Sharpe Disapproval

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Although people have been complaining about the writing of The Young and The Restless for years, within the past few months, there has been a reactionary uproar in online communities about the state of the televised program. I have tried to focus on the positive aspects since there are good parts to balance the bad parts. As rightfully maligned as Ashley's hysterical pregnancy has been, the Mary Jane saga has been written well, aligning enemies, showcasing the power of family loyalty, and including tragedy and showcasing permanent consequences of manipulation.

Still, I am inclined to join the chorus of criticism, about the ill-defined art thief/art forgery story, which has just concluded. This particular plot was lackluster when it first began and has simply continued spiraled in quality ever since. At first, it seemed to be a vehicle to push Jana and Daniel closer out of necessity, with an intent to pair Kevin and Amber as well. Fortunately, my initial feelings about the romantic direction of this story proved to be wrong, but that did not mean the story improved. Instead, it seemed to languish into a mediocre tale that seemed to follow the pattern of so many plots involving these parties (someone gets into trouble with the law, a related party behaves ridiculously and illegally in an attempt to prove the wronged person's innocence, and at last everyone is ends up hostage to another manipulator). However, this story took a turn for the worse with the introduction on the very character who was supposed to revitalize it -- Deacon Sharpe.

In my opinion, this is a result of trying to reap the benefits of a character's established history while having him serve the purpose of driving the plot. When done well, this brings the best of both worlds, lifting a tale to a quality beyond that of either of the basic sources; when done poorly, it results in both the alteration character and the diminishing quality of the plot. In this case, it has been the latter, as the character of Deacon Sharpe has not kept true to his roots. As a longtime fan of The Bold and the Beautiful, I am not only aware of Deacon's past, but I have watched it play out year by year. It is surprising how poorly the transition of this definitive character was handled, especially in comparison with that of Amber, another transplanted character from The Bold and the Beautiful.

Amber, at least, has been written consistently while on The Young and the Restless, if not always well. In fact, much of the animosity she generates in both other characters and fans are from character traits which have either been established with the character from the beginning or have evolved over time. Even in this tale of art thieves and stolen paintings, her actions line up with her history more than they did at the last year of her stay on The Bold and the Beautiful, and she has integrated well with the residents of Genoa City.

So far, I do not believe the same has been done for Deacon. To be fair, Deacon has always been manipulative and selfish man without refinement in judgment or tact. However, underneath his amoral actions lies the heart of an antihero. Deacon was dismissed as an outsider of the fashion industry, but he was very quick to point out the hypocrisy of the Forresters. Ironically, despite all of the lies the character told, Deacon was fundamentally direct about his intentions, afraid of what no one thought of him. When he wanted Amber, he made no secret of wanting her. Admittedly, he has been more open about his desires and his behavior than when he first appeared on The Young and the Restless, but it continues to feel as though Deacon is playing a cat-and-mouse game when in previous years, he cut to the chase.

In fact, the introduction of Deacon to The Young and the Restless is highly uncharacteristic. For Deacon to even pose as an art collector would have required an extensive, calculated, process that would require levels of foresight the character has not displayed in the past. Deacon was a wily opportunist who at times found himself in situations he could exploit for his benefit, but he was not a chessmaster or a strategist. Even though recent dialog clarifies that Deacon is working for another party, for him to even execute the complicated plan would require a degree of premeditation from him unseen on the Bold and the Beautiful.

Furthermore, Deacon had evolved past the base creature that is on The Young and the Restless. He was still despicable scum, of course, as he gleefully tortured a paralyzed Massimo Marone, who sat helpless to watch as Deacon drugged and carried on an affair with Mrs. Marone. Yet, he had grown to develop moral lines (albeit weak), in part through fatherhood, and in part through love. For example, despite him offering up his parental rights for sale, he never sold them; not only did he give up the money, but he also willingly released Amber from her agreement to live with him in exchange for his right to visit his son.

Deacon -- at least the Bold and the Beautiful, incarnation -- would never frame someone else for murder, even for the benefit of his son. He would instead figure out a way out of the desperate situation and turn the tables on the person blackmailing him.

