A purple postscript….

At the risk of taking my readers into “Otalia overload,” I just wanted to post a follow-up to my column from a few days ago about the “breathtaking week” on Guiding Light.

Over 700 fans had the chance to talk to Crystal Chappell (Olivia) last week; the Big Purple Dreams site has the transcript here. Most of those questions, of course, had to do with Otalia. Here was one that I noticed:

Q: Do you feel a responsibility to the LGBT community in terms of the way you are playing this role, or are you just playing this as a “love story” without thinking that deeply about the social aspect?

CRYSTAL: Jill [Lorie Hurst, head writer] and I talked about “The Children’s Hour”.  We’ve been talking about this for about 7 years.

I’m so thrilled as an actor to be able to tell a story that’s different and relevant. I have no control over how they write it but I knew they would take good care of it. And that was exciting. Yes, I do feel responsible but it’s also my responsibility to tell a good story. I have to learn to trust them. They’ve handled it well. Ellen pitched it as a love story with no labels. She wanted to reach out beyond the labels. (NOTE: This seems, to me, to be a crystal-clear reason why Telenext didn’t package or promote Otalia as a ‘gay storyline’.)

I was really, REALLY impressed at the fact that Crystal (and Jill Lorie Hurst) mentioned The Children’s Hour.

Why? Well, it means someone – finally, someone in daytime! – has really thought about and understood the history and the context of telling stories about LGBT people. And to fully explain the context of The Children’s Hour, I also have to mention The Celluloid Closet.

Closet was a book by Vito Russo, who was a film archivist. The book was later made into a documentary film featuring dozens of actors, and narrated by Lily Tomlin.

Russo was an openly gay man at a time where that was a rarity, and before his death from AIDS-related complications in 1990, he wrote The Celluloid Closet to capture the complete picture of LGBT people in film.

And that picture? Was NOT a pretty picture. Here’s a clip of Shirley MacClaine talking about her performance as one of the leads in the film version of The Children’s Hour. The clip also features writer and activist Suzie Bright.

One of the things that the book and film keep driving home is that even if LGBT people were allowed to exist in a fictional universe, their story was never allowed to be a life-affirming one.

Martha and Karen were the Olivia and Natalia of their time, but the revelations of those feelings cause reactions and a truly unhappy ending. Here’s a clip that summarizes that journey for Shirley MacClaine’s Martha. (It’s a big fuzzy in places; also, be aware that this is dark and graphic material, particularly after 3:30.)

If you were one of those people who didn’t understand why some of us were so upset with the Reese and Bianca story – why we would be so angry about Reese being shown kissing a man or being blinded in an injury – or why we’d be uneasy about the depiction of a lesbian being raped, I hope that this gives you some context and understanding.

20090120_213254_thecelluloidcDecades upon decades of stories about LGBT people were told in ways that forced those characters to be someone else other than who they truly and authentically were – or punished them for having the audacity to pick a different path.

It’s also the reason why LGBT fans – and any fan of fictional worlds with authentic characters – are drawn to stories like Otalia, like Kevin and Scotty on Brothers & Sisters, because we are able to see their lives. They may be messy lives, complicated lives, but they are fully realized ones.

And lest you think that The Celluloid Closet, published over 25 years ago, is outdated, think again. It’s true that many films have shown LGBT lives in a positive light, but most of those films are indie films, viewed primarily by a gay audience.

In & Out was perhaps the most mainstream LGBT-based film, but like Will & Grace, it was all played for comedy with characters that seemed to be gay in name only. For every Transamerica, there are many other throwbacks to unhappy endings.

Consider this: The last two LGBT-themed films nominated for an Oscar – Brokeback Mountain and Milk – both featured leading characters who were killed at the end of the movie.

And in that context, I hope you enjoy and appreciate the fact that in the fictional universe of Springfield, somewhere between the church and Company, the mini-mart and the motel, in the parking lots and park and in the gazebo, two women are finding their way together, a pathway that leads to each other – and a pathway that hopefully will not meet an abrupt and violent end.

P.S.: If you have a chance, read The Celluloid Closet or find a copy of the movie at your local video store or library (or on Netflix).

EDITED TO ADD: As someone elsewhere wisely pointed out, Shirley MacClaine’s 75th birthday is this Friday, April 24th.

