As a Lovers’ Kiss Turns a World Around

An excerpt from a New York Times article from early in the storyline:

Since its introduction of a gay-theme story line last summer “As the World Turns” has actually gained viewers, specifically younger viewers, some of whom turned to the show, unpredictably enough, after following the romance of the college-age characters Luke (Van Hansis) and Noah (Jake Silbermann) via YouTube clips posted by fans — new media reviving fossil media.

Nearly every moment of Luke and Noah’s interaction has been featured on YouTube, most notably their initial kiss, the first gay kiss in daytime soaps, captured in a video that has received more than a million hits. The relationship garnered further attention as the subject of protest by the conservative American Family Association, which is opposed to the “promotion of the gay lifestyle,” and by fans who have written Procter & Gamble (which owns “As the World Turns”) demanding that Luke and Noah kiss more, kiss all the time, kiss the way the show’s heterosexual couples do. Last month, after a 211-day period that fans described as a drought, Luke and Noah (“Nuke” in the entertainment press) kissed for the third, momentous time.

In almost every way, however, Luke and Noah have been treated as preposterously as any couple on daytime television, with all the requisite obstacles keeping them from happiness. First Luke pined in vain, thinking Noah was straight. Noah thought he was too and began to date Maddie, a girl he met at work, who also watched a lot of old movies and was probably the only other person in Oakdale to know that Preston Sturges isn’t the name of a dry-goods store. Noah kept trying and trying to convince himself that he was straight, asking Maddie to stay in town in a stealth maneuver to keep his true libido in check. She had plans to go off to Wesleyan University — because it’s been “a dream of mine since I knew what college was” — but Noah begged her to enroll at Oakdale U., no matter what its U.S. News & World Report ranking.

On the show gay life doesn’t flourish without intense animosity directed at it. The relationship of Luke and Noah has played out against what appears to be rampant homophobia in Oakdale. Luke and Noah were once attacked by some drunken fraternity jerks. But those random assailants weren’t half as bad as Noah’s father, Winston Mayer (Daniel Hugh Kelly), a colonel who served in Iraq during the gulf war and tried to have Luke killed when he discovered his son was gay. It is amazing that the armed forces haven’t leveled their own protest against “As the World Turns” for prejudice against the military.

Colonel Mayer refused to pay for Noah’s education unless he served in the Iraq war. The colonel also, it turned out, killed Noah’s mother. Now he is manipulating a pretty young Iraqi refugee — the character Ameera Ali Aziz is, to the best of my knowledge, the first woman to appear in a chador on an American soap opera, amid all the Botox and cleavage — presumably as part of a malicious plan further to obstruct his son’s love life.

Class used to be the axis on which so much of the turmoil on soap operas turned. Years ago Luke’s parents provided the drama on the grounds that his mother was an heiress and his father a stable boy. “As the World Turns” hasn’t done anything revolutionary with its gay kiss — gay characters on ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters,” on Sunday nights, display their affection for each other constantly — it has merely discovered the currency of the culture wars.

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