Another problem with the presentation of Deacon is his "love" for Amber. The driving force of this story is that Deacon is still obsessed with Amber. However, Deacon moved on from Amber several years prior to his exit; in fact when Amber and Deacon were on opposite sides of a custody battle with Little Eric, there was not even a hint of attraction between the two. This makes his chase of Amber unbelievable several years later, when the paths of their lives diverged radically. Both Amber and Deacon, at the ends of their respective runs on The Bold and the Beautiful, were different people than they were when their characters first aired. For him to cling to her, even as the closest living blood relative to his son, rings false given their history.

These problems could be overlooked, though, if the story itself were compelling. Instead, this plot varied from serious to humorous, never having a consistent tone. This entire storyline has been a rehash of prior plots and contrivances with no redeeming effects. If those in charge of driving the story would have skipped this preamble, I may have been more forgiving of the incompatibility between Deacon's past and his current actions. However, the Deacon Sharpe on the Young and the Restless is just like the Terroni painting he eventually obtained -- a forgery.

The Young and the Restless has wavered in quality as of late and much of this is due to the return of Phillip Chancellor III. To be sure, as a longtime viewer, there is a certain pleasure in watching Nina return to the cast of characters, even if the role is only a supporting role. I also admit that I believed the initial developments concerning Cane and the presumed-dead Phillip would bring promising stories to follow. In time, this may prove to be the case, but currently, the stretches of credibility needed to sustain this plot have broken it beyond my level of enjoyment. The problem here is that this reveal reverses an act that has been one of the strengths of The Young and the Restless -- the death of a character.

To be fair, soap opera deaths usually come in three flavors. First, there are the deaths of temporary, minor characters whose sole purpose is to be killed to advance the plot. These deaths often have little long-term impact on the story, and are often forgotten within a few episodes. Next, there are the apparent deaths of individuals who are integral to the cast, but these demises are almost always ambiguous at best, providing an opportunity for the character to return. Finally, there are the actual deaths of central characters. When handled horribly, they can be as meaningless as the first type. When handled well, they unless potential for both plot and character development for years to come.

It is in the latter area in which The Young and the Restless had shined until now.

Most of the deaths in the past few years have had a lasting impact. The twin impacts of Cassie Newman's demise and John Abbott's death affect the entire canvas, even though many viewers remain upset at the loss of these beloved characters. More recently, the deaths of Sabrina Newman and Brad Carlton have thrown the characters connected to them most closely into a cycle of destructive behavior. Phillip's death was one of these deaths, one that impacted those around him for years to come.

To be fair, of course, Phillip's re-emergence has not undone the 20 years of story that has played out in his absence. However, while it is wonderful for there to be a link between the characters of years past with those of the present, the sudden nature of the revelations creates very serious problems for the more recent history. The explanation that Cane was aware that he was not baby Cordelia's father only heightens the inconsistency between his current demeanor and the previous scenes where he believed Cordelia was his biological child.

Most importantly, the reason given for Phillip's absence is underwhelming and pitiful, in my opinion. He faked his death because he realized he was gay.

I can put aside the onscreen history in which the character of Phillip Chancellor III seemed to be heterosexual. I cannot put aside that he would actually fake his death over this. Typically in soaps, people fake their deaths for the purpose protecting their loved ones or for furthering a scheme. Instead, Phillip seems to have faked his death for the sole purpose of whining about how hard it was for him to live up to the expectations of being a Chancellor. His attitude annoys me given that in real life, people have been killed for being outside of the "normal" realms of sexually acceptable behavior. For him to be able to come back from the dead and then immediately complain about his anguish is disrespectful to the real victims of persecution.

I am also further angered by the reaction of his loved ones. Nina went from angry at his sudden reappearance to completely supportive upon learning the reason behind his departure. While Katherine and Jill are furious at him for the various lies and schemes he perpetrated, they seem a little too ready to forgive him. The problem is that Phillip deserves more anger from these people and others regarding his actions, and the mitigating factor does not seem to be that he is a prodigal son, but that he is gay. When another character pretends to be gay and gets a similar treatment from his victims, this sends the undeniable impression that claiming to be gay is a get out of jail free card (literally, in the case of Adam). Their coddling trivializes the more central issue -- not that he's gay but that he faked his death. It brings the focus away from what he did to who he is, and as a result, the consequences of his return diminish with each passing day.

