Monday, November 24, 2008

Will ATWT Brian's potential be realized?

I was excited to learn about the Brian story on ATWT. First, as Roger Newcomb has said, it is the kind of dysfunctional intergenerational mess that is at the core of soaps and ATWT. To have a gay element to that helps to end the marginalization of the show's "gay storyline".

But there are warning signs that this story is not going to be subtle, nuanced, or authentic. It seems Brian is going to be the sleazy guest villain of this quarter, bilking Lucinda while trying to shag Luke...which is already raising groans of disgust from the soap quarters I visit.

From cbs. com, here is the most recent beat of the story:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lily and Holden visit Lucinda at the hospital, where Lucinda and Brian have just confirmed that they’ll be getting married. Lily is alarmed at the news. Brian goes to call the judge and run some wedding errands as Lily has a moment alone with her mother. Lily explains her concern and Lucinda defends her actions. Lily understands that Lucinda doesn’t want to die alone. Lily wants ­Lucinda to be happy. Brian has Lucinda sign a pre-nuptial agreement to show that there are no strings. He gives her his Princeton class ring and they exchange vows. Lily and Holden are moved. Meanwhile, Noah helps Luke sober up. He gives him coffee at Java, then after Luke starts to insult him, Noah takes him home. Luke doesn’t want Noah to leave, but when Noah does, Luke goes after him. Brian, running home after his wedding to Lucinda to get her some clothes for tomorrow, finds Luke on the road, picks him up and brings him home. Luke cleans himself up but is a total wreck emotionally. Brian consoles him, hugs him, and finally kisses Luke. Luke’s out of it at first, then pulls away and staggers upstairs. Brian is overwhelmed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lily and Holden leave a message for Luke, then go see Lucinda for a wedding breakfast at the hospital. Luke wakes up hung over, flashes to Brian kissing him, and wonders if it really happened. Luke arrives at the hospital to see Brian toasting Lucinda with his parents there. In the corridor, Luke wants to know what the hell Brian’s doing. Brian plays it off, says he comes from an expressive family, and doesn’t want Luke to ruin this for his grandmother. Luke tries to tell Lily that this marriage is a mistake but she too wants Luke to let Lucinda be happy. Later, Brian and Lucinda exchange wedding bands as an upset Luke watches through the window.

Brian's denial and inauthenticity makes some fear that this is going to go in an almost-incest direction, where Brian tries to pluck the cherry from Luke's tender young tree, but then blackmails him (or whatever) into silence. If that is the tale...that's kind of yech.

It seems to me recent real life offers all kinds of really deep, moving possibilities for this story. I hope they have the courage to go in that direction.

1. Ted Haggard (villain storyline, wrapped up in fundamentalism and conservatism...plausible for a "foundation manager" or whatever) Haggard is particularly villainous because (a) he won't own up to his homosexuality, even when caught AND [cue standard fundamentalist narrative] (b) he claims he was "warped" by early sexual abuse that took 40 years to "ripen"


Earlier this month, a guest took the pulpit at Open Bible Fellowship in Morrison, Ill., a 350-member church surrounded by cornfields. The speaker was an insurance salesman from Colorado named Ted Haggard.

The former superstar pastor, disgraced two years ago in a sex-and- drugs scandal, had returned — this time as a Christian businessman preaching a message that was equal parts contrition and defiance. *Haggard linked his fall to being molested in second grade and apologized again.*

Haggard, 52, resigned as president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals and was fired from New Life Church amid allegations that he *paid a male prostitute for sex and used methamphetamine*.

Haggard said in 2006 he *bought the drugs but never used them*, confessed to *"sexual immorality"* and described struggling with a *"dark and repulsive"* side. He had risen from preaching in his basement to taking part in White House conference calls — and fallen so far that he became a late-night punch line.

He apologized for making his family suffer, acknowledged suicidal thoughts and chastised church leaders for missing an opportunity to use his scandal to "communicate the gospel worldwide." Haggard said he emerged with a *stronger Christian faith and marriage* than he'd ever had.

