Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Which would you prefer to live without: sound or vision?

It's a question we've all been asked, or asked ourselves, at some point, with most of us, I presume, opting to forego sound over vision. I'd probably save my eyesight, too, but for a major music aficionado like me, it would kill never again to hear David Bowie's "Sound And Vision," the Guess Who's "These Eyes," the Supremes "I Hear A Symphony," or any of my other favorite music. But if Beethoven could compose some of the most moving music of all time without the benefit of sound, I suppose I could find some way to continue to live a rich, full life without it.

But what if the two things at stake were less obvious? What if you had to choose between your sight and the health of your unborn child? That's the brain teaser currently torturing Angie and Jesse Hubbard on All My Children, in one of the most resonant and true-to-real-life storylines I've seen on a daytime soap in years.

For those who don't watch AMC regularly, here's the back story. Months ago, Dr. Angie Hubbard was exposed to a rare infection while treating a patient without the proper protective equipment. One effect of the infection is intermittent loss of vision that over time, in extreme cases, can result in permanent blindness. Following a self-diagnosis and a professional one, Angie began taking an experimental drug that seemed to be successfully fighting off the infection and restoring her eyesight. Then she was hit with both a miracle and a curse: She found out that she was pregnant. In her late forties, she's already facing a possibly difficult pregnancy due to her age, but the experimental drug poses a further threat to the unborn child.

Angie's choice: Continue to use the drug, terminate the pregnancy, and most likely retain her eyesight, or stop using the drug, carry the baby to term and live out her days in darkness because the damage done to her retinal cells over the course of eight months would be considerable and irreversible. She also could continue on the drug, carry the baby to term and most likely give birth to a baby with serious defects. It's a lose-lose situation: No matter what, she is going to lose something precious, and if she chooses to keep the baby, she may very well never see her own child.

One of the most difficult aspects of the decision is that it's very early in the pregnancy. There's still a chance that she could miscarry, or that she could still give birth to a child with defects since she's already been taking the drug while pregnant, meaning that she would have gone months without taking the drug, doing irreversible damage to her sight, for nothing.

The battle lines between Angie and Jesse are clearly drawn, giving another dimension to this terrific story. Jesse's priority is his wife. He'd prefer to save her sight, even if it means ending the pregnancy. Angie's concern is only for the baby. She'll deal with blindness later. I'm siding with Jesse on this one. But I'm a childless guy, so I don't know firsthand the power of parenthood -- or motherhood -- and how concern for a child can supercede everything else. That said, I can see where Angie is coming from, why a mother might choose her child over her sight. I'm not crazy about the slightly religious bent of the story: Angie feels that God must have a plan, and to mess with the baby's life would be to mess with God's plan. In other words, He will see them through.

It's an unfortunate point of view that could lead to a lifetime of disappointment, but it's just one misstep in an otherwise great soapy story arc. It's not just another baby tale, or a pregnant woman facing health risks. (Does any soap pregnancy ever go smoothly?) We've seen too many of those. This one involves the potential loss of a vital sense, a gift that we all take for granted but one that we're all terrified of losing, making it universal in its scope. The acting has been stellar -- Emmy winner Debbi Morgan, who plays Angie, will surely be up for another one next year  -- and the pacing feels right, not too slow, not too rushed. I'm glad more characters are being brought into the story, as it's been interesting to see their varied reactions. When Natalia, Jesse's daughter, suggested abortion, I was surprised by Angie's strong reaction against it. I felt that there was a bit of residual resentment in the way she snapped at Natalia (after all, that's the daughter Jesse had with another woman during the many years in which he was presumed dead), especially after the kids left, and Angie went on and on about what an incredible person Frankie, her son with Jesse, is, but didn't mention Natalia.

I have no idea where the writers are going. I'm sure abortion will not be a factor, nor do I think Angie will become permanently blind. In fact, I hope she doesn't -- not only because I love the character and hate to see her suffer, but because blindess in itself is something that has been done to death on soaps. I'm hoping for a diabolical twist that would render the infection a conspiracy (David Hayward?) and lead to Angie's giving birth to a healthy baby. Whatever the eventual outcome, after spending the last few years at the bottom of my must-view list, AMC is giving me reason to tune in again and making me think in the process.
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