Phillip's death did not just shock the residents of Genoa City, but the ripples of his passing never completely faded. Sadly, I cannot say the same for his return. Despite the nostalgia I feel for the character, I start to wonder if Phillip Chancellor III should have stayed dead.

When a soap opera is written well, acted well, directed well, and has enough production values to effectively convey the story it tries to tell, it becomes a pleasure to watch. The Young and the Restless may have its flaws at times, but despite my misgivings about particular plots, I will still attempt to find myself in a position to watch the program at 12:30 p.m. every weekday. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for The Bold and the Beautiful when it airs an hour later.

To be fair, The Bold and the Beautiful (B&B, for short) has been compared unfavorably with The Young and the Restless (Y&R, for short) for a good portion of its existence. While the overall look of B&B is not that different from Y&R, B&B also has a style that is decidedly outlandish and over-the-top. Also, in spite of the soap opera receiving the lowest ratings as it has in its existence, it is still the second most watched soap opera in the United States, which is to say nothing of its popularity overseas. I can forgive the show for some of its more outrageous moments, such as when The Bikini (a bar, not an article of clothing) exploded or more recently, Pam pouring honey on Donna and setting a bear on her. I can also tolerate the discrete nature of the story arcs and character motivations -- i.e. for X period of time, Thorne is genuinely in love with Donna, then one day after the interrupted wedding he suddenly hates her for going after his father and wants nothing to do with her.

These traits, though, still do not excuse the show as it is today. This program is simply broken.

B&B is broken in the sense that the show was once an entertaining and cohesive experience that used elements of humor, drama, and sparingly, tragedy to tell stories. Along the way, the pieces that made up this whole separated were never restored or mended. This is particularly heartbreaking as there are many competent pieces to this puzzle that merely need a little pressure to stick together. The cast is as good as any you will find on daytime.

It is also broken in the sense used more informally among some of my peers -- the story structure and characters are poorly designed, leading unbalanced storytelling which pushes viewers away instead of keeping their minds focused. The Bold and the Beautiful only airs for thirty minutes, and as a consequence it must focus on a more limited cast of characters than that of all other soaps. Over the years, though, the cast has practically whittled down to the lineal descendants of Stephen Logan, Eric Forrester, and Massimo Marone.

This was not always the case. While at times the love triangles between family members abounded, it was balanced by the new blood that counterbalanced the near incestuous relationships among the Forresters and Logans. For every escapade involving Brooke Logan, there was a Keith, a Dylan, a Deacon, an Amber -- characters who were part of the main cast without being a part of the high-society life. Now, though, the show has become so insular with regard to its characters is that the only regular characters who are biologically unconnected with any other on-screen character by blood are Owen Knight and Bill Spencer, Jr. -- and the former has been sabotaged.

For instance, although Owen was immediately the third party who threatened the Donna/Eric marriage, after this situation was resolved he was relatively unattached. He could have, for instance, fallen for Bridget, a woman who has been heartbroken time and time again. This could have been an interesting story where Bridget falls in love with someone who is neither using her for status or as a surrogate for her mother. This would not necessarily have to be drama free, as Nick could still become jealous of Owen for going after Bridget. However, Owen has instead been paired with Jackie, and Bridget reunited with Nick. While this does bolster Jackie's presence (which is a plus, since the character has been problematic), it does so at the expense of Bridget who is in Nick's arms once more. It also makes Nick a bit possessively jealous over his mother.

None of the other stories have any appeal. Rick and Steffy are a completely unbelievable couple given the circumstances under which they fell in love, and that's discounting the fact that not only do both of them share the same last name, but they are named after their progenitors (Eric and Stephanie). While the triangle of Brooke/Ridge/Taylor does at least make better use of Phoebe's death, it can't be denied that this is a mere repeat of the same plot that has been recycled for a little less than 20 years. I still don't understand the appeal of Donna and Eric, while Thorne and Felicia have been underused for years, although I can understand why, given that most potential love interests are related to them. (My suggestion would be to put Felicia with Bill to see if any sparks happen; if not, at least there was an attempt.)

