How often do we get a clamor for more, not less? In the world of soap opera sex, requests for sensual expression have always wobbled between romantic desire and daytime discretion. Intimacy during casserole prep is best capped a little pawing, maybe a fade to candlelight close-up. As the decades have droned on (drone indeed, since soap operas function about five years back in fashion, and ten years earlier in social stylistic), more appendages have been exposed, but still: it’s a lot more fantasy talk more than fantasy action.
Over the last month, however, new worlds of dreaming have entered daytime possibility. I speak of the clamor for more love (not less) between Luke Snyder and Noah Mayer, a love match spotlighted in As The World Turns. Since they officially united in September, the couple hasn’t kissed once on-screen, not even after a Christmas declaration of love (which included a climactic cutaway to mistletoe) or a Valentine’s Day ATWT couples round-up (in which everyone saw smooch save Luke and Noah, who hugged it out). Angry viewers began a kissing campaign, demanding more love action from this too-talky tale. The fans have constructed a large letter-writing campaign, posted an online petition, and developed a web site that counts the days, hours, minutes and seconds since last lip lock.
Any talk of homosexuality in this country necessarily turns to thoughts of religion, but in this case, we don’t have to press to any moral abstraction to find talk of God. ATWT makes it easy on us, as this particular opera is owned by one very special soap: Procter & Gamble Productions Inc. CBS executives consult on the series, but the creative direction is set by P&G, makers of (among other cleansing products) Ivory soap. Nearly 129 years ago, Harley Proctor sat in a little Episcopal church in
From the first ad for Ivory (published in December 1882 in a Christian weekly, The Independent) till today, P&G has meant more than quick clean. It has offered a baptism-by-product, a wash of sacred cleanliness. “Americans are the apostles of personal cleanliness,” explained the Cleanliness Journal, funded in part by P&G, “Ours is primarily a character building, Americanizing enterprise for all people and we continue strong in our belief that cleanliness is akin to godliness.” Today, the godliness suggested is a contested one, tugging between a culture in love with clean (boy kisses are impure kisses) and a culture infatuated with green (ATWT is one of the few soaps continuing to profit in an era of declining daytime ratings). “It’s always hard to please a diverse audience,” explained P&G’s PR rep, “and we have a diverse audience.” Which side will win? Harley’s prim Protestantism or Luke and Noah’s most profitable, if dangerously impious, lust? Fortunately for P&G, there is a precedent: their early ads sold nothing so happily as white male-on-male flesh. Christianity is indeed a confusing sexual arbiter.