I had another post ready to go (coming soon), but I had to say something after reading that DAYS had Chase attack and rape Ciara Brady this past week.
I’ll confess that I haven’t seen much of DAYS since the anniversary episodes, but this sequence of events has made me think about sexual assault and soaps.
And I wonder how much seeing those assaults play out on these shows has affected how people perceive these assaults, and the victims of these assaults.
I think soaps have a lot to answer for in terms of how they’ve depicted attackers, and shows must own up to some of the messages they’ve sent over the years.
Rape as a storyline was, in my old eyes, used sparingly in the past, and when it made sense. There was rarely ambivalence in the telling of that story; the attacker was bad, and he’d have to be punished.
If there was any ambivalence played out at all, it was in the depictions of marital rape like Guiding Light’s Roger and Holly. Which played into a compelling narrative of: Who owns your own body in a marriage?
But at roughly the same time as Roger and Holly’s story played out in Springfield, the famous Luke and Laura story played out on General Hospital.
The one where Luke, who raped Laura, was later said to have “seduced” her. That is, when she fell in love with him.
Yes, that story was re-examined, even by GH itself, and yes, Luke eventually faced his actions.
But it still doesn’t take away from the precedent that was set. Rapists, it seemed, could be redeemed.
Some, like Luke, One Life to Live’s Todd and DAYS‘ EJ Dimera, could go on to have consensual sex or even relationships and marriages with their victims.
Others, like Lawrence and Jack on DAYS and Franco on GH, would go on to play romantic figures with other female characters – formerly smart women whose intelligence was decimated by such a decision.
Longtime readers know that I’m not a fan of darkness for darkness’ sake, or as a device just to goose ratings.
This new DAYS storyline, involving two of the show’s newest characters, seems to exist only to help define their currently shapeless beings. Which is an AWFUL reason to play out a story about assault.
It also adds insult to injury re: the show’s decimation of the Aiden Jennings character. Dad’s a psycho and the son’s a rapist! It truly feels as if the show is written Mad Libs style, by picking suggestions from slips of paper in a giant barrel.
I have a friend who is an amazing writer (I worked with her, briefly) and she’s shared the aftermath of sexual assault – her aftermath, her journey – with the world at large. She still faces those effects today.
She’s dealt with many feelings, some complicated, and indeed, she says she wonders about his life. But she wasn’t ‘healed’ by the next sweeps period. She’s moved forward, but her story remains part of who she is.
This is what I wish fiction, daytime, nighttime, film, would, and should, do a much better job of showing. In daytime, the frequency of episodes is a wonderful format to more adequately show impact and recovery over a long period of time.
I love serial drama, but we have to own up to the fact that, quite frankly, a fair number of our shows have broadcast shitty, awful stories about sexual assault, or the men involved in perpetrating those attacks.
These questionable stories add fuel to the fire of inane, insane arguments questioning the victim’s reliability. (This onscreen event, and this post, come in the same week that singer Kesha lost her legal plea to break away professionally from her attacker.)
True, there have been many excellent stories over the years, showing the seconds and minutes after an attack, showing the immediate recovery of a victim. But after she’s “recovered,” the event is rarely revisited. (GH’s Laura and ATWT‘s Margo are two exceptions that come to mind.)
Maybe I’m judging the DAYS story too soon, but given the rest of the canvas, I have no hopes that this will be a nuanced examination of a young woman’s struggle to feel safe and empowered.
I think it’s just another brick in the wall, adding to the unrelenting misery porn that DAYS has become, the town filled with murders, attacks and rapes, with stranglers and psychotic women.
And this is our most romantic show?
EDITED TO ADD: Yup, didn’t even take into consideration the Ava/Steve ugliness.