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In the wake of some sad news in the world of daytime dramas, I feel the need to pay a little tribute.

A little back-story: I was raised on soap operas. My mother has watched All My Children since before I was born, so I inevitably grew up watching it (and others later). Odd as it might sound, some of my earliest memories are of soap scenes. I've "known" some soap characters my whole life, and they feel like relatives. I rarely post about my soaps because it would be like posting about what your relatives are doing every day-- why?

Anyway, this little PSA is about a particular soap couple-- a gay soap couple.

I've been watching soaps long enough (twenty-three years if you count my whole life) to have seen every attempt American daytime soaps have made at introducing gay characters onto the scene. I can count them all on one hand, and the transition has not always gone smoothly. The first gay kiss on a soap, years after the first gay character had been introduced, was an entirely chaste, closed-mouth peck between Bianca and Lena, the first lesbians on All My Children. After weeks of hype, excitement from some and sheer terror from others, it was hilariously anticlimactic. Later, they would give Bianca another on-screen lover in the form of Reese, and they would have the first gay soap wedding-- and the first gay divorce just days later.

Another soap, One Life to Live, did them one better. The Kyle Lewis and Oliver Fish romance, called "Kish," has been the best-handled gay romance ever attempted on a soap. Oliver was already on the soap as a recurring character for a while before Kyle, a conflicted bad boy, arrived on the scene. We soon discovered that they had been frat brothers in college, where they had a fling as Oliver experimented with his sexuality. Kyle, never conflicted and always in love with Oliver, had an uphill battle with Oliver as he remained in the closet and denied his attraction. Finally, after lots of angst, UST, a love triangle, an illegitimate child, and a thwarted marriage (yes, this is a soap)-- they're together, in love, and happy.

What makes Kish stand out from the rest is that they have been written with the same respect and care as any straight soap couple. The writers and actors haven't shied away from anything. The below clip is of their first onscreen kiss (followed by many others), and it's a far cry from its predecessors.



Hell, they even got a love scene-- the first and only for a gay couple. Sure, there's a lot of cut-away shots to burning candles, but that's par for the course in daytime. The point is that Oliver and Kyle were allowed to be "real" characters in all their human dysfunction. No pretending that gay people are either magical unicorns or sexless eunuchs. They've been damn fun to watch and a heck of a lot more compelling than some of their straight counterparts on the show this past year-- thanks both to some excellent writing and very brave performances by the actors.

Now, for the sad part. After only two years on the canvas, One Life to Live producers have given the boot to Kyle and Oliver, firing the actors and ending their characters' storylines this upcoming month. Some anonymous source has implied that the firing was due to "unprofessional conduct" on the actors' parts during shooting, with the implication that Brett Claywell (Kyle) was uncomfortable playing some of his gay scenes with actually-gay Scott Evans (Oliver). Anyone familiar with Brett Claywell knows this to be bullshit, and he released a statement, saying,

"It's amazing to me that two people can put so much of their heart into a story that can be so passionate and serious and tell a story as honestly and as truthfully as we tried to and just open our hearts to the world and just try to make a difference, try and touch people and stories like this will come out that are absolutely, 100% false ... I'd love for anyone to watch one day of any of the work we've done and tell me that Scott and I were not 100% committed to what we were doing. We were so dedicated to our work. It's hurtful. I'm really offended that someone would make completely false claims. I'm angry. It's slander."

The true reason for their firing is much sadder, which is that they supposedly "didn't catch on with a mainstream audience." Bullshit they didn't. Kish has become a hugely popular soap couple. Just check out YouTube to see how much people don't care about this couple. The truth is that the soap world still isn't entirely comfortable maintaining a long-term gay storyline. Several gay characters have been introduced only to be quietly erased from the show as soon as the shock factor has played itself out.

And it's a damn shame.

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starvinbohemian

May 2010

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