Where Have all the Heroes Gone?

Unlike modern literature, soaps are not meant to be realistic and psychologically acute. They’re more in the tradition of the heroic ballad, where the heroes face down challenge after challenge—but instead of fighting three swordsmen with one arm tied behind their backs, these characters face down baby switches, amnesia, Who’s the Daddy storylines, and family members back from the dead. The bad guys are really bad. The good guys are really good.

Well, are they?

How about a drinking game with all our good guys, called “Who’s worse?” Characters pair up randomly and compare backstories, and whoever loses has to do a shot.

Marriage and divorce:
Is it worse to stay with a man out of pity when you really love someone else, or rush to judgment and divorce the man you really love, without giving him a chance to explain?

Adultery: Is it worse to cheat on a man with his brother or with his son?

Professional ethics: if you’re being blackmailed, is it worse to knowingly alter DNA tests, or to tell someone that any babies she has with her twu wuv will have birth defects?

Shawn: What’s stupider? Driving your car through someone’s living room, jumping off a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean with a toddler, or not bringing money on the run?

Uncategorizable: Is it worse to lure the mother of your child over the edge of a cliff with an animatronic doll, or to drug a man into thinking you’re your own sister so he’ll sleep with you?

I can’t help but feel that something went awry in my years away from the show. When was the last time I felt that surge of excitement and pride when a good guy puts all the pieces together, rescues the lady in time, or does the right thing against the odds?

Instead what do we see? Nick caving to blackmail not once, but twice. Max agreeing to be a smuggler based on Jeremy’s statement that “It’s not like it’s guns or heroin.” Shawn using a hooker and then dumping her cruelly. Shawn and Belle unable to string two thoughts together and being bailed out by everyone in town.

Let’s look closer at Nick, much as it pains me to talk about him right now. Kate blackmailing him to change the DNA test is bad, no matter how you slice it. (Note: As of this writing, I am unspoiled whether Nick caves to Kate’s blackmail. I am assuming he will. I hope I’m wrong.) However, the show made it worse because the lever Kate is holding over Nick is keeping his precious little job at the lab. A selfish reason, and a petty one, given the stakes. I believe that Nick could be blackmailed, perhaps, if the lever was Chelsea, or if someone’s life were in danger. But this? No. Not to mention the utter stupidity of it all, that Nick was already cleared by no less than the commissioner of police. And Kate has exactly what evidence to back up her story? “My daughter told me.” “How does she know?” “I’m not sure. Maybe someone told her?”

The only bright spot, and it is small indeed, is that I think Nick is going to pay for all this. I hold out hope that all this stupidity on his part is setup for him hitting bottom and realizing that he gave up his integrity, his job, his balls, all for the sake of a woman. And what did it get him? Nothing. Not her love, not her respect. Not even some good nookie.

(I still love you, Nick!)

More typically, however, over the years our good guys have not paid for their crimes or their stupidity. This is infuriating for many reasons: hypocrisy, for one. Lack of payoff, for another. A missed opportunity for a good story. Part of the reason Lucas letting Sami sit on death row—for a crime that he committed—gets referenced again and again on message boards is that it was never properly dealt with. I was shocked to learn that even though Lucas confessed to the crime at the last minute, he was too late: Sami was, in fact, executed. She just didn’t die. Some hero.

In a pitiful substitute for paying for their crimes, what we get instead is a small self-accusing speech which is immediately brushed aside by the listener. Shawn after Willow’s death: “I used her and then I dumped her.” Bo: “It wasn’t like that.” Er, yes, it was.

The reason I’m enjoying Stephanie is that the show seems to be gearing up for her to fall, and hard. By the same token, the reason I’m not enjoying Chelsea as much is that not only does she not seem to realize that she got Nick into this situation, the show doesn’t seem to realize it. I hope I’m wrong, but instead the show has somehow twisted Chelsea’s feelings for Nick into a horrific resemblance of Carrie’s marriage to Lucas. Guilt and obligation, with the implication that Nick should and will be humbly content with a few crumbs of affection.

Our old guys, our veterans, seem to be slowly recovering from years of stupid and unheroic behavior. This DiMera story is giving these characters some heroic, or at least active, roles to play. In the younger set, there have been occasional glimmers. Chelsea and Nick last fall running the money to Shawn and Belle. Nick rescuing Chelsea from Dr. Rebert. Lucas standing by Sami at the wedding.

