Soaps and the family tree

Double trouble: Julianne Moore as Frannie and Sabrina

Double trouble: Julianne Moore as Frannie (l) and Sabrina (r) 

As I’ve mentioned here before in previous years, I’m a bit of an ancestry geek.

I researched my tree a few years ago, and while I didn’t find all the answers I was looking for, I did get a much deeper, broader sense of who I was and where I came from — as well as a much fuller appreciation of my parents, not just as my parents, but as people.

I’m an avid fan of many of the TV shows that talk about ancestry, and one is PBS’ Finding Your Roots.

So I was excited to see that Julianne Moore would be featured on this week’s show – Tuesday, February 9. (Check your local PBS station for exact dates and times; the show will also be available on Apple TV’s PBS “station” the next day, for free.)

I’ve loved many of her movies, and her Oscar win is well deserved. (I won’t go into how she should have won it for Far From Heaven. Really, I won’t.)

But of course, to us soap fans, a little of her will always be Frannie and Sabrina from As The World Turns.

I’ve been talking about “the romance of family” as a concept lately.

No, I don’t mean kissing cousins, a la Jonathan and Tammy on GL.

The concept is one that TPTB have failed to understand over the last 20 years or so – that fans want to see the ups and downs of a family, but ultimately want to see a family that loves each other, goes to bat for each other, would kill for one another.

When I was a suicidal gay teenager with a barrier the size of the Berlin Wall between my parents and I, GL and ATWT were a lifeboat for me. I don’t think I’m exaggerating.

I’ve said before that I dreamt that Bob and Kim were my parents, and I did. I wanted to live in the Hughes house, where Gran was always there to share wisdom and support, where friends were always dropping by, where no one was ever alone for the holidays.

I loved the friendships too, like Barbara and Lisa. The scenes with Hank Eliot, and his friendships with Iva, Barbara and Shannon are ones I remember to this day.

But one story in particular resonated with me. It was the story revealing Sabrina’s existence.

The background of that story has been discussed here before, and my friend and fellow soap traveler Lynn Liccardo has also covered it as well.

Reuniting Kim and Bob with their child was a full circle moment in creator Irna Phillips’ last major story, one that closely reflected her own life.

But at 17, I had no idea that was the case. I just knew that this story somehow touched at something I could not then put into words.

The thing that struck me, the thing that truly rang like a bell inside of me, was that these two people (and of course, Frannie too) fought villains and obstacles for their child. They loved her, and they quite literally went to the ends of the earth for her.

(Scenes from that reunion are part of this fan video.)

I say this not to drag you into my own experience, not really. The point is that it’s a universal thing that resonates with many of us. (I suspect that’s why so many LGBT people are soap fans – because we saw that unconditional love from families like the Hughes, the Snyders, and so on.)

And it was the family ties that so often got the ax first! The producers thought it was the over the top loons, the constant spinning roulette wheel of sex partners, or the parade of death and violence that kept viewers glued to their screens.

The thing they thought was outdated and hopelessly archaic? Was the glue holding many of the shows together.

I’ll be watching Julianne this week, but I admit: I’ll be thinking a bit about Frannie, about Kim and Bob, and about all those old Oakdale friends, wondering what they’re up to these days.

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