To the producers: The Bold and the Beautiful is broken. Fix it.

One of the most difficult aspects of evaluating a soap opera is to determine what the program is doing right. When a particular plot does not work, many viewers will react immediately and pick apart the faults in detail, leaving a scathing analysis of why it does not work. For instance, on The Young and the Restless, while Adam's "haunting" of Ashley plays upon the history of Ashley's mental breakdowns, it raises too many questions and concerns. Why would he drive Ashley crazy in the first place? Why would Ashley so easily trust the most obvious suspect? The miscarriage that resulted also seems especially cruel, especial for a woman with a checkered history regarding pregnancies.

However, when a specific story is told well, it can be hard to pick out what precisely about the writing makes it worthwhile. At times, a character may be behaving outside the boundaries established by his or her prior behavior or demeanor, but a plausible reason can provide the development of a plot that would reap greater rewards than if the character remained static. As a result, many viewers, including myself, may make snap judgments about a character's particular decisions and cry, only to find out weeks or even months later that our opinions had changed.

A prime example of this is the fall of Sharon, who was emotionally fragile to even prior to her descent into kleptomania and serial sex partners. At first, the idea of Sharon's sanity crumbling after Brad's death seemed to be somewhat out of character for her. Although she has abandoned her family in the past, her coital escapades were usually limited to one extra partner, and she was never a thief.

The passage of time, though, has revealed her actions and the subsequent pregnancy to be a shining example of how to weave together a cast of characters in a tale of broken hearts, attraction, and desperation -- the essence of a soap opera. Although the characters involved have little moral ground to stand on, I am amazed at how well this story has tested the relationships between characters. The crumbling of two marriages points toward the reunion of Nick and Sharon, but this reunion, tentative and teasing at times, is not a simple expression of two long-lost loves reconnecting. Because Sharon's pregnancy is interconnected with nearly all of the other plots on canvas, it allows a reshaping of characters and relationships. Love turns to hate, hate turns to love, and most of all more can be told and every twist unfolds.

Now with Mary Jane added to the combination of characters, and her insanity slowly revealing itself, this story has become even more complicated. At first it seemed that Victor's obsession with bringing Jack Abbott down would tear him and Ashley apart, but the foreshadowing was misdirection at its best, as Mary Jane not only has her own agenda, but her presence has slowly reached out to ensnare Jack, Phyllis, Sharon, Nick, and even Paul. Her associations with Victor only deepen her connection and unlike a threat such as Sheila Carter, or Clint Radison, her presence connects characters instead of isolating them. Even without the mystery of her true identity, she has enriched the show, not by taking over every plot, but by inching her way into the lives of Genoa City residents.

Of course, not all plots that start out poorly evolve into brilliant stories. I do not care about the "art thief/forgery" plot (unlike the action regarding Clint, I cannot imagine any worthwhile conclusion to this plot), or the recent interactions between Tyra and Devon. There are other plots such as the questions surrounding the identity of Cane, which have yet to disappoint, as it allows old favorites to return while shaking up what we know about the established ones. Still, withholding judgment on a particular plot allows for a more thorough analysis. I am learning to wait before declaring a couple "boring" or a plot "ludicrous." Soap operas are a serial medium, and the principal joy of watching them comes not from each particular episode, but from the plots and characters as a whole.

Long before the announced cancellation of Guiding Light, it had been commonplace in entertainment media to declare the death of televised daytime serial drama series, more simply known as soap operas. Ratings for the televised programs have been on a steady decline for years, and the budgets have tightened in tandem. With the impending last airdate of Guiding Light nearing with every broadcast, it is easy for those who have long criticized the genre of soap operas to rejoice, and for the remaining fans of these programs to stop watching.

Despite this, I will watch the soaps.

My soap opera viewing started when I was so young, I cannot remember young I was when I began to watch them, so it seems as if soap operas were always a part of my existence. When I was a little girl, I used to watch The Young and the Restless (henceforth abbreviated Y&R), although I don't think I quite understood what was going on on the television until the later part of the 1980s. I watched them because my grandmother watched them, although my grandfather watched what both he and my grandmother called the "stories" as well. Repetition led to affinity and soon I grew interested in the never-ending tales of the residents of Genoa City, although I pondered the lack of wisdom displayed by those characters. I never figured out why Ashley would keep sniffing the (unknown to her) poisoned flowers if she kept feeling sick after smelling them.

