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
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
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.
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,
had him rescue Jax . . . by shooting the love of his life in the back
then rather gleefully dumping her body into the open ocean after stuffing her
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."