The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, June 18
June 18th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Daytime Soap Introduces First Gay Teen Character: 1992. The daytime dramas known as soap operas had been a staple of radio, and then television, for some sixty years, but by the 1990s, the genre was looking increasingly tired and outdated thanks to the popularity of daytime talk shows like Jerry Springer, Sally Jesse Rafael and Rikki Lake. With the soaps now competing with real-life drama (or at least a facsimile thereof) from these sensationalistic talk shows, producers understood that they needed to bring their story lines to the 1990s or loose whatever audience they still had.
ABC’s One Life to Live, which had been on the air since 1968 with a story line tackling women’s issues and race, seemed the obvious candidate to run a new story line exploring homophobia and the difficulties of being a gay teen. Billy Douglas (played by Ryan Phillippe), a newcomer to the town of Lianview, was reluctant to tell anyone about his homosexuality, especially his parents. He did, however, confide in the town’s compassionate pastor, Rev. Andrew Carpenter. But a scheming woman who Carpenter scorned (there’s always at least one in a soap opera) began circulating rumors around town that the pastor had been molesting Billy. In a dramatic scene, the entire town, led by Billy’s parents, confronted Carpenter and demanded that he resign, the pastor delivered a riveting sermon against the evils of prejudice and homophobia. This led Billy to take a public stand in support of Carpenter — and to come out to his parents.
In 2010, Phillippe talked about what it was like to play a gay teen in 1992:
Me and the guy who played my boyfriend might’ve held hands once or twice, but that was it. The age of those characters had something to do it, but things also weren’t as liberal in 1992. Still, I felt lucky to play the first gay teenager on television — not just daytime but television, period. What was so amazing about that for me was the response I got through fan letters that my mother and I would read together. Kids who’d never seen themselves represented on TV or in movies would write to say what a huge support they found it to be. One kid said he’d considered suicide before seeing a character like him being accepted. I also heard from a father, a mechanic, who hadn’t spoken to his son since he came out. When our show came on in his shop, it gave him some insight and understanding as to who his son was, so it opened up communication between them. As much as you can write off how silly the entertainment industry can be, it can affect change and make people see things differently. That’s beautiful.
Phillippe’s character left Lianview to attend Yale later that summer, and Phillippe left One Life to Live for good in 1993. ABC announced One Life to Live’s cancellation in late 2011, with the last episode airing on January 13, 2012.
Agnes Goodsir: 1864. An Australia-born painter, Agness Goodsir joined a mass exodus of artists from down under seeking the artistic stimulation and freedom that had blossomed in Paris in the early 20th century. That’s where Goodsir studied at the Académie Delécluse, the Académie Julian and then the Académie Colarossi.
Her constant companion was Rachel Dunn, who was depicted in several of her paintings, including Morning Tea (1925), Girl with Cigarette (1925), The Letter (1926) and The Chinese Skirt (1933). She was best known for her portraits including, reportedly, one of Mussolini. When she died in 1939, she left her remaining paintings to Rachel Dunn, who sent about forty to Agnes’s family in Australia and others to Australian galleries. The Agnes Goodsir memorial scholarship at the Bendigo Art Gallery, where her work first appeared, is named in her memory.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?