Fan favorite soap opera "Days of Our Lives" has been doing a pretty good job introducing their gay male characters. Much like "All My Children" and "As The World Turns," the show was smart enough to integrate the characters into prominent families as kids we have literally watched grow up on television (sometimes a little faster than in reality, but that's another post.)
So I was a little taken aback last week when I was browsing through the recaps and caught what I thought was a reference by Hope Williams Brady (Kristian Alfonso) to arch-villain Stefano DiMera being confined to a small prison cell with "Bubba." Whhaaaatttttt?
Take a look at the clip after the break. It features Hope, hubby Bo, John and Marlena locked away in protective custody because Stefano is after a coin. Yeah, you probably need to read the recaps to catch up because it involves mind control, a fake European country, and nary a mention that John Black (and by default his wife Marlena) are - in fact - DiMeras. Ahem.
This episode aired on NBC on Monday, April 30, 2012. Around the 7:09 mark in this specific clip, you'll catch Marlena, John and Hope commenting on their presumption that Stefano will soon be behind bars (cue soap music.)
Marlena: I'd like to be a fly on the wall to watch him pace that tiny jail cell.
Hope: ...with his cellmate, Bubba.
Secret Agent Man With British Accent: Remind me never to get on your bad side.
OK, I have a problem with this on several levels.
First, "Days Of Our Lives" writers have undoubtedly been researching LGBTQ issues for months as they write the script for Sonny Kiriakis and Will Horton. Surely, surely, surely they know that a snide reference to being raped in prison is homophobic? How could they not? The reaction of the unknown ISA agent simply proves the point that Hope was being well, vicious.
Second, Hope Brady is a cop who has gone to jail out of a sense of duty to "the right thing" as well as broken up a serious prison based scheme to sell inmate body parts. You can assume that she understands some nuances of what happens in jail/prison and wouldn't make a misinformed off-the-cuff comment. She's one of the good guys, the girl next door - smart, sexy, and one of the show's heroines, if not the heroine. Wishing rape on someone is completely out of character and the awkward scene illustrates this.
Aside: Hope was recently turned into her alter-ego Princess Gina by Stefano, but the power of love brought her back. I don't think this was some sly indicator that Princess Gina is really in control. (Yes, I took deep breaths to write that with a straight face.)
Third, Sonny Kiriakis is Bo's cousin and the son of Hope's good friend, Justin. Will Horton is her cousin and Bo's great-nephew. Prior to the return of Marlena the Good, Hope had been filling the role of wise elder in her family - advising Will's mom, Sami, among others. It is pretty hard to believe she would not be conscious that jokes about rape involving a man preying on another man might reflect on her loved ones' lives. Granted, Bo and Hope do not yet know Will is gay so making this comment in front of his grandparents (Marlena and Roman) is not intentional, but Marlena couldn't even lift an eyebrow? Marlena knows Will is gay.
All of these characters know Sonny is gay and there's been nary a hint that Hope Brady is a homophobe. So I don't think this was intended to be some sort of storyline foreshadowing about rejecting Will à la Lily Walsh Snyder on "As The World Turns" rejecting her son, Luke, or Bobbi Jean Spencer Jones of "General Hospital" rejecting her son, Lucas. Let me pause to say that I am fervently hoping that Will's mom, Sami Brady, is the supportive understanding parent in this scenario - she needs a few good mom moments.
I rarely actually watch "Days Of Our Lives;" I just read the daily recaps. The fact that this even caught my attention shows how this single line of dialogue is completely out of character. I went to YouTube to find the scene and that reinforced my sense that this is a case of the writers' just utterly sucking at their job in this scene; there's no way Hope Brady would make such a hateful comment. No way, not even about Stefano whom she has every reason to hate.*
My final issue is that "Days Of Our Lives," like all soaps, has explored the issue of sexual assault and rape. Hope's BFF and cousin Jennifer Horton Devereaux was raped by Lawrence Alamain. Hope's niece Stephanie Johnson was raped as part of a serial rapist storyline a few years ago. Sami - the above mentioned niece - was raped by EJ DiMera (oh boy, just realized that ties in so poorly) in one of soap's awful "Was it rape or seduction?" plot lines à la Luke and Laura on General Hospital.
There's more. Bo's sister, Kayla, was raped by Jack Devereaux (Jennifer's now-husband). Sonny's mother, Adrienne (also Jack's sister) was raped by her biological father, Duke. I'm sure I'm missing something. Hope herself was almost raped by ex-husband, Larry.
While some of these stories were carried out with good writing and clear social messages, others were beyond ridiculousness and just plain awful. But let's pretend Hope is a real person - does it make sense that she would joke about rape?
No, it does not. It does not make any sense that Hope would utter this line. And its not a throwaway - it reinforces terrible stereotypes, suggests that that some people "deserve" to be raped, and it does all these things in the hands/lips of one of the show's most influential characters.
I contacted the show for a response to this concern. I also reported it as defamation. The very last thing we need is a soap opera regressing on either the issue of sexual violence or the inclusion of LGBTQ characters into their storylines. If they want to explore someone's "rejection" of the gay young men, fine. But it makes no sense that Hope would be that person and/or that she would be unaware of how her careless comment would hurt many of her loved ones.
Soap opera fail. If "Days Of Our Lives" wants to survive a few more years, promoting gay bashing jokes is not the way to win the hearts and minds of LGBTQ viewers. Or anyone.
*SPOILER ALERT:Wait until she finds out she's the mother of his son!