Monday, November 27, 2006

The All My Children Transgender Character Stunt

It's all over the entertainment websites that soap opera All My Children is pulling a "groundbreaking" move: adding a transgender character. You'll forgive me if I don't bat an eyelash.

As a former soap viewer, I have to say that this is sort of a non-story. The media hype, on the other hand, is a rather humorous story. AMC's Executive Producer Julie Hanan Carruthers has been quoted as saying "After 36 years, you start rehashing. It's inevitable." So, am I to understand that up to this point, All My Children has been producing completely original storylines? I'd say most soaps run out of "fresh" material after about 3-5 seasons. The characters may look different or have ambiguous genitalia, but the game is the same. Someone steals someone's significant other, someone else is a bitch and a catfight ensues, and someone has amnesia/comes back from the dead/plots a nefarious scheme.

AMC is also getting way too much press for doing something "different" when outlandish shows like Passions have been making viewers suspend their disbelief and knowledge of history, science, and human behavior for years. At one time or another, Passions has had witches, zombies, talking dolls, and a mermaid. My favorite plot point has to be when an elderly character, Edna, had a live-in nurse named Precious. Precious was no ordinary nurse--she was an orangutan. Who wore a nurse's uniform. And fell in love with one of the human male characters. Check out this Wikipedia entry if you don't believe me. There was the standard girl-loves-guy-who-may-be-her-brother plot, but that just distracted from the orangutans.

I'm not criticizing, mind you. I used to enjoy a good man-stealing yarn with the best of them. However, I believe that this silly emphasis on originality is pointless in the soap opera genre. The predictability is comforting, like that one relative at family get-togethers who never fails to say something creepy, dumb, or otherwise bitchy. You don't always pay attention to him or her, but it's nice to know that the person is there.

AMC does get originality points for the transgender character's name, however. Zarf is easily one of the weirdest names ever, and those soap writers get awful imaginative when it comes to names. This guy/gal sounds like something out of the most recent Star Wars movies. Perhaps one of Jar-Jar Binks' friends?

I look forward to hearing more about our friend, Zarf, and all the transgender adventures that s/he's sure to have.