What Is One Life To Live Really Up To?
Indeed until very recently, it seemed as if whenever any character on most shows walked into a room of any kind, they were pouring something from something into a glass. General Hospital, AMC and GL were especially guilty as characters could barely unlock the door before they headed to the bar in their living rooms, hotel rooms, or bathrooms. This is fascinating given soaps' generally historical conservatism: at one time, the only people who drank regularly were villians, drunks and the occasional comic relief. Now, again until recently, it has been a rarity to see a soap character without a drink in hand.
I say "until recently" because it seems soap characters in general have decreased their on air drinking over the last couple of months; among the more overt examples is GH's Claudia Zacharra (Sarah Brown), who has been conspicuously grabbing bottles of water from Sonny's well stocked bar. I'm not sure exactly why this turn of events has happened but if my theory is correct, it is notable in OLTL's case for two reasons. The first is that many viewers feel OLTL crossed a line several months ago by having Dorian (Robin Strasser) pour liquor down the throat of recovering alcoholic Charlie (Brian Kerwin) in a revenge plot despite the fact that Dorian's deceased husband Mel was a recovering alcoholic himself and she would "never do that." Could the show as a whole be engaging in a bit of self-reflective penance for Dorian's exceptionally cruel act even as it continues to play with the idea of Dorian's personal guilt via a pseudo-reincarnated "Mel" in the form of a young black woman?
The other is that OLTL seems to be holding up a mirror regarding our legalized national drug of choice and asking us what we see without being preachy or even obvious about it. There was a scene a couple of weeks ago where Nora scolded Marty for staying out all night and drinking even though Marty has lupus. How many people who have serious medical conditions in real life shouldn't drink or party hard yet make the choice to do so anyway regardless of their motivation?
This year's just completed Go Red Ball featured very explicit references to drinking: Todd (Trevor St. John) saying that he wouldn't be able to get through the evening without getting drunk and later getting liquored with his ex-wife Blair (Kassie DePaiva) at the bar; a closeup of champagne glasses filled to the brim as Gigi (Farah Fath) was informed by her sister Stacey (Crystal Hunt) that their parents had died, a subtle reminder that sorrow could be drowned; and after the fight, John is shown quite explicitly looking at and fingering an empty bottle of vodka. Blair even got into the act as seen in the flashbacks to the Go Red Ball's previous night as having downed 6 glasses of liquor before Todd carried her out of the shindig. That close-up of her neatly stacked empty glasses was very deliberate, not a simple segue to the next scene. In fact, roughly half of the characters on Tuesday's episode were drunk with a number of surprising and/or not so pleasant consequences that manifested themselves on Wednesday's show. The sight of Nigel and Clint stripping after losing hands at poker was particularly disturbing to this viewer.
Something as a whole is going on here and I think it's fascinating. As a bit of a disclaimer, I don't drink and never have, but I am far from a prude on the subject. I have no issue with adults drinking, I will take a bottle of wine or champagne to dinner parties as a gift, and I go out to bars with friends. Therefore, this is not some modern version of soap-style prohibition but rather an observation about what seems to be a very subtle thread that is running through OLTL these days. In fact, a great many of the drunken antics on the show have been highly entertaining, but I honestly believe there is more serious subtext at play.
What say you, gentle readers? Do you think I am seeing connections that don't exist? Or is OLTL actually winking, nodding and subtly critiquing at soap opera conventions while using them to fuel story?