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« Night Shift Episode 8: Employee of the Month | Main | Days of Our Lives Week in Review »

September 01, 2007

GH Showrunner Speaks Out on Controversial Storyline

Los Angeles, CA -- Sources reported strange noises coming from offices at General Hospital several times this week.  But fears of foul play were put to rest when executive producer Jill Farren Phelps clarified that the sounds were merely the show's writing team scraping the bottom of the barrel.

"Bob Guza and his fellow writers have definitely sunk pretty low before -- you have to when you've made the mafia the moral core of your show -- but this week they really stretched and I'm proud to say I think we really did reach the bottom.  We found ourselves in a bit of a predicament, because after the character of Jax was beaten, threatened, and coerced into having sex with a lunatic character that we had little reason to bring onto the canvas other than to perpetuate all kinds of disturbing crimes against one of our few remaining non-mob leading men, the fallout from that story threatened not to center around Carly, Sonny, or Jason.  So we put our minds to it and figured out that the best approach would be to make Jax being a sexual assault victim be all about Carly, and blame him for having been brutalized.  It was an inspired choice, if I do say so myself.  And as a woman, I'm especially proud to have been at the helm of ABC Daytime's flagship soap during this time, overseeing such groundbreaking storytelling.

But it wasn't easy; we really had to work to get things just right. First, we had Carly start referring to the assault as infidelity, and comparing it to when her ex actually did cheat on her.  Bob and his team wrote some great dialogue, like "My husband slept with another woman.  Something I came to expect from Sonny.  Not from Jax." There's really a lot of layers to this brilliant writing.  Among other things, this way we killed two birds with one stone because we not only made clear that Carly is the victim here, we also put Sonny -- who is a professional criminal and orders people killed as part of his "job," and who cheated on Carly -- on the same moral plane with Jax, a legitimate businessman, who still bore the marks of being repeatedly assaulted, including bruises that look like he got hit in the face with a 50-pound sandbag while wearing a steel Lone Ranger mask.

And, because a focus group in 1997 concluded that Steve Burton is really good-looking, we don't go a day without a few Jason scenes.  So we had Carly confide in Jason about her victimization.  She told Jason that Jax, by "sleeping with" Irina, "failed [her]," and Jason agreed. Bob also wanted to lighten things up a bit by throwing a little humor in, so he had Jason and Carly giggle at the idea that Jax could have been forced into having sex with Irina. 

Jasonlaughingaboutjaxassault

That really amplified the hilarious nature of Jax's violation -- oops, I mean of Jax's violation of his and Carly's relationship, because Jax wasn't violated, of course.  And then we had Jason -- who kills other human beings for profit and impregnated a married woman and then lied about it for months to his fiancée -- chastise Jax for his moral lapse:  "You slept around on her!"  We're really pleased that the story has so many layers and that so many of our core characters have been able to get involved with the fallout from Jax's betrayal of Carly.

Making Carly seem like even more of a self-obsessed, shrill, entitled harpy than ever was a top priority for us, so I'm thrilled with our success on that front as well. Our well-tested theory about what the mostly female audience of soaps wants includes that women love watching one-dimensionally awful characters become the centerpieces of their favorite shows, especially if those characters are women.  Viewers particularly like it when we appear to be having a contest to see which character we can run into the ground faster.  Currently, it's a battle among Liz, Sam, and Carly, but I'm confident with this story we'll put Carly ahead for good.  Worst is best!  That's a motto that has been working out really well for us over the last decade or so.

One of the best things about this whole storyline is that it was conceived of as a redemption arc for Jerry, Jax's brother.  We needed to redeem him after we brought him back as a blond English sociopath, so we had him rescue Jax . . . by shooting the love of his life in the back and then rather gleefully dumping her body into the open ocean after stuffing her corpse into a body bag.  Since Irina was bad and therefore deserved to be killed, there's no moral ambiguity necessary for the Jerry character.  It was really moving stuff.  I couldn't be prouder of Bob and his team.  Well, if they had incorporated a tarp in some way, maybe I could be, but I'm happy with the results nonetheless.  We're confident that Jerry is now a hero in the eyes of the audience, and if we can just find a way for him to routinely interact with Sonny and Jason, I think he can replace at least three characters on the canvas -- probably a doctor, a nurse, and a cop.

