on Minor Characters
(6) The Ageism
(7) The Sexism
(8) The Bad Writing
(9) Bad Hands-on Producing
(10) Putting on Airs
[Note: I wrote this out of frustration at reading posts praising the so-called romance and excitement
that JFP brought to the show. Were 1994, 1993, 1992, and so on, all lousy years?
I didn't start out hating JFP. I was made to, for all the reasons outlined above. The first six months of 1996 stand out among the worst periods of the show.
By no means was everything she did bad. And certainly her successor has made her share of mistakes (including overplaying the Vicky story, the rapid and rabid housecleaning, and the complete descent into DOOLification]
[Written March 29, 1998]
If you haven't heard by now, Charles Keating (Carl) was fired for purportedly storyline reasons.
Once upon a time it would have made sense to remove the character of Carl from the canvas. The old, evil Carl was better served through limited recurring stints in Bay City to keep him fresh. But this is not the Carl of old. His reformation anchored him to Bay City and his wife and children.
A source I trust has told me the following about the show's headwriter: Richard Culliton hates Charles Keating, and hates that Carl was changed from a villain into a good character. His sense of history and character is good, but he hates actors and likes to play God.
This comes from someone who should know. Draw your own conclusions. Would NBC listen to Culliton if he said he wanted to get rid of Carl? With everyone regarding Culliton as AW's savior, it is likely.
The Fan Brigade will let you know of any last-minute tactics to reverse the show's decision. Many feel this is the end of Another World, that it will now face no chance of renewal in January of 1999. While the show will certainly lose viewers, it remains to be seen whether the Neilsen's will be affected. So few people are hooked up that Charles's firing may have no effect. In fact, the ratings even went up after Frankie was killed off.
Worse than this shocking news has been reading the outrage and hurt of AW viewers on the message boards. My heart goes out to all of you. It's perhaps no secret that I stopped enjoying the show when JFP became EP and that I have never resumed liking it. Over the past few years, I would count on my fingers the reasons to keep watching, or more specifically, the actors/characters to keep watching. Now that total is down to eight: Rachel, Cass, Felicia, Donna, Jake, Vicky, Paulina, and Marley. I encourage all of you to enjoy your favorites while they and the show are still around.