Posted at 5:00 AM Apr 05, 2010
By Kathleen Willcox
Like most of my bad (as defined by my mom, doctor and society at large) habits, I got into it in college ... watching soap operas, that is. I tried to hide my dirty little fixation, until it starting interfering with my daily schedule--lunch dates, library sessions and all-important hang-out times on the Quad--which was nothing compared to the latest disaster befalling Fancy Face and Bo on Days of Our Lives. My concerned friends finally sat me down for an intervention.
When I fessed up to my crime, they were more horrified than if I'd informed that I was secretly Rush Limbaugh's fancy lady. Feeling defensive, but armed with nothing but the powers of rationalization more potent than those of Nancy Grace, rusty research skills and a battered clicker, I set out to prove them wrong. And hey, as it turns out, there are often more well-rounded female characters on soap operas than in your average rom-com or big budget movie. Below, 10 kick-ass soap opera characters who prove that just because you subscribe to Bitch doesn't mean you can't appreciate The Bold and the Beautiful.
10. Stephanie Forrester on The Bold and the Beautiful
She busted onto the small screen in 1987, when power was sexy, shoulder pads were rad and Donald Trump was considered to be (gag) kind of a stud. Stephanie Forrester (née Douglas), played by Susan Flannery, strut onto the telly, embracing all of the glory--and none of the bullshit--of the great age of ceiling shattering. Yes, folks, she had it all: brains, beauty, a career and a family! Her marriage is ridiculously rocky, of course - otherwise, we'd probably all hate her. Why she's a role model: On screen, whenever a "creative partnership" between two lovers is established, the woman is almost invariably either the sexy muse to the male artistic genius or the flighty creative type who is resolutely brought down to earth by her rational male partner, who funds her "little project." But Stephanie bankrolled partner Eric Forrester's designs and was an exec at the company.
9. Kim Reynolds (for a short while) on As the World Turns
Paging Dr. Freud! Pre-sexual revolution, women were always painted as submissive victims of male lust (Virgin Mary complex) or wanton ho-bags (ah, the slut complex). But in 1973, the writers of As The World Turns strapped on some serious cojones and created a character who not only successfully seduced a married man, but also managed to display some of the infinitely various complexities that color erotic relationships and emotion - complexities that didn't involve being an unsympathetic hustler or a walking, talking blow-up doll. Unfortunately, her character was too racy for the show's sponsor Proctor & Gamble, which decided it encouraged sanctioned immorality (though they were happy to sanction countless storylines involving men seducing women), and forced the writers to change tacks. One writer, Irna Phillips, refused to accommodate P&G and ended up getting the boot (she died shortly afterwards). Why she (was) a role model: Instead of waiting for a man to tell her what to do, or merely reacting to his action-taking, Kim was in control of her own destiny and sexuality.
8. Alexandra Spaulding on Guiding Light
Alexandra, played by several actors, including Beverlee McKinsey, Joan Collins and currently Marj Dusay, has been letting her freak flag fly, horrifying several generations of men at once and generally rebelling against the various constraints the opposite sex has attempted to impose on her since 1984. A bit of a grudge-nurser and PMSy schemer, Alexandra isn't above getting married, jetting town and joining forces with former enemies, all in the name of revenge: but let's face it, bitch gets things done. Why she's a role model: She's a fearless, focused, fun and influential executive who never becomes so drunk on power that she loses sight of her goal, or her (often woefully inept) loved ones.
7. Dr. Robin Scorpio Drake on General Hospital
6. Tabitha Lenox on Passions
Robin, played by Kimberly McCullough, has lived through several typical soap snafus: orphanhood, tragically lost loves, train wrecks, neurosurgery, paternity issues, problems with the mob. Oh, yes, and she's also HIV-positive, totally normal, sweet, upbeat and whip smart (hello, she's an MD)! Why she's a role model: One of the few HIV-positive characters on television (who hasn't been killed off by writers), she provides an ambitious but manageable template for women who have serious, chronic illnesses, but don't want to just lay down and die.
The zany, loveable Tabitha, played by Juliet Mills, is a witch, and a rather elderly one at that, which raises my fem hackles a bit, but bear with me here. Practically immortal, she has hung with both Cleopatra and Caligula (as her handmaiden and his party planner, she must have had her hands full), and she claims responsibility for the destruction of Pompeii, the sinking of the Titanic and the Black Plague. Most notably, however, Tabitha has made it her (current) life's mission to ruin the odious Charity Standish's boring, pasty blond, virginal, do-goodin' young life with her powers of evil. Mwah hahahaaaaaaaaa!! Why she's a role model: Faultless fashion sense and inimitable eye for the perfect shade of lipstick aside, Tabitha embodies the inner baddie we all want to be (sometimes). Since we can't run around zapping irritating objects and people who cramp our style, we can live through the Tab (or at least we could until recently, when she became a Christian. Sell-out!)