We've been focusing on getting the word out about Bob and his crew's fantastic work these past few weeks:  marketing this story alongside others that involve actual infidelity in a promo called "Ultimate Betrayal" that we've been running ad nauseum on SoapNet, and sending an email to our whole list explaining how Carly was wronged.  We think the juxtaposition of Jax's situation with cases in which married or committed people had sex outside their relationships purely by choice will really make this story hit home. 

We were putting the final touches on those scripts and the ad campaign this week, which is what caused those sounds that apparently created some concern.  We're all fine, though -- fantastically self-satisfied and some might say deliriously happy, in fact.  So we appreciate everyone's interest and hope they'll tune in during sweeps, when we'll try to create a new bottom to scrape, by exploring how domestic violence can be hilarious and sexy, and why people are really way too reactionary about forcing toddlers to walk barefoot on hot coals."

Comments

Your writing is so clever, your satire so sharp and apt, that I read it despite never having watched a single day of General Hospital in all my life. Keep it up!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I used to love GH....now, its just a bizarre vehicle for Guza to promote his Mary Sues and live out his violent fantasies against woman and now, it appears, successful non-mobbed up men.

It's so sad that a show with such great history and a wonderful cast has become the personal playground of some truly warped minds.

That was brilliant, Becca. Now THAT's something I'd like to see in Soap Opera Digest! I know it'll never happen, but this is the kind of thing TIIC need to read in order to really see what they're putting out there when they write storylines like this.

*thinking I'd better shut up now since I happen to love EJ and Sami on Days...*

Really, really fine writing here...There is very little moral ambiguity left on the show, it would seem GH writers are intent on turning the "good vs evil" paradigm on its head by making evil the new good. I am kind of shocked at how many threats of assault and death were made on the show in the past few days...like this is the only way to solve problems? Particularly when there is a war going on in Iraq, in which some characters are supposed to have fought in... The senseless brutality and loss of life on both sides of this tragic clash of civilizations is thus trivialized by the show, who might try trailblazing daytime television in becoming advocates for peace and discussion as part of a solution.

And rape is rape is rape. This shit wouldn't fly if the genders were reversed in this ridiculous storyline. Did we laugh when Elizabeth was raped? Seriously? I am contemplating not watching the show anymore. I don't want such desensitization and callousness to rub off on me.

Sorry for the extra long rant...

This is brilliant! I can't even fathom how the showrunners think this storyline is anything any person who watches GH would want to see. By the way, your observations are about the only thing that makes GH tolerable (because it confirms that someone sees what I see in the show.)

I'm thinking there's another entry for the worst character in daytime. (Not that I think anyone can compete with Babe or Sonny- and it's so hard to choose between the two. Maybe a runner-up award.) Look what Carly has going for her. (Using your +/- system.)

- blamed Jax for his own rape
- brought creepy Michael into the GH world
+ brought adorable Morgan into the GH world (BIG demerit: Morgan's introduction was on the receiving end of "bullet of love")
- Wanders around in hideous outfits, often without a bra
+ currently has fab hair
- somehow turned herself into the victim of Jax’s rape
- yells at a lot of people A LOT
- cheated on Jax with Sonny and blamed it on Jax leaving/not understanding the hostage crisis
- married Sonny multiple times
- has become Lulu’s confidant, and as such, is essentially turning Lulu into a mini-Carly
- her introduction on the GH canvas lead to the ruin of both Tony Jones and AJ Quatermaine. (there are actually plenty of entries here, but my hands would get fatigued from all the typing)
- feels betrayed by Jax’s rape

Obviously, I could continue on, but this is just off the top of my head and I didn’t watch GH for a good seven years of her time onscreen.

WOW! what a brilliant read. I've been so disgusted with GH for the last few weeks in regards to this Carly betrayal/Jax "cheating" storyline but your column did make me feel a bit better. I was sure that I must have been getting the only feed of GH where Jax was sexually assaulted. Carly's reaction to Jax's ordeal sickens me and although I've never been a fan of the character I think this is her all time low. Thank you for expressing wonderfully the frustration and disgust of this bottom of the barrel storyline. I wish the people in charge and mags could see this but I doubt they'd care. Thanks Again!

I need to see national anti rape and rape survivirs groups protest GH/ABC/TIIC and have it be on all the news programs and entertainment news programs.

There should be widespread disgust in the media for rape being handled this way. They could have just beat Jax and tortured him, but nooooooo they added rape too. But then made a joke of it for ther holy mobsters to laugh at?!?!?!?! WTF!

