Bad, Bad Form 

I only climb up on The Soap Box when Iím really pissed off about something and today is no exception.  We have gotten a lot of great daily entertainment from ABC soaps.  Iíd hate to do the math that would represent the number of episodes of ABC soaps Iíve watched, 5 days a week for thirty-some years.  Factoring in the number of stories, characters and actors that I have really, really enjoyed versus the ones that have made me puke versus the ones that I didnít care about one way or another would produce very satisfactory numbers.  There have always been really, really bad stories and horrendous blunders on the part of the The Powers That Be.  Itís not anything new, although recent years have shown a greater inclination toward sloppy and sometimes deliberate incompetency than others.  In return for all the entertainment we get, we put up with a lot as well.  Repeatedly, we see the history that we personally watched unfold mutilated, retold (no, you didnít REALLY see that, you just THOUGHT you did) or worse, totally ignored in favor of a whole new story that has nothing to do with what really happened.  We see characters sent away, never to be mentioned again by their families (Billlleeeeeee) and we endure favorite actors leaving only to find talking pieces of cardboard recast in their places.  With the recent trend toward casting for looks rather than talent, ABC might do just as well to save their money, stand up cardboard cut outs of the old, beloved actor and pay someone to do voice overs.  The exceptions have been the casting of Larry Lau as Sam Rappaport on OLTL, A Martinez as Roy DiLucca on GH and Anthony Addabbo as Dimitri Marrick on AMC.  We accept, on a routine basis, mediocre acting as the standard to the point that when a talented actor such as Chad Brannon, Jensen Buchanan, (GH) Addabbo, Josh Dumael (AMC) and Jessica Morris and Linda Dano (OLTL) show up, we laud them as the second coming.  We tolerate the crappy acting because we love the shows (so you know when we are complaining about bad acting, as in Angel Borris and Tamara Braun on GH, they must be baaaad).  Itís all give and take in this holy alliance of us and them, the fans and the creators, and always has been.  We trust them to take care of our characters and our show and deliver a quality product.  Sometimes they do; other times, they let us down.  They trust us to watch the shows, buy the products they advertise (I refuse, however, to become a Remifeminist) and cheer at the fan events.   

What ABC and AMC has done this month is absolutely deplorable and goes above and beyond the typical abuse that we, as fans, accept as par for the course.  Iím talking about the death of a beloved AMC character, Gillian Andrassy Lavery.  Although this occurred on AMC, it is an issue of interest to all ABC viewers because it shows the depths to which they will sink in their manipulation of the fansí affections and emotions.  I want to start off by saying that I was NOT a fan of Gillianís.  The character just irritated the hell out of me and I pretty much cringed when she was onscreen, so Iím not defending her presence on the show or her contribution to any story line.  This is about the handling of a very faithful fan base.   

A soap mag released the info that a show vet would die and gave a list of characters in line for the kill off.  Gillian fans lost their minds, right away sensing that all was not to be well in LaveryLand.  Almost immediately, AMC issued a simple statement assuring fans that Esta TerBlanche, who plays Gillian, was absolutely NOT leaving AMC.  Now, it is obvious that they did not lie.  Este is definitely still with AMC and will be at least until her contract expires in August, possibly even after if she resigns.  Since Gillian is now dead and her heart is in the body of another character, it doesnít take a seasoned analyst to figure out that signing a new contract probably isnít in the cards for Esta.  Once the statement was released, tongues began to wag about who the reaper would come to claim.  Would the irony be that David would have to implant his own heart into Laura?  Hmmm.  Not very likely.  What about the still warm heart of his beloved Dixie?  An intoxicatingly delicious thought, but no, with Dixieís heart problems, she would not be a candidate for transplant and whoever dies has to make Laura live.  Leo?  Would he pay the ultimate price for his new bride?  Not likely, too many people love Leo.  Anna?  Nope.  We already know that she is to be reunited with husband, Robert and transplanted to GH.  Alex?  Nope, she and Dimi leave together and go off into the sunset.  Despite all those issues, fans banked with confidence on the insinuation that AMC had given that Gillian would not die.  Instead, they got to see their pet character get shot in the head, discovered by her handsome new husband (they were planning their honeymoon at the time of her death) who thought she was sleeping (aww) until he saw blood on his hands (gasp!).  They got to see Ryan learn that his princess, his new bride, had no brain activity.  As he worked to reconcile all that through a haze of denial, the donor vultures not only circled, but started pecking and clawing at the two of them until he finally agreed to let them claim the heart of his wife before he was ready to let go.  Now they know that Esta is appearing as Gillianís ghost and we all know that ghosts have a limited tenure on soaps.  Again, TPTB didnít lie; they gave out information that they damn well knew would be misinterpreted by the fans and are probably chortling at their coup.  Yeah.  They really put one over on us.  Boy, are we stupid. 

