“Passions” Goes Boldly, and Badly, Where No Soap Has Gone Before

Rae and SimoneRae and Simone

When pondering how the history of televised GLBT representation would go, few believed daytime drama would play a large role. But in 2000, ABC’s All My Children took a big leap forward when Erica Kane’s daughter Bianca (Eden Riegel) became the first core gay character on a daytime drama–and one who was loved by millions of viewers.

At the time, many in the industry commented on the limits that would be put on the character, predicting that she would be completely de-sexualized. They were right to some degree, but All My Children did break some barriers, including showing daytime’s first on-screen same-sex kiss. Aside from one chaste morning-after scene of Bianca in bed with her girlfriend, however (and another when she and a friend pretended to be in bed together to make someone jealous), AMC always stopped short of showing overt scenes of lesbian sexuality beyond a kiss (and usually a rather chaste one, at that).

But in the summer of 2005, a few months after Bianca finally departed All My Children, rumors started circulating that two shows were taking a page from ABC and writing gay stories involving core characters. One such story has yet to start airing on General Hospital and will feature a young man.

The other involved a young African American woman coming out on NBC’s Passions, a newer soap considered by many to be the ugly stepchild of the genre. Not only are the plot lines usually completely outrageous (talking dolls, witches, animals in love with humans, a Tsunami, etc.) but the acting and writing tend to be on the weak side.

Passions’s lesbian storyline finally debuted last month, with the show’s usual lack of subtlety, as Simone (Cathy Jeneen Doe) returned to the town of Harmony after a few-months absence with a secret: she’d never really left town at all. The audience is given hints that the reason was very big and quite scandalous, and eventually the viewers and Simone’s family learn that Simone had been staying with another woman, Rae (Jossara Jinaro), with whom she has fallen in love.

The story unfolded fairly clumsily. The first rule of daytime drama is slow-paced development, to allow the audience to see the world through the character’s eyes. Simone’s coming out to her mother Eve (Tracey Ross) was done off-camera, to be used later on as plot filler for Eve’s current criminal trial. An opportunity to allow the audience to see this sensitive exchange play out in real time was thrown away so that they could shock the audience with material a few days later. Instead, the audience is only shown the aftermath of the conversation, when Eve is expressing support for her daughter–for what, we don’t yet know.

Fast forward to the August 31st episode, when we see Simone at the apartment of Rae, who is introduced to the audience for the first time. More abstract conversation takes place, until it becomes pretty clear Simone is more then friends with this woman. Simone asks if she can stay at Rae’s apartment, Rae says yes, and then we see Simone lying in bed, as Rae enters the room and sits on the edge of the bed with her feet safely planted on the floor. As the scene progresses, Rae moves off the bed, as if to leave Simone to get some rest.

But this is where the show unexpectedly set new standards for same-sex representation on soaps, with a daringly honest (if fairly tame compared to most heterosexual sex scenes) depiction of lesbian sexuality.