Between this and NS's shame of trying to portray racism, etc....w/ no intelligence, quality, or accuracy I say no HIV+ pregnancy story for Robin. They are too stupid to handle it decently let alone well.

GH and TIIC have sunk to new pathetic lows and need to be called out on it, publicly! They must be forced to apologize and make huge personal donations to rape survivirs groups!!!!!!

Though I fully appreciate that this is satire, I still had a couple moments where I felt a bit nauseous reading this. I think that's because I can actually imagine TIIC thinking some of the things you wrote.

In my humble opinion, they have thoroughly scraped through the bottom of the barrel and now are digging into whatever is below the barrel.

You slay me. I love this blog. I want CarJax to go to a therapist (NOT Lainey!) to work out his "infidelity" and I want said counselor to look at Carly like she has three heads and seven arms and say "He was RAPED, you shrieking harpy!" and then I want the same non-Lainey therapist to look at Jax and ask, in all seriousness, "Why in the name of all that's holy did you marry this self-absorbed shrew?" Sadly, I think you're wrong about GH having scraped the true bottom of the barrel. I believe there is lots more slimy, oozy, disgusting crap yet to be mined from the Guza/Korte Barrel o' Crap.

I'm very digusted how they writting Jax rape.
Jax did NOT CHEATED ON Carly. This writting is sleazy. Now they have Jax cheated on Carly. When it Jax was RAPE. If they write this kind of story. Write it responaable have follow up. Don't write this crap now follow through.

Somebody NEED to be FIRED for this crap of Writting.

you are so right, sarah. if only i knew how to organize something like that. the way they've twisted this storyline sickens me! i know it's just a soap, but it's outrageous and completely irresponsible on the writers' part. it's just plain disgusting.

This may be a silly suggestion, but perhaps we could write to the network and express our anger? If this many people responded to one fantastic blog entry, consider how many more outraged GH fans are out there, bemoaning the loss of what was once a delightful, almost socially responsible show...If we all do some internet snooping and find out where we can address our concerns to, let's post it here and get started! Silence is too much like complicity!

Me again...Have just done some snooping...here is a link to General Hospital Contact Info:
www.tvmegasite.net/day/gh/ad.shtml

It also includes the addresses of the soap opera magazines that allow for viewer opinions.

Hope this does something!

Fabulous beyond words. Since we are destined to the umpteen-jillionth mob war for September sweeps - I thought you might someday want to compare GH's lame attempt to borrow from the movie 'The Departed.' In The Departed, there were two young police cadets - one got bounced before he went to work because he had family and friends who had been involved in the mob and his police buddies wanted him to infiltrate the mob for them. The second cadet had no visible ties to the mob but really was under the thumb of the mob boss himself and was ratting out his brother cops to the mob boss every time they turned around. The upshot of the story was that the cop who had infiltrated the mob remained true to his police officer buddies - BUT - and I won't spoil the ending for those who have not yet seen that particular movie.

Of course, in my estimation, The Departed was just an attempt to imitate the Donnie Brasco story of REAL FBI Agent Joe Pistone - who is the only KNOWN agent to successfully infiltrate the mob. The Donnie Brasco movie was based on Joe Pistone's books about his life as an undercover police officer.

NOW - don't know if I will be able to pass this link along to you, but the following link involves an incident in the Donnie Brasco movie which pretty much shows just exactly what REAL mobsters are really like. In recent interviews with the Natioinal Geographic Channel about some of his books, Joe Pistone confirmed that incidents such as the one shown in this film clip happened MANY times while Pistone was undercover with the mob. Warning here - this clip is NOT for the squemish!

FOLLOWING the clip of REAL life mobsters in action, is a film clip from GENERAL HOSPITAL - during March of 2005, Sonny ordered Jason and their assorted mob-henchmen to massacre the entire Sandoval family while the Sandovals were enjoying a family celebration at the Metro Court. Sonny ordered that, not only the Sandoval family but ALL innocent bystanders who might be witnesses - including cooks, cashiers, dishwashers, waiters and waitresses as well as any hotel employees or guests who happened to wander past the scene of the massacre were ALSO to be murdered! The Metro Court Massacre on GH in March of 2005 aired just FOUR days after a school shooting in Minnesota claimed TEN lives. The date of GH's Metro Court Massacre was just THREE WEEKS prior to the anniversary of the shooting tragedy at Columbine High School in Colorado. When Wendy Riche accepted the Emmy award for General Hospital in 1999, in her Emmy acceptance speech, Riche pledged 'programming that will make a difference' in the wake of the Columbine tragedy. The MOST frightening aspect of all of this is that The Metro Court Massacre of March 2005 really and truly IS what TIIC at GH genuinely believe IS 'programming that will make a difference!'