Hereís why that pisses me off.  Itís about trust.  What The Powers That Be (TPTB) are not only ignoring, but are USING in this case, is the fact that for a lot of people, a soap opera is more than a show.  I have to confess, for me, itís a show.  My soaps, which after many years has only recently reached out to wrap about AMC, are a wonderful source of entertainment that enriches my life enormously and gives me a great deal of happiness.  But itís just a show and the people on it are just that:  people.  They are actors who are doing a job, some better than others, and getting paid, just like the kid who bags your groceries.  The characters are dear to me, but they are still just fictional characters in a fictional town living fictional lives.  That, however, is just my take.  I love my soaps, but they are not my life.  For many, that is not true.  If you go to the buddy board on www.cameronmathison.com, you will find a lot of people who are absolutely devastated by Gillianís death.  There are people out there who are unable to function in their day-to-day life out of grief over the loss of this character.  I get letters from fans BEGGING me to tell them that Gillianís coming back (Look, her heart isnít there, OK?  So itís not likely unless there is a twin floating around or Ryan wakes up to hear the shower running in Dallas sometime soon) and even a few demanding that *I* bring her back.  I might be good, but I ainít Helena Cassadine and this ainít Port Chuckles, city of the walking dead.  Iím just a chick with a computer and a web page and a love for the soaps.  Iím not here to say that this kind of passion for a show or a character is out of line or inappropriate just because I donít share it to that extreme.  Most major characters have fans that feel this way about them and TPTB know this and depend on it.  Itís no secret that spoilers are out there and most of them come directly from info leaked by the show itself.  There are people who like spoilers and some who like to be unspoiled.  People who want to know what is going to happen ahead of time have their reasons and often it is to prepare for traumatic changes in a story.  In this case, TPTB abused their power and took advantage of the trust of the fans.  Itís not about the letter of the truth, which has not been violated in any way, but about the heart of the truth, which was shattered.  The fans prepared NOT to lose Gillian, based on what the network said and they were betrayed as soon as the transplant was performed.  When that happened, there was little hope.   

Personally, I donít care if there are people in charge who like to keep their little stories secret.  It should be the choice of the fans to know or not know whatís coming up in a world where spoilers are leaked.  Despite some of TPTB being rabid against spoiler leakage, it is a fact of the soap world and to intentionally mislead the fans, particularly the ones for whom this is not just another world, but is their world, is just cruel.  There are fans who let Pine Valley, Llanview and Port Charles be where they live.  The most exciting time of the day for them is when AMC rolls around and their day can begin.  They know the citizens of those towns better than they know their own neighbors or the members of their family.  It is a safe, comfortable place for them to be and they trust it to remain that way.  The intentional misleading of those faithful fans is nothing short of a travesty and those who allowed it to happen should be utterly ashamed of themselves.  The customary pat ďABC does not comment on the contract status of actorsĒ would have sufficed just fine.  At least then, fans could have prepared for the possibility of the death of a beloved character and not been blindsided (on purpose) like this.  Iím deeply offended on behalf of those people whose trust was so grievously violated. 

Rant off.

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