The End of a Lesbian Era on “All My Children”

 
 

Elizabeth Hendrickson as MaggieOlga Sosnovska as Lena

In Bianca and Maggie's last month on the series, Bianca declared her feelings for Maggie again just as Maggie was preparing to marry Jonathan, who had become abusive. While not willing to admit she had feelings for Bianca, Maggie nonetheless was finally convinced to break it off with Jonathan for her own safety, and while Maggie initially turned down Bianca's offer to join her in leaving Pine Valley, she changed her mind at the last minute and joined Bianca on her flight Paris, the two women together at last.

Or are they? While Bianca and Maggie definitely leave together, the writers have left the exact nature of their relationship open to viewer interpretation.

Seeing Maggie and Bianca ride off into the sunset together is somewhat satisfying for viewers who've waited patiently for three years for this relationship to develop. But it's also bittersweet, because it's only happening as the characters are on their way out, and because it's not totally clear that they actually are together. Maggie and Bianca did have several touching scenes at Bianca's goodbye party in the second-to-last episode, and again when Maggie showed up at the airport at the last minute to join Bianca.

But it's disappointing that the writers have focused most of Maggie and Bianca's storylines in the last few weeks around a trial related to the kidnapping, instead of using that time to finally develop a romantic relationship between the two.

Disappointing, but not surprising.

The way Maggie and Bianca's storyline ends is representative of the way the show has handled lesbianism all along. All My Children has pushed the envelope in a number of ways regarding lesbian visibility — from showing the first daytime kiss on television, to raising the issue of bisexuality, to having the longest-running lesbian lesbian character on daytime (and close to the longest-running lesbian character on network television). But in other ways, they've played it very safe — or worse, subjected the lesbian characters to double-standards, like conveniently focusing Bianca's storyline for months at a time on safer topics like her baby, or the kidnapping trial, and not allowing Bianca and Lena to show the same physical affection as the show's heterosexual characters.

Bianca's rape was also highly controversial among viewers, and Maggie's long-running confusion over her sexuality didn't seem to represent a deliberate attempt by the writers to explore sexual confusion or bisexuality as much as it did the writers' indecision over what to do with her.

As one of the show's most beloved characters, however, Bianca has developed and retained a strong fan base even when her storylines became overly melodramatic and silly. Lena and Maggie also developed sizeable viewer followings, although their characters were less developed than Bianca and tended to provoke more polarized reactions from viewers.

In the end, Bianca and Maggie's ambiguous ending perfectly embodies All My Children's mixed lesbian legacy. The show brought ground-breaking lesbian visibility to daytime television, but its repeated lack of follow-through around the lesbian storyline left many viewers frustrated time and time again. While stringing out romantic storylines for maximum drama is appropriate and even expected in daytime television, it is also expected that, eventually, star-crossed couples do get together. With Bianca's love interests, the payoff never really came, except for a few moments when she she and Lena were together, but their relationship was quickly dwarfed by Bianca's rape, and her subsequent pregnancy.

So while there were moments when the lesbian relationship felt like all the other relationships on the show, they were few and far between.

Still, there is much to appreciate about what we had for four years on All My Children: a prominent lesbian character who was likeable, complex, and not ashamed of her sexual orientation.

With Maggie and Bianca's departure, however, as with All My Children's lesbian storyline in general, we can't help wondering what might have been, had the storyline and the characters been allowed to realize their full potential.

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