REACTIONS FROM AMC
In a recent interview with The Advocate, All My Children executive producer Julie Hanan Carruthers insisted that Zach and Reese were never more than friends, and that Reese is just "a confused, insecure person at the moment" who has "never wavered in her commitment to Bianca."
This statement is not supported by what we actually saw on TV every day — which was Reese struggling with her feelings for Zach, although it’s debatable to what degree — but according to Carruthers, we didn’t really see what we thought we saw:
That’s the audience rewriting what’s there. It’s not being written that way at all. Reese has never wavered in what she wants…I don’t know how to stress this more. Never has she played a moment of, "I want Zach more than I want Bianca," or "I would leave Bianca for Zach." He has literally just been a friend. Look, we tantalize in this genre. We do it whether we do it with heterosexual or homosexual couples. It’s what the genre is.
When pressed about why she didn’t consider using another woman to "tantalize" Reese, instead of a man, Carruthers admitted it was a decision born of pragmatism:
We are working within a canvas of people who are interrelated and connected. For our audience, it’s always more powerful if it is someone you know well and would least expect. If we brought in a character out of nowhere, they would worry about Bianca, but they would not be invested in Reese at all, particularly now with Zach being the donor (for Bianca’s baby with Reese). It complicates it in a delicious way.
There is validity to the argument Carruthers is making — that there simply aren’t enough romantic-pairing options for long-running lesbian characters unless you’re willing to change the general makeup of the established cast of characters. This logic is frequently used by TV writers and showrunners to justify minimal lesbian visibility, bad lesbian storylines, and the growing trend towards adding bisexual characters to their shows instead of lesbians, as I outlined in more detail in my November Visibility Matters column.
While this may be an understandable decision for an individual show, when it’s happening on every show, you’re left with a television landscape populated by lesbians who sleep with men, or no lesbians at all, only bisexual characters (who also primarily sleep with men).
All My Children fed right into that with this Bianca-Reese storyline, which is why so many viewers are left feeling disappointed and angry, even if they believe this storyline is in keeping with the other storylines on All My Children and on soaps in general.
Carruthers makes it clear she doesn’t understand this when she insists "we tantalize in this genre … whether we do it with heterosexual or homosexual couples."
DESTINED TO FAIL
All My Children‘s first mistake was in choosing to make the romantic relationship between Bianca and Reese the focus of the conflict. Given the ongoing trend of lesbians on television sleeping with men, and the fact that unlike the heterosexual characters, Bianca has never been allowed to have a successful romantic relationship on screen, using sexual confusion as the basis of the storyline’s dramatic tension doomed it to failure, at least with queer viewers.
There are many other storylines the writers could have used that would have yielded the dramatic tension required, without reinforcing tired negative stereotypes — like a (non-romantic) secret in Reese’s past uncovered by Erica, for example, or Reese’s inability to fit in with Bianca’s close-knit family. Even just further exploiting the drama around Bianca using her sister’s husband sperm without talking to her sister first would have been enough (although I think we can all do without any more sperm-donor storylines for awhile).
Their second mistake was in choosing not to develop the relationship between Reese and Bianca on camera. The two women just dropped into Pine Valley as a fully formed couple, created havoc with the lives and relationships of other characters, and now will (probably) do most of their reconciliation off-camera.
That makes it difficult for viewers to care about this relationship, or this storyline.
Finally, the writers failed to take into account the particular protectiveness many fans of all sexual orientations feel for Bianca, a long-running and much-loved character.
She is not only one of the few truly good characters on All My Children, she is one that has been screwed over a lot.
Yes, bad things happen to soap characters all the time, but this character has seen more than her fair share of pain, and — owing to the double standard of how lesbians are portrayed on TV — far less than her share of good times.
Marrying Bianca off to someone the audience doesn’t know isn’t a smart move, but marrying her off to someone who cheats on her the night before their wedding feels like one punch in the gut too many.
In this way, Bianca is actually very representative of queer TV viewers in America — we’ve already suffered enough bad and boring representation on TV, thank you, we don’t need any more.
With such a bad setup, it’s no wonder audiences have reacted negatively to this storyline. No amount of lesbian wedding promos can make up for such glaring structural flaws.
As the old saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still just a pig. Even when it’s a lesbian pig.