But it’s not enough, not nearly enough. How can the show not realize that the best way to make us admire someone is to make them behave admirably? If Shawn did something smart just once, what a difference it would make. If Nick stood up to Kate and got fired when she ratted on him, or he quit his job, it could still cause lots of angst, but without the stupidity and weakness. If Belle had agreed to give up Claire on the cruise ship to save her life … if Shawn had been arrested for Willow’s death … if Chelsea had come clean about the hairbrush.

If our characters outsmarted the bad guys, or they got into trouble trying to do the right thing, or their mistakes were understandable and paid for, they would truly earn the title “good guy.” Good should be more than the approval of family and friends, more than the absence of malice. Good should be smart, humble, self-aware, compassionate, active … and heroic.

21 thoughts on “Where Have all the Heroes Gone?

  1. Wonderful post…it could actually be called, “lack of payoff” for the fans…isn’t that when we get to see Kate pay for her continuous sleazy blackmail schemes…or when the good guy finally nails the bad guy…as much as I’m enjoying the show right now (at least 90%) I’m still waiting for payoff.

  2. *cries* Beautiful! And saying ITA doesn’t seem enough? Maybe ITACA? (Guess that! Ha!)

    Naturally the part that gets me is what you said on Chick and how Chelsea’s feelings have been changed to fit the circumstances. It was one thing to be rushing full speed through the couple, it’s another for them to actually backtrack and act like what we saw wasn’t true. The only good news is maybe her infatuation with Jett will speed as fast. What I worry with is if she does wind up doing what I am afraid she will, later the show will recant her feelings and attraction. Wanting Nick back won’t be enough, IMO, and she will need to WORK to get him back.

    With you remarking on the obviousness of how heroes are not written for anymore, that’s probably why Nick’s recent behavior has been so hard to take. He was written so well in the beginning, I guess to try to prove he was of love interest material and now that he is there with a viable girlfriend, let’s jerk him down like we do the rest of the guys on the show.

    And you did leave off another aspect, when Steve got his memories back and he simply shrugged his way of how he treated Kayla all that time. That still burns me up!

  3. A most excellent essay, MP. I don’t even have much to add except to say that it really captured a major problem with the show these days.

  4. The “good guys being active” has improved the most with the DiMera storyline, at least so far. And I’m certainly happy about that. I just can’t figure out why the younger guys can’t get some love like that. Max sells his honor for some Linkin Park backstage passes, Shawn gets stupider every day, and we all know what’s going on with Nick. I have some hopes for Max with this Touch This Guy story, and like I said in my post I am hoping against hope about Nick. The show isn’t making it very easy for me, though.

    And I’m hoping that we’ll actually see these two stories play out all the way through, without hasty changes in direction.

    ITACA: “I totally and completely agree”?

  5. I wonder how much of the “hero” problem on the show has to do with how insular the storylines are. Even when a good guy does something for his girl or his child or whatever, it still has a hint of the selfish.

    One thing I loved about Steve back in the day was when he’d do something for Bo or Hope, who were ostensibly his adversaries, and try to hide it. It showed that he had a decent, honorable streak, and that he wasn’t doing things to be recognized for his actions. I love that he was Patchy Claus and tried to hide it. Or that he postponed a date that he knew would probably lead to making love with the woman of his dreams because a friend needed money to keep from being evicted and he had to help.

    Comparing Nick, Max, Lucas or EJ to that shows the problem. What have any of them done in recent memory that was altruistic? Have they made a move that wasn’t in some way self-interested?

  6. Oh that works! I was going for I totally, absolutely, completely agree!

    I keep starting to type something out to add more claims but then I wind up stopping cause it just makes me madder and madder. I hate to keep putting Steve out there but the kidneynapping is another example of being left off the hook for doing something so wrong and illegal. I’m sure Kayla is in no real danger of losing her medical license.

    On the other hand, as Paula says, Steve was really heroic back in the day. Sometimes it would wind up in disaster but the audience always loved him for it. Nick being a hero for Cheslea over stealing the hairbrush made us all go “Wait a minute! That’s not how it was supposed to work!” He could have so stood by her at the police station. Then when her father had his temper tantrum, cue Nick’s actually awesome speech we got LATER about how Chelsea first reaction to lie stems from her own father and uncle always thinking the worst of her. Remember that? It was after Chelsea confessed to the hairbrush but got totally lost in the relief of Roman throwing it out. I have been waiting for that moment for a long time and yet we didn’t even get Chelsea’s reaction off of it. That just…..is bad foresight and vision into what is romantic on a soap.

