Boys Will Be Boys At the Lianview University Spring Fling
Many years ago, a girl got drunk at a frat party. She stumbled into a bedroom. A boy followed her into the room, followed by two frat brothers. The boy was upset with the girl, then decided to teach her a lesson. This isn’t Brent Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. This is a storyline from the soap opera One Life to Live, broadcast in 1993. I’ve been thinking about this storyline the past week. I think it’s obvious why.
I was never fangirled over One Life to Live. I watched the show that was opposite it, As the World Turns. However, when ATWT’s head writer Douglas Marland died, months before, the show simply wasn’t the same. One Life to Live, however, was getting wonderful reviews. “Too literate for a soap opera” was one. Novelist Michael Malone had been writing the show for two years, turning it away from its escapist storylines of late (cough cough, Eterna, the lost underground city) and back to its roots from when it began in 1968: a show that dealt with social topics. One young man came out as gay to a reverend. The reverend arranged for the AIDS quilt to come to Llanview, where characters looked at the panels. Another character was into crystals and astrology, often saying “Oh my Goddess!” But nothing could top the Spring Fling storyline of 1993.
Marty Saybrooke (Susan Haskell) was in many ways an archetype soap character. She was the poor little rich girl, an orphan. A bit wild. She was tutoring football star Todd Manning (Roger Horvath) and slept together once, nothing special. Despite her tutoring, Todd flunked a test. He decided to humiliate her at the Spring Fling, a big party his fraternity was having. Marty got a bit drunk, then she started making fun of Todd, telling everyone that Todd wasn’t all that in bed. This was it. He wasn’t going to let some eighteen-year-old girl make fun of him in his fraternity.
With fellow frat brothers Zack Rosen (Josh Phillip Weinstein) and Powell Lord (Sean Moynihan) they found Marty drunk in Kevin Buchanan’s (Kirk Geiger) room. They door was locked. He then raped Marty, then Zack did the same. Powell stood and watched, then after Todd goaded him, he raped Marty as well. I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen the rape scenes. From what I’ve read, they were too real, too much. Stunned, Marty went to the hospital, then decided to press charges.
The rest of Summer 1993 was centered on Marty pressing charges on Todd, Zack, Powell, and Kevin. Kevin was a mistake, but Marty was convinced at the time he did it. The storyline affected all the characters, known as an “umbrella” storyline. All the characters, be it brand new ones or veterans, were part of the story. This was my favorite type of storyline because it gave everyone a chance to act.
Kevin’s mom was Vikki Lord Buchanan (Erika Slezak) the lead character of the show, who also was an incest victim. Viki had to face down her overbearing father in law Asa when he wants to bring up Marty’s past in the trial, pretty much telling him to shove off.
When the college president comes to visit and says that even if Kevin and the others did something, “things got out of control, I’m sure the young woman knew what she was getting into. You can’t blame boys for having fun, to let off a little steam.” Viki then rips him apart: “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. God forbid if Marty Saybrooke or anyone who is raped, the culprit should be expelled from the university and should go to prison for the rest of their lives… I know exactly what you meant! I find it a disgrace! A man like you is put in a position of power over young people!” When he protests, she snaps “This conversation is over!” Boom.
The woman who loved crystals Luna Moody (Susan Batten) became Marty’s rape counselor, revealing when she was a teenager, she had been raped as well. During a spa day, she held Marty’s hands. “Your body is yours. Not theirs. Don’t forget that.”
During the trial, we had exes Nora and Hank Gannon for the plaintiff and the defense. As the trial went on, Nora realizes Marty is telling the truth. Can she live with herself by getting the boys a not guilty verdict? Marty also realizes Kevin wasn’t one of the boys that raped her, yet if she says something will it hurt her case? What Michael Malone did was show the complexity of rape: how when the woman is pressing charges, she is labeled a “troublemaker” and told, “she shouldn’t ruin boys’ lives.” The boys in the meantime are fine upstanding young men. Boys will be boys!
I don’t want to dwell too much on the verdict-only that Todd the ringleader became a popular character, so much so Horvath had to leave the role when the writers tried to turn Todd into an antihero. He knew it would give the show’s viewers the worst message. Hey, he raped someone! But he saved children from a car wreck (Todd truly did this) so he can’t be all bad!
OLTL was canceled years ago. I can’t help but think was it ahead of its time? Or did Malone just shine a light into corners we didn’t want to see? Whatever it was, he has to be commended for creating a storyline that twenty-five years later, still sticks out in my mind. One wonders what else will be said this week before Dr. Ford takes the stand. After all, the young woman did drink at the party. Boys have to let off some steam. She knew what she was getting into.” I’m hoping one of the woman senators will stand up and say to them: “This conversation is over!”
Viki Lord Buchanan would be so proud.