You Have Changed Me
"You have changed me."
Those desperately uttered words have perfectly and succinctly summed up the sick, twisted and ultimately riveting story line of Todd and Marty on One Life to Live.
I use the word "riveting" in its purest sense: not to imply something that is entertaining or enjoyable for entertainment's sake alone, but rather as a thing that keeps our attention for better or worse, against whatever other instincts that might ask us to look away. In other words, this story line of compounded lies and grand delusion has kept many of us as glued to the screen as a car accident might induce a chronic case of rubbernecking or a nasty lover's quarrel in a supermarket might cause us to turn and watch. Yes, this is the story we thought "they" would never tell, but there is a question lurking just beneath the surface reactions for those fans titillated by the prospect of the loathsomely nicknamed "Tarty" and those other fans filled with disgust and anger:
Exactly whose story has been told?
The first and rather obvious answer is that this story has been Todd's, not Marty's. I certainly understand the idea that this tale should have also been hers and yet may take that turn, but I would rebut that Marty's story has more or less been successfully told. Through the years (and one recast), Marty has gone from promiscuous party girl to rape victim to rape survivor to empowered woman. Marty took her violation, her anger, her rage, and her devastation and turned her life into one full of meaning and purpose as a psychiatrist and mother to Cole. No matter what plot lines were thrown in her way, Marty eventually emerged from the horrific night of the gang rape as someone capable of trust and love years later. In short, Marty was forever changed by the rape, but she found a way to not be solely defined by it.
Todd is a different story. No matter what Todd has done since he was first convicted of raping Marty, his world has not changed. Oh yes, he foud love with Tea, married Blair a thousand times, had a great relationship with Starr, loves Jack, cares for little Bree, has been protective and even compassionate toward his family and one or two people who might have passed as his friends. Most importantly, Todd has sought forgiveness from Marty and tried to set things right, eventually reaching an understanding of sorts with her. However, forgiveness does not always erase a debt, a memory or pain.
At the end of the day, Todd has always been Todd the Rapist. It always comes back to that definition, doesn't it? Not even being raped by Margaret changed that equation. It is the destructive self-loathing of being Todd the Rapist that has defined Todd Manning since he was the ringleader in Marty's gang rape and the many psychological and even physical crimes he has committed mainly against women before Marty and ever since. Todd has known this all along. Todd has wanted to "fix" it. Todd has wanted to change, but has never been able to bring himself to completely do so, backsliding time and time again into the abyss of his self-loathing and anger, lashing out at the world for hurting him in ways real and imagined. If the focal point of Todd's self-loathing has been the night he raped Marty, there was only one person could truly "fix" Todd: Marty.
This is why this story has always made sense to me as a psychological thriller, despite its horrific implications. A man who has done great, irredeemable wrong sees and takes advantage of an opportunity for the ultimate "do over" with the one person he has hurt above all others. In many respects it is every "what if" conversation we've ever had, every "apology" we've ever wish we could have given, every love story we wish we'd been able to reinvent despite our own mistakes magnified a thousand times. In Todd's world, amnesia did not happen to Marty. Marty's amnesia happened for Todd. This is where some critics have missed the point in their insistence that if Todd wanted to be the hero, he would have revealed an alive Marty to her friends and loved ones, thereby reaping the glory as a result. Todd never wanted be a hero to everyone else; he only wanted to be the hero in Marty's eyes.
Marty's amnesia provided Todd with an excuse to use her as a tabula rasa by rewriting the past, in every case a role reversal of all that had gone before. In Todd's rewritten script, he cast Marty as the smart but flirtatious ingenue instead of the promiscuous and rowdy wild child in college. He cast himself as the lovestruck nerd with a huge crush who couldn't get her attention instead of the sullen and angry frat guy who'd orchestrated her vicious sexual assault. Todd further rewrote himself as a misunderstood loner who was failed by his wife and child, not the sociopath who had driven nearly everyone in his life away. And, in the most symbolic role reversal of all, Marty was not held against her will in his home as he nurtured her back to health as opposed to her helpless subjugation and degradation that he was responsible for at the frat house many years ago.