  7. Beautiful essay, marypickford. I love it so much I’m tempted to print it out, frame it and hang it on my living room wall.

  8. Bwah. I love that Shawn is his own drinking buddy in this game. “If your name is Shawn, do a shot.”

    Just, yes to the whole essay. Especially to this: By the same token, the reason I’m not enjoying Chelsea as much is that not only does she not seem to realize that she got Nick into this situation, the show doesn’t seem to realize it.

    I think the show also doesn’t realize how closely they’ve wedded Chelsea’s redemption story to the Chick relationship. If the recent writing was a case of “one step forward, two steps back”, that would be one thing. There should be little relapses in a story like hers. But IIRC the “redemption”, as far as it got, really hinged on Nick seeing the person inside the bratty exterior, and on Chelsea seeing something to love about the geek boy. There are a hundred other ways to break them up besides Chelsea saying, “Oh, I guess I’m not as into you as I thought.” It guts the whole story for me.

    Either Chick is end-game (a la Steve/Kayla), in which case the recent detour is hard to explain, or the writers shouldn’t be putting all of their redemption eggs in the relationship basket. Which plays into what Paula is saying above about the lack of altruism on the show. Throw a little of that Chelsea’s way, please, writers! (Holding Hope’s giant baby doesn’t count, BTW.)

    Shawn after Willow’s death: “I used her and then I dumped her.” Bo: “It wasn’t like that.” Er, yes, it was.

    And then — Shawn: “I’d like to do the right thing and pay for her funeral.” Bo: “That’s admirable, son.” Shawn: “So could I borrow some cash?” Couldn’t they have him sweeping floors, or handling baggage for TouchThisGuy, or something to pay for it?

  9. Oh oh oh oh! I have one, a moment that was rare and doing the right thing but wound up costing him!

    Lucas refused to go looking for Shawn and Belle for Victor and lost his job. There. So let’s see, in the ratio of wrong/right.


    It’s a start!

  10. Tripp, I forgot about that one! Go Lucas.

    The Steve story was so perfect, Paula, because Steve did all those altruistic things and then hid it or got embarrassed when it was noticed. Then it was all about what he did, with no danger of smugness or hypocrisy, another problem our good guys have now.

    lska, another reason why this shift in direction with Chick makes no sense. It leaves Chelsea’s character at sea. And she was one character I was patting Hogan on the back for all this time. This makes me want to weep (but it’s true!):

    There are a hundred other ways to break them up besides Chelsea saying, “Oh, I guess I’m not as into you as I thought.” It guts the whole story for me.

    But bwah! about Shawn borrowing money from Bo to do his “altruistic” deed. I actually think Shawn is the worst off of all our boys. He can’t do a single thing without someone holding his hand.

    Thanks, artemis, and thanks for commenting!

  11. Nick had a moment of altruism when he was at the hospital comforting Willow, who was crying after having seen her sonogram picture. There was no one around, no ulterior motive. Just a sweet guy helping out a woman who needed comfort and a shoulder to cry on. Of course, then Willow and Chelsea twisted it into something darker, but his first instinct was good.

    You know, seeing Stephanie helping out someone just for the heck of it would go a long way toward helping us see past her acting out, too. Why don’t the writers see that?

  12. Yeah, it’s funny the standards for what I applaud in my good guys are so much lower now. Yay! Chelsea made dinner for Bo and Hope! Shawn had a moment of regret for the way he treated the mother of his child! But, oh, right, it wasn’t his child, so who cares about her?

    It reminds me of a headline in that humor newspaper The Onion: “Sports Star Lauded for being a Decent Human Being.” And the article describes how someone near the sports star falls and hurts himself. The star doesn’t help him, but he pauses to ask, “Hey, are you all right?” Alert the media!

  13. Yes, our standards are really low now, also in society. Days really seems to cater to the lowest denominator. It’s like watching a soap version of Seinfeld where all the characters only care about themselves. Marlena is fine sending Hope into the Dimansion as long as it means John can sit this one out! Chelsea made muffins for Hope one morning! Oh and she slept with Nick cause he deserved a freebie! Same for Belle and Shawn!

