December 4, 2006
Defined By All My Children
I have spent the past couple of months in quiet contemplation of the state of the three soaps that I watch: AMC, OLTL & GH. While I chose the play on words with "All My Children" in the title of this piece, it's actually about all three shows and how the children on the soaps define their adult parents.
Perhaps not the younger of you so much, but those of us who remember things like 8-track tapes, dial phones and the Oscar Meyer Wienie Whistle were often told that we are a reflection on our parents and that whatever we do shapes public opinion of how we were raised and therefore, contributes to the overall social composite opinion of our parents. Mind you, I do still believe that is true; however, kids are rarely told such things any more because it might make them self-conscious (dare I say "self-aware?") and "feel bad" if they are reflecting poorly on their family.
That thought gave me pause to consider how the children, adult or not, on the shows reflect on their own fictional parents. Admittedly, I have almost no experience with historical AMC, so that information might be a little patchy for me, but I will do my best.
Get Martinized: As I understand it, between Mona, Ruth and Joe, the wise and loving, Robert Young and Barbara Billingsly side of All My Children was nailed down in aces. Two thirds of that perfect parenting team was manned by the Martins, who, in theory, taught their children, biological and adopted, the value of all things ethical and that being a Martin is the most important task anyone can ever hope to accomplish. I never knew Tara or the mysteriously missing Bobby. They were before my time, which for me, leaves Tad and Jake to reflect back on the Martins. My impression is that they both aptly represent the Martins with their self-important way of engaging the world, confident that what they need, think and want is more essentially vital (or vitally essential) than anyone else's. Judgmental when others fail to meet their lofty standards, yet event-effacing when they don't quite measure up seems to be the Martin way. Score in representing the overall family values: A+ [I'd address the issue of Opal here except that Tad seems to have lost any ounce of Opalization be might have ever had]
The Kane Girls: Kendall, Bianca and Josh. I classify Josh as one of the Kane girls because for all of his bluster and ego, he really is Erica's bitch every bit as much as is Kendall. I was not privy to the Sarah Michelle Gellar Kendall time (although I am a tremendous Buffy fan), so I can only judge by the Alicia Minshew years I have experienced. As soon as she appeared, I was blown away by the casting. She looked like Erica's daughter. I also can't testify much to how Erica reflects on Mona, so I'll have to pass on that one since she was already dead by the time I got to her. Josh and Kendall are by far the perfect examples of what the offspring of someone as self-involved and narcissistic as Erica Kane would be and they were not even raised by her. Josh was raised by an ego-maniac who liked to play God and his fragile wife who saw her unknowingly adopted son as the second coming. Since Erica sees Bianca as the first second coming and likes to play God herself a good bit, the fate button is hard to miss in this one.
Kendall is a wreck, just as anyone raised by someone as self-absorbed as Erica would be, even though by all accounts, Kendall was raised by a kind, loving adoptive family. Guess that was an undodgeable DNA bullet that just would not be denied.
After years of playing the "I aborted you/adopted you out fair and square" card time and again, to all appearances, Erica seems prepared to settle down into claiming All Her Children and holding down the role of the glam fam matriarch.
Bianca, the "wanted" baby Erica actually kept, is a whole other story. Moving through the "you aren't gay, you're just drawn that way" moments of Bianca's life must have been a real tragedy for Erica considering that by her way of thinking, Bianca can do no wrong. Since Bianca tends to think the same way, I'd say that's a winning situation for all concerned parties. I was laughing the other day when Bianca asked "Why does everyone come to me for answers? I'm not a magic 8 ball!" Well, maybe it's because when she lived here before, she was constantly ordering everyone around and telling them what they should and should not be doing with their lives. People tend to camp onto that sort of thing. Did the whole tragedy of losing her baby and then finding her again, only to lose her BFF in the process change Bianca's superior take on the world? We hardly got a chance to find out before she flew off to Paris, so perhaps as she travels through the transgender story with Zarf, we will discover who she is now after all that she has experienced.