To mark this occasion, Turner Classic Movies will show four of MacClaine’s movies on Friday. And yes, The Children’s Hour is one of them. It’s on at 6 pm (EST) – so if you want to see it or record it, check your TiVo (and your local listings). 

39 thoughts on “A purple postscript….

  1. Oooh. Awesome story.

    But I have to say one thing: Brokeback Mountain and Milk deaths were IN THE PAST. The films showed the costs of sexuality oppression and denial. In the process they were comments on “the way it was”, and were meant, in part, to presage a happier future.

    In both of those films (especially Brokeback, for me) was the agony of a love that could not be fully realized.

    That sad message is ESSENTIAL. In a world that still has Prop 8 in California and similar measures everywhere, the constant reminder of the dark costs of oppression, discrimination and inequality are essential.

    Until there are no more real violent endings, stories that talk about those violent endings — especially as they actually occurred in the past — are welcomed by me. If one former bigot leaves the theater suddenly understanding that gay love is not different….it is worth it.

    I get what you’re saying, Mark, and I appreciate it. I agree that it’s part of the story that needs to be told.

    But I also think people’s hearts and minds are changed by just seeing people living their lives on a day-to-day basis. It worries me that even in this decade, audiences are still uncomfortable seeing two men or two women love each other, but don’t have an issue with murder or brutality for those same people.

  2. Well said, Patrick. As always your insight and thoughts are appreciated. For the record..there’s no such thing as “Otalia overload”. 🙂

  3. I saw the Celluloid Closet in an indie theatre back in the mid 90’s and managed to buy a VHS copy at a yard sale several years ago. I watch it regularly to gage where we have been and where we are now. I’m often dismayed. Otalia may just change that since I believe it is the first positive step I have seen in a long time.

  4. Thank you for this! I’m glad someone is writing about this and especially bringing attention to why this is so important. So many people fail to realize how this affects us and why Prop 8 is so detrimental to our existence. Thank you!

  5. Thank you so much for this blog entry. I was one of the 700+ in that chat, and this answer made me tear up. Thank god someone — or perhaps at least 4 someones Ellen Wheeler, Jill Lorie Hurst, Crystal Chappell or Jessica Leccia — has really thought about what the stories about LGBT lives have been and what they can be. Guiding Light is in someway rewriting The Children’s Hour – but here it is not a child’s accusation, but a child’s loving vision; it is not ‘normal’ society which points a finger, but a political agenda which uses the accusation. More importantly the story of Olivia and Natalia has allowed us to step beyond Martha’s ending, to stand at the edge of the brave new world. Here, there may be struggles, but there is truth and possibility, there is hope and there is love. May Guiding Light go down in history as the show that finally welcomed us into the light.

    Kate, thanks for pointing that parallel out re: seeing this story through a child’s eyes. Emma knows Natalia and Olivia (and Emma herself) are a family in a way that may not color in all of the complexities we understand as adults, but is in many ways just as deep an understanding as the grownup version.

  6. Thanks for talking about Celluloid Closet, I have to say I only saw the film, but it was eye opening.. Not that I was surprised about how we have been marginalized in films, but the extent and length of time that these images were presented was shocking to say the least! And sadly, as you point out, even after 100 years of film history, really not much has changed in TV or movies today.

    And that is why Otalia is like a breath of fresh air because it FINALLY portrays the every day struggles and triumphs of two people growing close and coming to depend on each other and love each other, and the fact that its two women is just a non event! Yes, they already have faced consequences because they are 2 women, and will come to find more obstacles in their way, but that is just truthful story telling happening.

    The fact these 2 have fallen in love has been shown as a positive experience that has changed these two women for the better and given them the greatest happiness of their lives! To see Olivia and Natalia’s journey has been a blessing and I thank Crystal, Jessica, Ellen and Jill for bringing us along for the ride! And thanks to them, perhaps attitudes are being changed around the country because who can argue with love conquering all!!

  7. Patrick:

    First and foremost… wow! I am sitting here with a full heart feeling uplifted and broken at the same time.

    Your eloquent ability with words to simply convey why Otalia is important to so many individuals — crossing all communities and “walks of life” — touched me. Maybe, just maybe we will for the very first time have a dramatic story told where love wins in the end, without the end being something negative. Of course, this is a soap, so there must be turmoil. Let’s just hope they keep the negativity away from these characters if they ever part ways. Wouldn’t that be refreshing? Rather than suicide or murder or something equally “negative” being the “end” of this love story, couldn’t they just move on like the others?