One of the many aspects of Y&R that did keep me interested in the program was the emergence of African-American characters that stabilized into a core unit. The characters of Mamie Johnson, Nathan Hastings, Olivia Barber, her sister Drucilla, then Neil Winters and his brother Malcolm were involved in memorable plots. Yet I was equally entranced by villains like David Kimble and Sheila Carter, as I eagerly waited for the comeuppance. Unlike the cartoons and films I watched, the bad guys weren't defeated at the end of the episode or movie, but continued to be evil and scheme to the point, where as a viewer, I rooted for them at times. It was the crossing over of Sheila Carter from Y&R to The Bold and the Beautiful (also known as B&B) that prompted me to begin watching that program.

Toward the end of the 1990s, I began to watch snippets of the show that aired after B&B, even though I didn't understand the reasoning behind a woman's rush to give birth to a baby before the new year. I slowly became addicted to that program, As the World Turns. I later added Passions at the end of 2000 to my daily platter, and from there Days of Our Lives. Although I have since stopped watching the latter three on a regular basis (although in the case of Passions, this was due to it being cancelled), with each soap opera I watched, I grew to appreciate the genre and the actors more rather than less. Despite the fact that soap operas do have staple plots, each show has a distinct flavor beyond the cast, the direction, the sets, and the wardrobe. There is an intangible consistency that becomes each program's fingerprint, which is often missing from primetime television shows today.

Soap operas have a history that is beyond their airdates. They are a link to times both past and present, and I can attest from personal experience that my soap opera viewing never existed in a vacuum. As I was a child when I began to watch the soap operas, I could only watch Y&R and B&B during summer vacation or when I did not have to go to school. As a result, soap operas represented leisure to me, and occupied a special place in my heart next to Saturday morning cartoons. They also proved to be a vital link of the daily conversations between me and my family, as part of the our daily conversations I would ask my mother and grandmother what happened on the soap operas. They marked the periods of my life, childhood, adolescence, to college, graduation and beyond. They provide the sole icebreaker topic of conversation in which I can participate. Soap operas, are a part of me.

Thus, if soap operas are truly on their last legs, then for me, there is no better time to watch them than the present. After all, one of the criticisms of the format is that no resolution can ever be brought to any plot. If all good things must come to an end, I am sure that the end that comes has to be at least as good as what came before it. In the case that my expectations are misplaced, at least I can criticize out of love rather than out of gleeful malice.

Purpose Found

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Previously, I wrote about the lack of purpose of this blog, and now, I have finally found one. This will be a journal of my opinions about a certain type of entertainment I consume. Will it be literature, music, movies, comic books, photographs, video games, or none of those previously mentioned? I will not reveal the secret for now, but I do have a hint: it lends itself to a stream of near-endless opinions. The design of this blog will have to wait. There is too much writing that has yet to be done.

Purpose Wanted

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I need a purpose for this blog in order for its existence to develop. I have no plans to make this a micro blog, but at the same time, I need something of mine to make Webb 2.0 really be about me. I muse on my other blog, and my other projects reside on other domain names. Since I can think of nothing, I'll simply jot down a word that I know I will need later, but I will probably forget it when I need it. Today's mystery word is anomie.

Belated Entry

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After a year or more of inactivity, I feel it might be a better idea to start all over again. I only wish I knew someone who would help me make this place shine.

Second Entry

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As much as I love Movable Type, I believe I will need some help setting up my blogs from beginning to end.  Is there anyone in the vast Internet who will stumble across this request and provide some aid?

Hello, world!

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Yes, this is yet another web log in the realm on online journaling.  This blog is under a Creative Commons License, so anything written here is free to redistribute and remix, as long as you do not place any restrictions to the material when you add to it.  I doubt too many people will care, though.

By the way, I have another other Web sites, such as my other blog, Webbready, Webbcomic, and the future home of my on-line portfolio,  Please be aware that these sites are not under the Creative Commons License, but only the content found under the domain name.