Here is where my middle-class, middle-aged, heterosexual ignorance is going to be paraded out for all to see because although I am very open minded as far as such things go, I am decidedly uneducated in the lingo and specifics of things like transgender progressions. Although Zarf is enchanted by Bianca - I'm sorry, in LOVE with Bianca - and has been kissing on her, which she has allowed, I am at a loss trying to sort out the present knowledge with upcoming spoiler info. We do know that Bianca is a lesbian. That has been both outright stated and more than adequately demonstrated. We do know that Zarf is a guy who is a transgender, or so we are told by the spoilers. So if he is a woman trapped in a man's body and he is attracted to Bianca, does that me he is actually a lesbian trapped in a man's body? Is he a man in a man's body with the Tab A - Slot B polarized sexual attraction, i.e. to Bianca, but wants to wear pretty clothes and have boobies? Did he not come there seeking out his Goddess, Babe, only to be confronted by another Goddess, Bianca, neither of whom is decidedly male? If he actually is a lesbian trapped in a man's body and is going to go through the sex change process, does that mean that Bianca is a lesbian who is attracted to his woman energy and spirit that just has the misfortune to currently and mistakenly be driving around a man flesh car?
But I digress... we were talking about kids reflecting on parents and I have to say, I think that Bianca most accurately reflects the image Erica would like to present to the world as a parent (Although I think if Erica had her druthers, she'd probably lose both the lesbian albatross around her neck - no matter what she says, I still don't think she's at peace with her daughter's sexuality at all - as well as the sweet baby that is making her a granny and reminding her of her own mortality. She might love that kid, but it's obvious that the whole grandmother thing puts a chill up her tiny spine).
Kendall and Josh, however, the disposable children of her past, more accurately reflect the reality of having a mother who thinks only of herself to the exclusion of anything else. AMC is working way too hard to show us how alike Jeff and Josh are, but I'm not buying it.
All three Kane Kids get an A where it pertains to Erica, just for different reasons.
The Jackson 2 - I find it fascinating how well Lily and Reggie (where ever he is) represent the two sides of Jack. Lily is the side that is logical, guarded and practical to a fault and Reggie is the side that is impulsive, protective, alpha-male. Interestingly enough, those pro-active, extroverted qualities are reflected through Reggie as (literally) a dark side. A there as well.
Martin Lite - Sadly, my experience with Brooke has been minimal, reduced to the dismal and dank courtship between her and Edmund seconds before Maria came back and a marvelous fling with Adam in a bar. I can say, however, that to my mind, Jamie comes off as the perfect Tad, Jr. He's flirty and funny and protective and persistently confused and in short, everything Tad should be at his best. I do think I have figured out how Brooke will be written off the show. I think she'll find out Jamie is living with Julia and implode or spontaneously combust. Oh God. I just had a Brooke flashback... I also recall having watched that hideous "Laura's going to die, Leo, please marry her" story. I must have temporarily blocked it from my memory from the trauma. Jamie gets an A for his Tadness and a C for his Brooke-ness or overall lack thereof.
Chandler Extreme - JR is just about as crazy as someone in his situation should be, given Dixie and her idiocy and Adam and his bat-shittedness. Like Dixie, he does all of the wrong things for all of the wrong reasons and expects everyone to just understand, just because. Like Adam, he rants and bitches and bosses people around, demanding this and decreeing that. It doesn't make for a nice package, but I'll give him a B for almost making the grade. He's still an amateur compared to his parents.
Colby seems nothing like the daughter Liza would have raised with the standards she seemed to employ when she left the show, so maybe this is another of those magic DNA bullets that could not be dodged by geographical inconveniences. She definitely acts like a bitch Chandler princess would act, but does not possess the charm or strength that Adam used to have before he became Carey-ized. I'll give her a C.
HellaBella - Apples don't fall far from their tree and Babe is definitely a chip off the old whore. She doesn't have her daddy's shrewdness, his intelligence or his overall sense of discernment. Despite popular Pine Valley opinion, she sure as hell does not have his charm. Babe gets a A for her Krystalness and a D- for having so little of David Hayward in her. (I'd sure like to have a little/lot of David Hayward in me, but we'll not go there for now)
Oh Dani Girl - Who knows? We never see her OR Derek any more.
I'll be back with OLTL and GH thoughts on the subject soon.