    Then the sadness crept in as I was reminded yet again (ok… I don’t need reminding, it is there, just not at the surface at this moment) that we still have a long way to go before the majority of society realize we just want to have a life just like theirs. Nothing special… just to be allowed to find and follow that path that makes us whole. I have said time and time again the reason I am so adamant about promoting this story and these actors is very simple: With visibility comes the chance to change hearts and minds. I believe that your words continue on that vein of trying to change hearts and minds by pointing out the beauty of this story.

    Thanks again!

  8. Thank you for your article. This is exactly why I’m loving the telling of this story, it is unlike any other gay story line ever told on TV. It trancends labels, gender or orientation. It is simply about love and we all know you can’t go wrong there!

  9. Thank you for your thoughts on GLBT history and how even today The Children’s Hour is not that outdated. Your piece affirms just how special Otalia’s story is to the GLBT community. How important it is for people to let the executives and producers know that we want a better life for GLBT characters and especially Otalia.

    I so appreciate what Ellen Wheeler, Jill Lorie Hurst, Crystal Chappell, and Jessica Leccia have all contributed to this story. I am grateful that they have shown it such great care.

  10. Thanks for this. I’m glad that you starting thinking about that Children’s Hour mention by CC – wow, did I so want to be a fly on the wall on those conversations!

    I really enjoyed how this spun you, particularly as it relates at trying to figure out just what is it that makes the Otalia phenomenon so unique and so powerful. I’ve watched, and re-watched and still I’m trying to get at why I feel this has been such a profoundly moving experience for me. Yes, we need our tragic tales, but at the same time, it has been incredibly empowering to know that this story touches not just gay audiences, but really such a broad-based and diverse one – that’s probably been one of the more fascinating aspects for me in all this.

    And, sure I enjoy the occasional Lesbian happy ending movies, like Imagine me & you, but you only get a flash of a character arc in those, and you know you’re left wanting more than just a beginning, and you don’t get to live with these characters, like you can with Otalia. Having lived with them, you feel like you know them, you get them, and want things for them.

    Yes, the stories of hatred are real, and we see news items every day, and we cannot pretend or underestimate that in any way, but I don’t want that to be the only way that we see ourselves. Yes, there’s so much tragedy, but there’s also uplift and great, great love. I want our love stories told in a more fully realized way, and I want a larger audience to have insight as to what makes our stories special in their own right, and in others ways, they’re just the same.

    We’ll need more time to truly assess the impact that this story will have, but I hope that more people get to see it – I feel like its done something to me internally, its given me hope in ways I didn’t think I would ever have. its no longer just a soap for me and I think in that I’m not alone.

  11. Patrick- Thanks for writing this blog entry. I am so glad that a show is finally showing two women falling in love without the tragedy that has ensued in so many other same-sex female stories. The fact that The Childrens Hour has been discussed by Crystal and Jill means they are taking care to tell this story in a modern, tragedy free way. Kudos to GL and may this story keep going beyond September.

  12. Oh My God!! What a thoughtful, well written article. Thank you for penning what millions of us have experienced throughout our lives. It is incredible that so many of us lead amazing. productive and proud lives but never see our lives reflected on television or movies. My partner and I have a wonderful 8 year old daughter but never see our lives reflected truthfully in the media. Why should our lives be invisible? The reason Otalia is such a draw is because it is authentic. These are two grown women with families and past loves who truly fall for each other. The only thing standing in their way of happiness is all the societal prejudice and scorn. I want to see this couple affirm my life and also show that love does prevail in spite of all odds. Isn’t that what makes epic love stories?

  13. Patrick, this was spot on brillance! I knew better than to watch those clips again, but I did it anyway. Heartbreaking! Thank you so much for this! I agree that Otalia is the first time daytime has truly thought out the story! I have no words for how badly the whole Rianca, Breese, Rinks (my personal favorite) story was done. Epic failure! So it’s nice to be fighting for a story that can actually change people’s minds.