What is important here is that JOE PISTONE - the REAL FBI agent who successfully infiltrated the mob - remained LOYAL to his police officer buddies throughout his time in the mob and NEVER turned on his police officer buddies! The reason WHY General Hospital could NEVER successfully lift a story line like this is, because, on General Hospital - BOTH the supposedly clean cut police cadet who was ratting his buddies out to the mob AND the slightly tarnished cadet who had been chosen to infiltrate the mob -- would BOTH turn on their police officer buddies in a mili-second in order to bow down and kiss the feet of the great mob boss, Sonny Corinthos and Sonny's Holy Hit Man, Jason!

Now, without further adieu - a chance to compare the REAL mobsters known to Joe Pistone - to Sonny and Jason -- as BOTH the REAL mobsters AND Sonny and Jason wipe out a rival gang! Remember, the dramatization of the REAL stuff is NOT for the squemish - and you have to watch to the end of the clip to see what the difference is between Sonny and Jason and REAL mobsters!

DONNIE BRASCO - PART 11 - REAL FBI Agent Joe Pistone exposes the inner workings of the REAL mob - which Pistone successfully infiltrated. Pistone's undercover investigatiion led to the downfall of MANY serious mobsters. At NO time did Pistone EVER betray his fellow police officers in order to kiss the feet of the local mob boss!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONUiK3sBL5M


METRO COURT MASSACRE - March, 2005 -- GENERAL HOSPITAL --
JAX saves COURTNEY after Sonny orders that innocent bystanders who might be witnesses should be murdered as well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7a6-i4OVZI

Fantastic Becca, as usual. And right on point.

THANK YOU.

I flipped on Soapnet yesterday just as Jason was telling Jax he'd slept around on Carly.

I flipped the TV off immediately. Disgusting.

I have never enjoyed reading anything more than your comments. I thought I was crazy to think many of the things you wrote. I wanted to throw up when Carly started blaming Jax for being raped. Then stupid Jason chimes in...and if THAT WASN'T enough..stupid Lulu adds her two cents and calls out Jax for leaving town. The writers really are terrible. No joke. This "made up" love story between Jason and Liz is also a joke....especially since it has destroyed all characters involved...particularly Sam. What do they want fromt his poor girl already? It's nuts. In addition, I like Spinelli...but to have him as Jason's right had man is a ridiculous scenario. All in all...gh is not the soap it used to be, and I for one can't take it anymore.
Thank you for your clever words of wisdom.

Bob also wanted to lighten things up a bit by throwing a little humor in, so he had Jason and Carly giggle at the idea that Jax could have been forced into having sex with Irina.

I'm glad I missed that. I just saw where Carly accused Jax of cheating on her and then got pissed when Jax mentioned her cheating on him. Which was enough to turn me off of Carly forever.

Then I read TV Guide and someone ranted that other people were so outraged at Jax's rape but never express the same outrage when it's a woman. And you know why? Because more often than not soap operas portray rape of women with a healthy dose of sensitivity, reality, and intelligence. In other words, NO RAGING HARPIES ACCUSING THEM OF CHEATING WHEN THEY'RE STILL BLEEDING.

Thanks so much, everyone! This was possibly my most cathartic post ever. It was either this or construct a dummy of Bob Guza (redundancy alert!) in order to burn it in effigy. My choice was clear, because the construction involved in the latter option could have caused me to break a nail, not to mention I have no idea where to buy a sharkskin suit and bolo tie.

LeatherJacket, unfortunately I think you're right that there's worse to come. I try to stay spoiler-free, but I've read in comments here and somewhere else online that the sweeps stunt for November is a mob war? Seriously?! Do you need any more evidence that ABC Daytime is seriously broken than that they looked at GH and said "You know what we need more of? Violence!" Jesus.

That last all-caps bit should have been the title of my post, Liz! I didn't see that TV Guide article, but as terrible as it sounds, I'm less outraged by the assault itself (I'm boycotting the r-word because I think soaps abuse it) than I am by the "Jax cheated" spin. Broken. Brokenbrokenbroken.

