In the past month or so, I’ve been curiously wondering how they were going to write Natalia out of the Guiding Light for the duration of Jessica Leccia’s maternity leave – which she wanted to cut short to optimize the remainder of GL’s time on CBS. I have to say, that while I’ve been taking peaks at the spoiler boards to see what was coming up, I have been pretty steadfastly avoiding the speculation thread section on the Big Purple Dreams board, as there has been more negativity abound.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t voice their opinions or that the GLBT community hasn’t been burned tremendously in the past by bad storytelling that has been cliched and trite at times. And I’m very much aware that there are large numbers of people that have come to Guiding Light, specifically for the Otalia storyline and haven’t been interested in the series as a whole, or have never been (and may never be) fans of soap operas. I don’t think everyone should or would go into this with rose coloured glasses on. But we do sometimes need to take a break. Look at things from a different angle. To this date, the writers and performers at Guiding Light haven’t led us any further astray than your typical soap opera fashion.
It is NOT Ellen Wheeler’s or Jill Lorie Hurst’s responsibility to re-write the misdeeds of every other television show or movie out there that has featured a same-sex love story and failed [in people’s eyes]. It is also not their responsibility to show every single aspect of a same-sex love story. It’s not every person’s story, though it is some. It is an ensemble show, not just the Otalia show. Great relationships in soap operas are told over long periods of time. The Bill & Lizzie storyline has only gotten to the really happy stage after two years. Now, I realise with the timing of GL’s cancellation on broadcast television it means that we don’t have all that luxury with Otalia (though it’s been building for more than a year already).
What it *IS*, is a love story between two women; two previously very identified heterosexual women, who as friends slowly began to fall in love with each other, and began to figure out what that means for each other and to themselves. They’ve had to learn to deal with and live with their pasts, and up until recently (April ’09), they have done that very much independently from each other. While Olivia externalizes her feelings, Natalia internalized them, so we did get to see more from Olivia’s perspective. Which sometimes made it hard to understand where Natalia was coming from. Long time viewers had ten years of seeing Olivia and the way she dealt with things. Even newer audiences could see that. Natalia only came on the scene two and a bit years ago, without any real background except she and her son were coming to Springfield to find her old love and son’s father, Nicky/Gus. We didn’t (and still don’t) know much about Natalia’s past other than the fact that she is Catholic. Presumeably from a strict hispanic Catholic background and she got pregnant when she was sixteen years old. And at the time (nineteen years ago), probably had no family support, not many friends to draw upon, and had to try to raise Rafe and support them on very little money all on her own. And more than likely was ridiculed and ostracized by her own Church. That’s a lot to put on a sixteen year old. And so she internalized a lot. Even Rafe was probably unaware of how much his own mother has dealt with while he was growing up.
When the rumour broke about a pregnancy storyline, and it was assumed to be Natalia, a flurry arose on the BPD board with people getting extremely mad that GL was going down this road with the Otalia relationship. And why must yet another lesbian story be relagated to motherhood, and thusly reduce the chances of love scenes being played out. I had to admit, personally, that I was floored by this pregnancy. But only briefly. In seeing (over the past week) how it’s being played out, I truly believe it’s a red herring, that is, something thrown in so you miss the big picture. One, I don’t believe it’s Natalia that is actually pregnant, that it is something else entirely. There are clues being thrown around left, right and centre, if people were looking for them. The OPT test is to test ovulation, not an actual pregnancy test. The fact that even if it HAD been an EPT (early pregnancy test), if ya stick it in your purse, or say leave it too long, you will get a false positive result. 🙂 The vials of blood at the hospital were not labelled. Big clue to a mix-up happening. No other questions like: when was her last period or similar. Other symptoms that could easily be something else. So, whilst Nat takes off to try to get a grip on what she believes at the moment (a pregnancy), it does give 4 weeks of time off for Jessica to have her baby. And Lord knows she needs it. I love Jessica Leccia in her commitment to the show (working up to two weeks before she gave birth) but heavens above, she looked uncomfortable, bloated, and sore. And yes, for the time being, that suited the storyline.
I think in some ways Natalia has reverted to feelings she had when she was sixteen and pregnant. And thinking she’s going to lose Olivia now like she lost Nicky/Gus then. Different circumstances, but in her head, she’s probably there. And she’s terrified. She’s got the realized love of her life, finally, and there’s this big thing that she thinks is going to threaten that. And since, as far as she knows, she is pregnant, she needs to sort things out in her head. If Olivia’s around, she can’t do that. She’d love to be able to, but she reverts to what she used to – internalizing, and unfortunately, running without giving people, namely Olivia, the benefit of the doubt. And she has people in her life who are feeding off her guilt: her own son, Rafe, her ex-fiance, Frank, and her priest, Father Ray and they’re putting it back on her. Outside of Olivia, Natalia has very few friends of her own that we’ve seen (Blake Marler is the most recent), that are supportive, of her and of her relationship with Olivia.
Think of it this way, just as Natalia is going off-screen for a while, Jessica Leccia will be back in front of the screen (at least from the taping stage) next week, July 7th. As they are about 4 weeks taping ahead, we won’t see her on our screens until late July/early Aug, we still have to wait some. But I’m looking forward to what Olivia’s story will be.
On another note, relating to the ensemble cast and the writing. Jill Lorie Hurst is knocking the scenes out of the park, whether they be full of angst or sadness, or full of humour, it’s been wonderful. Sometimes the humour is quiet and subtle, other times blatant and downright hilarious. I can’t think of anyone who’s been ‘phoning in’ their scenes. They’re having fun when and where they can, and making the best of an untenable situation. I really do enjoy the ensemble aspect of the cast. I heart them all for that.
To me, the writers are bringing things all together. The families, the drama and comedy are being interwoven in ways many soaps have rarely done without messing things up. Watching the Bauer Independence Day was a lot of fun, despite some of the characters going through some heavy sadness (Olivia, Phillip, Shayne, Reva, etc.). Phillip’s speech towards then end left me with tears in my eyes. The references to Bertie Bauer, one of the original characters, was perfect. Drawing parallels to past and present. And things being set up for the end of the line (on CBS broadcast television). As much as I dread the idea of the show ending, I’m geared up for what they’re going to show us. The future is not written in stone, but imbedded into our hearts and minds.