  14. Patrick,

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response to the excerpt from Crystal Chappell’s interview. The global perspective you provide, complete with critique of previous cinematic fare, is more persuasive to the skeptical and disillusioned consumer (like my beloved) than my constant insistence that this story is “different” could ever be! You hit the nail squarely on the head: these women have fully realized lives and are in a fully realized relationship (whatever stage it may be in at this time!!)

    I agree with Mark that all realities of LGBT stories should be represented, but I do think we have met our quota in the tragic column. Thank goodness for “Otalia” and the celebration of the ordinary!!!

  15. Such a beautiful write-up. I don’t know what to say. Ever since getting invested in the Otalia storyline I’ve felt that this is not just about me, being fangirly over some f/f couple she just found on a never before seen American soap opera, but that this is bigger than any of us, that it transcends what people have tried to do before with GLBT stories (and failed on many occasions) and then takes it to an entirely new and exciting playing field. One we’ve been missing out on for such a long time.

    I’m still amazed at how meticulously this all has been planned out by JLH & Co. I could go on and on about the little details and can analyze the s/l of Otalia until the cows come home, but ultimately I just want to express my deepest gratitude towards everyone who’s been involved in creating the historical milestone that Otalia has become.

    It’s been a long time coming indeed.

  16. Patrick,

    I asked that question to Crystal in the chat and was, like yourself, very impressed with her response. I am likewise impressed with your article. I am sitting here with chills. It was well thought out, concise and on point. Thank you so much for the article!

  17. Thanks for pointing out the importance of putting LBGT stories in context. I already loved Otalia, but knowing that the authors are directly writing within (or against) the tradition of “The Children’s Hour” just makes me appreciate it that much more. I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before.

  18. i’ve been trying to explain to those in my life who exist outside the pull of otalia why this storyline is so important to me. this is the closest i’ve seen anyone come to putting into words why i fight.

    you said: “even if LGBT people were allowed to exist in a fictional universe, their story was never allowed to be a life-affirming one.” that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? where are the inclusive life-affirming stories of LGBT individuals? those that don’t involve rape or suicidal tendencies or loathing and despair? where are the reflections of normal, integrated, well-adjusted “gay” characters living their lives without fear of reprisal? they have rarely been in the lexicon of television and never on a daytime drama.

    and this is why otalia gives me hope. the fact that these women- crystal chappell’s olivia especially- have fleshed out lives with depth and breadth of character development gives this love story a gravitas that peripheral characters never could. these women just happened to find love with one another, a love that transcends labels- though there will be plenty of people, both in fictional springfield and out in the real world- who will try to define it and but them in a box. but it is their inclusion in the first place that should give us reason to pause and to rejoice.

    i have forwarded a link to this article to all those i have struggled to explain the importance of this love story to in hopes that it will do what i could not. thank you, patrick, for this insightful post.

  19. I really have nothing of great importance to say, but… honestly… ‘The Celluloid Closet’ was/is my bible. That book opened my eyes to so much in the entertainment industry and their treatment of the LGBT population – how they shaped it and reflected it back to us… for better and for worse.

    And as for Otalia – it’s about damn time that daytime gave us all a good love story that is also about two women in love. AMC let all of us down.
    But I don’t think GL will let us down, I don’t think Crystal and Jessica will let us down and I don’t think Jill Lorie Hurst or Ellen Wheeler will let us down.

    *knocks on wood anyway… hey old habits die hard!*

  20. Patrick – Thank you for such an eloquently written article. I was also among the 700+ in the chat with Crystal Chappell last Friday and was blown away by her mention of The Children’s Hour. Your addition of The Celluloid Closet fully rounds out for me what I’ve been feeling since last week – they get it! And now I sit here with tears in my eyes as it all locks into place for me. I am grateful that Otalia is in the hands of Jill Lorie Hurst, Ellen Wheeler, Crystal Chappell, and Jessica Leccia. Thank you, Patrick, for putting it all together!