    And Shawn is ready to stop living off of Phillip! That isn’t right! What message does that send to Claire? Let’s leave and move in with my parents instead! As much as Nick’s deballification irritates me, it could be worse, he could be Shawn.

    And then to counteract this, I love it when someone does (IMO) have the right to ask what’s in it for them such as Anna asking about monetary payment for continuing to help the Brady’s. The self-righteous gasp was heard all ’round the world on that one! What? You aren’t fully on board with risking your life and dignity by infiltrating a known mob mansion for a family you disconnected yourself from over 20 years ago who have had nothing to do with you in all that time? Also, you have no interest in coming face to face with your ex-husband who probably left you in a humiliating and painful way just to help our cause? Don’t tell us about the experience! We could care less about your own life! Get to the letters, woman!!

    Sigh, don’t at times you just wish you could sit down with TIIC and ask them WTH?

  14. Tripp, I was laughing at how the Bradys were so shocked at Anna. Anna got some good snark in about it too, when she said to Steve, “The only thing everyone agrees on is that I’m going.”

    Brandon Beemer and Martha Madison might not have smokin’ chemistry (I don’t think they’re quite as bad as some say, but that’s another story), but the writing for them has been painful, just painful. All that talk about what a good man Shawn was, and sex was his reward. ::shudder:: It killed me to hear similar dialogue for Chelsea and Nick.

  15. You know, I can kind of understand undermining Belle and Shawn because their chemistry is fairly tepid, but Chelsea and Nick were smokin’ hot. Why on earth would you create a completely inorganic conflict like Chelsea suddenly not being as into him as she thought? I mean, it’s not that I think overly high expectations for a first time couldn’t be a good story. But the insertion of Jett into the mix, and the lack of chemistry between Marcus and Rachel, especially compared to her chemistry with Blake, is just mind-boggling. ::sigh::

  16. *cries*

    Yes, I try not to think of how they are screwing up this stuff for chick right now. I really am.

    For the first time today, I was actually glad Nick and Chelsea weren’t in a scene on the show. How sad is that?

  17. “Inorganic” is just the right word for it, Paula. This is an example of a not-bad idea that is totally wrong in execution. I posted this somewhere, can’t remember where, but Jett could have been a Jack #1 type figure for Chelsea and Nick. Say they were broken up when Jett came on the scene. Then Chelsea could hang out with him, and it would bring out Nick’s insecurities. But for Chelsea, Jett would only make it clearer and clearer to her that like it or not, it’s Nick she wants. (Of course the Jack triangle morphed into something totally different later, but at first it was a very well done “foil” triangle.)

    Just imagine if they had made Kayla embarrassed about Steve at some point because he was thuggish or low class (and god forbid their first time hadn’t been good). It would have been possible to do that with two characters so different, but the show wisely refrained—because it’s not romantic and it’s not organic. It doesn’t lead anywhere interesting.

    But okay, Days, prove me wrong!

  18. Inorganic is defnitely the word. It was even more glaring for me because I the break in watching I had while I was away occurred precisely at the time of the inorganic flip. The episode before I left had them at the police station being schmoopy, the episode when I got back was the missed phone call stupidity. Urg.

  19. Oh, yea that was a bad episode Zara (it gets worse actually).

    The police station was pretty good stuff. I didn’t mind Nick leaning on Chelsea while she was being the strong one. I hated suddenly it was Nick pressuing her to have sex when it was the other way around a week before but I got over that (at the time) pretty quickly.

    I also hate how bad they make Nick as he attacks Jett who could probably take him sober but it just looked foolish. That scene was totally to show how much stronger Jett was in Chelsea’s eyes and I hated it. But on a brighter note, I watch the following video and it makes me laugh. I posted it at TWoP. It’s the scenes where Nick attacks Jett (and the Willow stuff) but it’s done in the form of A-HA’s Take on Me music video:

  20. I watched it, Tripp. It made me laugh as well. Then I watched some Chick mvids that came up afterwards—which I normally NEVER watch. See what you’ve done to me, Days?

    Zara, welcome back! I’ve been enjoying your highlights/lowlights over at Soaps by Remote, as you get up to date.

  21. LOL; I used to not be that big into mvideos either. Steve and Kayla I became obsessed with them. Chick is interesting because the first mvids there were such few scenes.

    Now I just wish there more Chick fanfiction out there.

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