2. James McGreevey (a little more complex; probably not too much different from Haggard, although he ultimately acknowledged that he had been denying his homosexuality). But no matter what you think of him, READ how he writes about this. He talks about incorporating inauthenticity into his personality, and about that actually helping him in politics. He also talks about how he consistently made choices to deny his identity. Finally, he talks about the compartmentalization that make it all work for him. I'm here to say that is 100% gospel...that is NOT a set of bullsh*t excuses. That is the elaborate fiction such men create...and that is totally what Brian could be. With good writing....


I’ve never been much for self-revelation. In two decades of public life, I always approached the limelight with extreme caution. Not that I kept my personal life off-limits; rather, the personal life I put on display was a blend of fact and fiction. I invented overlapping narratives about who I was, and contrived backstories that played better not just in the ballot box but in my own mind. And then, to the best of my ability, I tried to be the man in those stories.

In this way I’m not at all unique.* Inauthenticity is endemic in American politics today. *

*Ironically, the dividing experience of my sexuality helped me thrive in that environment*. As I climbed the electoral ladder—from state assemblyman to mayor of Woodbridge and finally to governor of New Jersey—*political compromises came easy to me because I’d learned how to keep a part of myself innocent of them. I kept a steel wall around my moral and sexual instincts*—protecting them, I thought, from the threats of the real world. This gave me a tremendous advantage in politics, if not in my soul. The true me, my spiritual core, slipped further and further from reach.

There were moments when the ripping misery of this life became too great, moments when I thought about “becoming gay” and all that that entails.

My political potential was enormous. *I think I decided that my ambition would give me more pleasure than integration, than true love*. Coming to this realization made me feel not suicidal, exactly, but morose. It’s hard to describe how it feels to surrender your soul to your ambition.

Among other things, I was anxious about marrying Dina. I had met her at a campaign event—she was an uncommonly beautiful 31-year-old blonde in a red double-breasted suit. When the event was over I walked her out to her car and kissed her. *I’m still not sure what made me do it. Loneliness, I suppose. Maybe she just seemed like the perfect politician’s wife; it might have been that self-serving. Our romantic life was troubled from the start, but I loved her deeply as a friend and companion. And I did believe I was offering her some things she truly coveted: the stability of marriage, the prospect of a loving family, a chance to share a life of public service, political excitement in spades*.

3. Aaron. A married gay man, who has been honest with his wife. The thing is...he loves his wife, but he's gay. He wants to stay with his family, parent his child, and remain true to his (deep) faith. He struggles everyday with how to resolve the contradictions.

He calls his life "Paysage choisi", which means "chosen landscape".

Excerpt #1:

The name of this blog ("paysage choisi") comes from a poem by the 19th century French poet Paul Verlaine, which is in a collection called Fêtes galantes inspired by Watteau’s rococo paintings. Verlaine’s words have been set to music more than once, but it is Fauré’s setting that has been going through my head a lot lately. *I find the themes in the poem very close to home: wearing masks, going through the motions, hiding sadness, life’s sad beauty*.

Excerpt #2:

*Coming out of the closet and staying in the house*

I have been inching out of the closet for a long time now. I came out to my wife in a moment of crisis eight years ago, and her loving support and empathy were amazing. I think we both thought at the time that simply removing that secret from between us would strengthen our relationship and everything would be fine.

Although I had already begun the process of shedding the sense of shame I had been carrying so long, the experience of talking freely with the therapist, a gay man himself, was incredibly liberating. At the first session, he asked me where I wanted to go with the therapy — what my goal was — and I realized that I didn’t know.*I explained that I felt fully committed to my marriage and that this was about my inner journey of accepting myself*.

Strangely, though, in parallel with the sense of exhilaration I have felt as I have begun to be freed from the burdens of guilt, shame and self-doubt, I have also felt an increasing sense of isolation and loneliness. *For various reasons, I have been reluctant to find opportunities to meet other gay men. Yet my need to do so is like a lead weight on my chest. This feels like another barrier — another closet door*.

When most gay men come out of the closet, they are making a statement not only about who they are, but also about who they love and how they live. For me, though, it’s really just about what goes on in my head. And that seems somehow less significant and more private — not the sort of thing you share with most people. So, is it possible to come out of the closet and stay in the house? I think so, but I’m still trying to work out how.

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