  21. Beautifully said, Patrick. I too was in the chat and was struck when CC mentioned “The Children’s Hour.” We had to explain it when chat was open after the Q&A to some of the younger or foreign viewers. That suicide was the usual option and that, growing up, Hellman’s play was the only representation of lesbianism I had seen on film (on television at the time.) And throughout the rest of the 60s and 70s, well into the 80s it could only end in death. A few of us speculated that it was discussed by the creative forces behind this amazing story as a way of “redeeming” that sad, old play that was denied a Pulitzer in 1934 for its ‘unseemly’ subject matter. How times have changed. Can we dare hope for a rare happy ending (a la the beloved Helen/Nikki in the brit series “Bad Girls”) for this, undoubtedly at this point, soap super couple? If GL does finish its record-breaking run, they can go out with their heads held high for the way they have approached and told this story. I’m just glad I lived to see something this damn good being told on u.s. tv. It’s like someone finally gets it. I feel vindication. And I don’t sense a single whiff of tokenism or condescension as is often the case. It’s a great love story period.

  22. Patrick,

    You wrote such a lovely piece, and I thank you for writing it. There is nothing that I can say to add what you’ve already said, so just a big thanks to you!

  23. “And in that context, I hope you enjoy and appreciate the fact that in the fictional universe of Springfield, somewhere between the church and Company, the mini-mart and the motel, in the parking lots and park and in the gazebo, two women are finding their way together, a pathway that leads to each other – and a pathway that hopefully will not meet an abrupt and violent end.”

    Your words, and this post, really stuck with me. Well said. I don’t know if the show will change any homophobes’ hearts and minds, but if it gives even one gay person in their lives the hope and strength enough to try to do it and live their life as proud and as happy as can be…That’s why this show and this storyline is so magical, because I think it might do just that. God is love and love is love and all that. And I, for one, could never possibly have enough Otalia. I was kind of floored that CC mentioned ‘The Children’s Hour’ in her chat, b/c that is the quintessential ‘tragic lesbian’ story, the archetype that countless shows and movies have followed. I can only hope that they (the GL producers, writers, actors, etc.) watched movies like that as a primer on what not to do. Or taken hints from some truly beautiful love stories and used those as jumping off points (‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ comes to mind, as does ‘The Sound of Music’, which Olivia does mention) And I really think they did and I have *faith* (oh dear, Natalia and her dimples must be rubbing off on me) that Olivia and Natalia will get their happy ending, even made happier because their story (and I know they’re *just* characters on a TV show) was not trivialized or marginalized or sensationalized or idealized. They are two strong, flawed, amazing female characters, something that in and of itself is a rarity in film or television, much less the fact that we are privy to their deep feelings and professions of love for one another. Ah, I’m rambling. But its a love story for the ages, for sure. And definitely “life-affirming” as ‘collins’ posted above.

  24. Very thought-provoking piece, Patrick (as usual). Otalia does strike a chord because we’re seeing two women exploring same-sex feelings in a real, honest, sensitive way. No sensationalism or appealing to the lowest common denominator. This story line has the potential for shattering more stereotypes and building bridges between people who don’t think they have much in common more than any heavy-handed, purposely labeled “gay” story line ever could. It’s all about love. Period. As the Guiding Light theme says, “Only Love Can Save the World”.

  25. Thank you! Great article. I was taken aback by Crystal’s reference about The Children’s Hour, but for a slightly different reason, although I agree with everything you’ve said here. The Celluloid Closet is a must see! I’ve seen it many times.

    I was excited about The Children’s Hour reference because as soon as I started watching the Otalia story, during the “My Two Mommies” chapter, I immediately thought about that movie/play and the parallels between them. Here was a child’s innocent (in this case) statement about these two women, which creates gossip, and ultimately causes the women to start questioning their feelings for one other – something they may never have done had it not been for the ounce of truth revealed to them by a child. Thankfully, Otalia is the happy version of this story The Children’s Hour couldn’t be. EW and JLH are geniuses!

  26. Patrick – I was deeply moved by your article. It is the most meaningful and relevant discussion I have yet to read regarding the significance of the Otalia storyline. Thank you so much!

  27. Thanks so much for this post. I’m glad someone else noticed the mention of The Children’s Hour and its parallels to the Otalia story. For good or bad, The Children’s Hour is a snapshot of queer history, and though they are not labelling Otalia as a gay or same-sex love story, the parallels to this play and movie are obviously staggering. Hopefully there will be a happier ending to their tale than that of The Children’s Hour.

    Now, I’m not naive enough to think that if Olivia and Natalia get together, they will happily remain together forever — this is the realm of the soap opera, after all — but as you say, these characters are actual characters, not just history-free lesbian characters we’re supposed to immediately accept with open arms. The audience of GL has had a long time to learn to love or hate both Natalia and Olivia and have probably felt both emotions with regards to them. I think it’s because of that history and the fact that this story is being crafted so well, so carefully and yes, so slowly, that the audience as a whole will be able to accept whatever happens between them as just part of their story.

