Mar 17, 2014

Not-Gay Bullying on "One Life to Live"

During the last decade, conflicted gay teenagers have become a staple of daytime soap operas. But not the long-running One Life to Live, which I watched occasionally after Dark Shadows when I was a kid.

The most you can hope for are gay subtexts, like the bromance between Trevor St. John and Dan Gauthier, or the "non-gay" bullying plotline of 2011.

Shane Balsom (Austin Williams, left) came to Llanview in 2007, and was embroiled in plotlines involving paternity, not liking Mom Gigi's boyfriend, and being diagnosed with leukemia.

But by February 2011, he was 14 and a gay-vague high schooler, and he became the target of bully and all-around bad guy Jack Manning (Andrew Trischitta, top photo).

No anti-gay slurs were used, but the homophobic context was made obvious when Jack stole Shane's clothes and then posted naked pictures of him on Myface.  Shane was so upset that he attempted suicide, got a psychological evaluation "to cope," and dealt with the situation by dropping a barbell on Jack's foot.

Shane remained a gay-vague bullying victim through the next year, with plotlines involving Jack killing Gigi, but not really, Shane shooting Jack, but not really, and Shane hiring Jack's girlfriend to secretly record a confession. Finally he and his mother and new stepfather went to England, where they hoped he wouldn't be bullied so much.

Ever hear of punishing the bully?

Why didn't the writers explicitly identify Shane as gay?  Head writer Ron Carlivati explains his heterosexist reasoning here.  The answer: lots of heterosexual kids get bullied, too. We wanted this to be a human story, not a gay story.

I've heard that heterosexist nonsense before: everyone can relate to stories about heterosexuals -- it's universal human experience -- but no one who isn't gay could possibly relate to a story about gay people.

No word on whether either of the bully-victim duo is gay in real life.

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