Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Soap opera villains: Building the perfect beast

Everybody loves a bad boy. They're hot, they're sexy, and they're a lot more fun than Prince Charming or the white knight on a steed. Ditto fictional villains. Not only does watching dirty deeds being done dirt cheap (or at great financial cost) make for super televised or cinematic entertainment, but it's cathartic, too. I like to think of myself as one of the good guys, and since we generally finish last, sometimes it's fun to root for the bad guy, put myself in his shoes, and imagine myself, for once, coming in first.

As I've mentioned many times before, I'm addicted to daytime soaps. And what would my beloved stories be without villains? I don't tune in to see love in the afternoon. (I've never been much of the voyeur type -- I even hate porn!) I tune in to see what the town pariahs are up to, and, of course, to see good eventually triumph over bad. But only after a long, hard, entertaining struggle.

The other night as I was watching good-girl-gone-wicked-witch-of-Llanview Marty Saybrooke terrorize Natalie Banks on One Life to Live, I began to daydream. What if I went on my own reign of terror in my hometown, plotting revenge on everyone who's ever done me wrong? My daydream didn't last long because A) I'm not a person who's particularly driven by revenge, and B) aside from the occasional romantic rejection, or hurtful words spoken by friends and acquaintances in anger, or in ignorance, I can't recall anything ever being done to me that warrants taking a walk on the dark side.

I've never been framed for murder, or parentage, never had a child be kidnapped or switched at birth, never been assumed dead, or had a loved one come back from the dead, never been pushed down a flight of stairs. My parents are really my parents, and there are no repressed memories of molestation or incest. Though I feel like I spend way too much time complaining that woe is me, I have it a whole lot easier than most of my beloved soap characters. I mean, I'm not sure how I would survive if someone buried me alive. I can barely make it from my sixth-floor apartment to the ground floor in my apartment building's elevator!

But the main reason why I would never really go there is because every dog has his day, and I wouldn't want mine to end in jail, or in some even worse place, or state. As fun as it is to watch the misdeeds of fictional bad guys -- and girls -- it's even more enjoyable to see them finally get their due. Over on Days of Our Lives, Vivian Alamain spent what seemed like months in a sarcophagus (thanks to Brady Black, a handsome hero turned slightly sinister and frequently toasted), which made watching her eventually shove her intended buried-alive victim, Maggie Horton, into the tricked-out casket for two weeks, bearable. Naturally, Vivian will get off scott free, but at least she suffered, too. And everyone in town hates her.

It's the same with Nicole DiMera. She gets her way -- sometimes -- but she's a hopeless drunk with few friends and no respect, so it's okay to watch her steal babies and try to pass them off as her own because we know that eventually she'll get caught. But I'm still waiting to see some fallout from her framing of Arianna Hernandez for the Salem muggings. Arianna might be recently departed, but boy would it put a crimp in her rough-sex romance with Brady if he discovered that Nicole was directly responsible for his falling off the wagon.

Meanwhile, anti-heroine Sami and anti-hero EJ go back and forth. This week, he's the winner. Next week, it's her turn. (I'm firmly on Team Sami, because, as played by Alison Sweeny, she's more sympathetic than EJ, whom James Scott brilliantly plays as 100 per cent smarmy, unlikable and borderline irredeemable.) Then there is Kate Roberts Kiriakis Brady DiMera. (Did I leave out any surnames?) I love watching her because at fiftysomething, Lauren Koslow, the actress who plays her, is one of the sexiest women alive. And anyone who goes out jogging dressed to the designer nines and fully accessorized has got my vote. But just once, it would be nice to see her pay for her crimes against humanity in Salem.

David Hayward, Pine Valley's sole dark prince, recently risen from the dead after trying to frame Ryan Lavery, the ex of his wife Greenlee, for his "murder" on All My Children, is tolerable because he loses more often than he wins. Oh, and everyone hates him. Ditto One Life to Live's Dorian Lord and Todd Manning. And over at General Hospital, Lisa Niles is finally getting a little bit of comeuppance. Though she gets away with attempted murder too often, it was nice to see her put on probation at work and have her operating-room priviledges suspended by Chief of Staff Steven Webber, the hunkiest daytime doc in serious need of his own story. Stat!

Which brings me to Clint Buchanan over on One Life to Live. Watching him turn into his late dad Asa is one of the most enjoyable things happening on OLTL at the moment, and Jerry Ver Dorn has seamlessly negotiated the transition from upstanding to downright wicked. And I can see how losing his wife Nora to his brother Bo, who also happened to be Nora's ex-husband (and now current one), turned him into a bitter, broken guy. But I'm tired of seeing him win all the time. For months now, he's been getting away with everything, and the people he loves love him right back.

It's no fun watching a villain whose only enemies are the people with whom the hate is mutual. David Hayward is interesting because he has two Achilles heels: Greenlee, who loves Ryan and not him, and his daughter Marissa, who despises him. Dorian's Cramer girls are always butting heads with her, putting her in her place, as is most of Llanview. And at least one of Todd Manning's kids are usually at odds with him, or he's got a wife battling a fake brain tumor, or someone's beating him within an inch of his life. He suffers enough.

I say it's time for Clint to get a nemesis who can stand up to him -- whom he also loves and respects. I want to see him get punched or slapped. Rex Balsom, the son he doesn't want anyone to know he has (for reasons that I'm still not buying hook, line and sinker), can do the honors. Or Viki Banks. I say it's time for Viki to remove the rose-colored glasses and see her ex-husband for who he's become. Now that's a showdown that would keep me on the edge of my seat. I'd be cheering on Viki on the outside, of course, but deep deep inside, I'd be rooting for Clint to keep me entertained with his dirty misdeeds.

Bring it on, big daddy!
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