    In the same way that AMC viewers could accept Bianca being a lesbian, due to her ties to Pine Valley, the fact that we saw her grow up, she’s Erica’s daughter, etc, I suspect those long-time viewers of Springfield will at least not be able to argue that Frank and Natalia just aren’t right for each other.

    The show has gone to quite some lengths, IMHO, to point out how right Olivia is for Natalia — how Olivia coached Frank, how Olivia wants to do what’s best for Natalia, how she didn’t want to tell Natalia how she felt, and how even after she did, she dragged her to her own wedding.

    They’ve written Olivia to be really selfless and loving, even if a little bit wrong and scared, and I think the audience will see that there is something genuine between these two characters, and may be able to accept it even if the idea of same-sex relationships isn’t one they normally DO accept.

  28. I should probably wait till my tears have dried and I can think more clearly again but I wont, I want to put my raw first reaction to this post out there.

    I have watched The Children’s Hour once, by chance, on TV. I was alone at home, hadn’t come out to my family yet, hadn’t come out to myself yet. The movie ripped me apart, I cried, a lot, and deep down I knew why it moved me that much, why I was unable to push it away as a piece of fiction.

    I haven’t dared to watch it again since then, seeing those clips puts me back into this place, and it is a dark place.

    But then there is Otalia. Life-affirming, yes. Beautiful. Real. Just like the Children’s Hour it’s affecting me deeply as well but in the exact opposite way. It puts me in a very happy place, and I know I’m sharing this experience with a lot of people.

    Thank you for this piece, Patrick.

  29. Patrick, thank you for this post. You have beautifully articulated why this story, as it is being played out, has really captured the hearts and minds of so many. This really is the story that we have been waiting for. But, it makes it harder in that regard sometimes to let roll off of my back comments by those who would like to see it fade away. I want to explain to them, “don’t you know what this story means to us and how long we have been waiting? You have your stories, let us have one.” That is not to say that those outside of the LGBT community aren’t moved, don’t appreciate, and can’t be part of this story, it just for all of the reasons you articulated this story strikes a special chord for the LGBT community. I just want to protect this story like it is a delicate flower and I want everyone to just let it grow and be beautiful.

  30. I cannot begin to thank you enough for this article. I saw ‘The celluloid Closet’ in the late ’90s, and I believe that it is still as relevant today. As you said, yes, there are many more gay themed films around, but they play simply to a gay audience, the exposure does not go further than that, so although we as a community feel we are being represented more in the media, it simply isn’t true. Mainstream media still doesn’t recognise us beyond scandal and sweeps ratings stunts. This is why story-lines such as ‘Otalia’ are so very important. Crystal blew me away during the live chat, and I have so much praise for her, JLH, EW and Jessica Leccia. THIS is the groundbreaking story. A story with no labels about two people finding each other and finding family. Long may it continue. We Will Keep The Light Shining.

  31. Thank you so much for this article! I wish other soaps would get what GL clearly has gotten. Don’t sensensionalize for the sake of ratings or just to be the first to do it or because it’s edgy. Write well and really think through storylines and people will flock to it, and fall in love with it and the characters if given a chance. Otalia is a prime example of this.

    What I love about this Otalia storyline on GL is the fact that it’s staying away from cliches and the usual pitfalls of what we’re normally used to seeing when it comes to gay/lesbian storylines.

    The fact that they’re two women falling in love is almost besides the point. I’m in it for the true to life, slow-burning, romantic love story that I feel has been missing from television. And the acting and writing is well above all the other soaps. Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia are giving their all to these roles and it shows. And I just wanna reach out and hug Jill Lorie Hurst and Ellen Wheeler for creating this amazing storyline.

  32. Great article! I was also amazed when Crystal mentioned The Children’s Hour impact on story line discussions. I have always had a love-hate relationship with the movie, but watch it everytime its on. I of course loved everything up to that ending which you assumed was done to appease the conservatives of the day. But, the fact that the movie even got made in the 1960’s is amazing. Although not overt, it clearly made the point of what type of feelings these women had for each other.