Jax is one of the higher class characters on gh. He should pack his bags and leave. Kelly Monaco was brought on gh as a skank, con artist, blah, blah, blah. They built her up to be in some very good and well-acted scenes. Now BOTH characters are like cartoon characters. They should both get out while they can. I happen to think both of them are very good actors...and need better material. period.

Becca, I bow down to your brilliance!!! My outrage at this storyline knows no bounds but I can't express it with the perfect amount of snark and disgust that you do.

I agree with many of the other posters who think that GH should be called out by the soap and mainstream media for this travesty. Since when did male rape equate to "sleeping around" and something to be giggled at? I'm pretty sure society as a whole, has
progressed far beyond that type of sophomoric thinking but apparently, GH showrunners have not.

What a great blog!! I was so disgusted seeing Carly turn her husband's rape into cheating. On One Life To Live, Todd was shot,kidnapped and held prisoner and raped and his fiance Blair handled it beautifully. He was ashamed and couldn't tell her at first, and when he did she completely supported him. But not our Carly, oh no. Then when she and Jason were laughing about it later, I could not believe it.
I especially got mad when Jason was yelling at Jax for putting his brother ahead of Carly....WHAT?? Jason puts Sonny and the mob life ahead of EVERYTHING, including maybe having a life with the woman he loves and their baby. Who is he to judge!
I loved what you said about the mob being the shows moral core. I remember when Luke first got into the mob, fell in love with Laura and wanted to get out and be a better man. He stole the mob bosses "black book" to give to the cops, risked his life and they both when on the run together.Finally they got rid of the bad guys, came back to PC and that's why the whole town celebrated their wedding because they were heroes for GETTING RID OF THE MOB. Not joining them! Oh for the good old days.

I'm so happy you wrote this - if for no other reason then it gives us all a sort of public forum to express our outrage and disgust

Here are some statics on male rape and the contact info for the National Center for Victims of Crime if anyone would like to write them (and see what THEY think of this nauseating portrayal of male rape. I know that I will be writing tiic (for all the good it does) and let them know that I'll be cc'ing the Center in as well:

sorry in advance for using this as a mini-psa

Rape crisis counselors estimate that while only one in 50 raped women report the crime to the police, the rates of under-reporting among men are even higher (Brochman, 1991). Until the mid-1980s, most literature discussed this violent crime in the context of women only. The lack of tracking of sexual crimes against men and the lack of research about the effects of male rape are indicative of the attitude held by society at large -- that while male rape occurs, it is not an acceptable topic for discussion.Much has been written about the psychological trauma associated with the rape of female victims. While less research has been conducted about male rape victims, case research suggests that males also commonly experience many of the reactions that females experience. These reactions include: depression, anger, guilt, self-blame, sexual dysfunctions, flashbacks, and suicidal feelings (Isley, 1991). Other problems facing males include an increased sense of vulnerability, damaged self-image and emotional distancing (Mezey & King, 1989). Male rape victims not only have to confront unsympathetic attitudes if they choose to press charges, they also often hear unsupported statements from their friends, family and acquaintances (Brochman, 1991). People will tend to fault the male victim instead of the rapist. Stephen Donaldson, president of Stop Prisoner Rape (a national education and advocacy group), says that the suppression of knowledge of male rape is so powerful and pervasive that criminals such as burglars and robbers sometimes rape their male victims as a sideline solely to prevent them from going to the police.

National Center for Victims of Crime
2000 M Street NW, Suite 480
Washington, DC 20036

Phone: (202) 467-8700
Fax: (202) 467-8701

I have been so offended by Jax's rape storyline that I have become an Ex-GH viewer. I will always remember Jax, a rape victim telling Carly that he was raped by Irina and her response:

"You managed to perform so well that you left her wanting more."

That is what Carly said to a rape victim. Carjax is a couple that should have been officially over after that line came out of Carly's mouth. That is one couple that needs to end without ever having the possibility of a reunion.

Jax is sitting in front of his "wife" bloodied, tied up, scraped, bruised...and it's all about Carly. I could not believe it! Then when Carly and Jason snickered...I litterly yelled at my tv...and screamed "you are kidding me". The character of Carly is so obnoxious and disgusting, I can hardly stand to watch her in a scene. Jason is just as intolerable to me. The entire soap is disgusting now. There isn't one single couple that is happy and genuine. It's just terrible. Jason, to me, is the worst of them all. He's into everyone's business, and all he needs is a cape with a bit "J" on the front with his hands on his hips.

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