    The parallels to Otalia are so clear now, I cannot believe I never noticed it before. Two women living together who we see in normal ordinary domestic and work situations, just “living life” so to speak, who just happen to grow to have deeper feelings for each other than simple roommates. And before they can even process or acknowledge these feelings, the actions of a child cause their relationship to be thrust into the spotlight and they are forced to deal with the consequences. And Karen, who I always believed to feel the same as Martha, has her Frank in the form of James Garner’s Dr. Joe Cardin. And instead of a groom left at the alter, we have a broken engagement brought about when Joe confronted Karen about the rumors!

    The performances of both Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine are both absolutely stellar! When Shirley’s Martha has finally reached her breaking point, and bursts out with her emotional declaration of love, and sadly shame, it is shocking in its intensity! The movie had been so quiet up to that point, it really hits home when she finally speaks those words. I had the exact same reaction watching Olivia in the cemetery! And although she might not feel the shame Martha does, she is afraid Natalia does and pushes Natalia to marry Frank so she can be happy, ie. accepted. Forty years later and sadly, it still feels easier to cover up your feelings than to accept them. Hopefully, Otalia can break through this barrier and show the benefits of accepting this love and being happy!

    I believe the reason this movie and Otalia have resonated so much for me is because of the realistic nature of the situations. I can’t say, relate to lesbian vampires or the exploits of a group of successful lesbians living it up in LA or hot lesbian bank robbers, or any other subset we have been potrayed as in movies and television, but I can relate to falling for my best friend and roommate. Definitely, I saw myself in the Martha character when I first saw the movie and it was rather suprising to me. I am sure people whispered the same rumors about my best friend and I as we did everything together, including attending her 5 year class reunion as a couple. But, in my case, there was no interrupted wedding and I had to stand up for her as a bride’s maid.

    And as much as I hated the ending to Children’s Hour, I have to say now, looking objectively at it, I realize now why it bothered me. Because I felt the exact same way and almost had the same outcome as Martha. If not for timely intervention from friends, it would have been the same.

    So, it is my fervent hope that the positive way the love story of Olivia and Natalia has been potrayed can have a significant impact, not only on people originally against these types of relationships, but also on impressionable young people out there who are lost and need a sign of hope.

    Thanks for the great article!

  33. Patrick,

    Thank you for this article.

    As a young viewer, I wasn’t able to properly explain what it was about this story-line that made it so unique, and why it demanded my attention so completely, but thanks to your article, and to some of these very insightful posts I finally have the words.

  34. Thanks for the this article. The reference to the Children’s Hour is exactly what stuck out from the chat for me as well. Its made me re-examine the storyline and its parallels with Otalia. As many people have appreciated the art of this storyline on GL, its a reference like this that really makes me realize just how much thought has gone into making it. It wasn’t luck or a couple good lines with some good actors. I’m extremely impressed, not only as a lesbian excited to see the positive story, but as an artist who has been inspired and a viewer who has renewed optimism in the television platform as an art form.

  35. Wonderful article. It’s amazing really how so many people are getting so much from this storyline. And though soaps are often scorned for what they do wrong (or over the top), this is an example of what they can do best when they commit to it — a long-term, well thought out plot that is able thanks to the daily format to flesh out characters and their lives.

    Note to other posters who have mentioned that this being a soap and all, that of course there won’t be a happy ending.. Can I just say that while they may be the case, I don’t think we should refer to it as inevitable. Crystal herself said this storyline is interactive and viewer response is playing a part. Maybe if we are vocal enough about this being a real, permanent happy ending we’ll get it. Even if the show is picked up and gets a longer run.

  36. Happy early birthday Shirley! She is brilliant, amazing actress and person. I hope they show ‘The Matchmaker’ for her tribute, that movie made me fall in love with her! And of course, ‘Postcards from the Edge’…and ‘Terms of Endearment’…

    I have not read The Celluloid Closet but I have seen parts of the documentary before and it is amazing how far we *haven’t* come…But I just wanted to comment further on how ‘Guiding Light’ has exponentially raised the bar for this ‘type’ of story. No longer will I indulge/watch the pathetic sensationalized ways GLBT folk are portrayed in most mainstream media, especially tv, where two women kissing is the cliche sweeps move. Do it big, do it right or go home, just like Olivia freakin’ Spencer herself would! 🙂

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