It’s hard for many to fathom that it has now been over a month since One Life to Live aired its final episode after 43 years on ABC. And as fans are still grieving the loss, and tuning in to 1PM or 2PM in the afternoon (depending on your time zone) to see if the show is on, sadly it’s gone, (replaced by the lifestyle series, The Revolution) but in no way forgotten.
To mark the end of OLTL, Patrick Healy, a theater reporter for The New York Times, wrote about his longtime affection for the series and soap operas in general. The daytime serials offered “both an escape from real life and a mirror where I saw — for the first time — my own repressed feelings given voice by characters who were more fearless, shrewd and thin than I was,” Healy writes.
While explaining how he fell in love with Llanview he highlighted when Judith Light took the stand as Karen admitted she was a prostitute, Erika Slezak’s numerous performances as Viki, battling with her alters throughout the four decades of the series, and Susan Haskell’s complex portrayal of Marty Saybrooke. Healy was able to beautifully put how his life was changed and helped by One Life to Live, in so many ways.
Here are a few excerpts: “One Life to Live receded as a steady presence until the introduction of another strongly written female character, the reckless college student Marty Saybrooke, who was gang raped at a fraternity house. Like Ms. Light’s Karen, Susan Haskell’s Marty became one of daytime’s great characters, a victim who would go on to turn her life around. But as much as Marty later persevered, she was always haunted by the past. And I related to her difficulty with old demons; mine was a pathology about abandonment and being given up for adoption. Just as Karen and Viki and Marty tried to prove their self-worth, I tested myself by volunteering to be a war correspondent in Afghanistan and Iraq, where I would sometimes recall Viki as a source of strength, and later by becoming a political reporter.
As cliché as my favorite soap’s title was, the realization that I had only one life to live was the show’s greatest gift to me as an adult. At 26 I went through a painful breakup with my fiancée, Maureen, who recognized that I might be gay before I did (or could). I insisted that I wasn’t, or in any event that I loved her more than I could imagine loving anyone. (Yes, I speak in soapy dialogue sometimes.) Maureen forced me to face my true self, rather than retreat into fantasylands like Llanview. But the characters of Llanview, whom I still followed from time to time, were reminders that happiness lay in reckoning with the truth, with your true identity, rather than retreating into alternate personalities or dwelling on past traumas (and, let’s face it, luxury problems). In time I accepted who I am; I became, to use a favorite word of Viki’s, integrated.
I like to think that someday I’ll go to one of those fan conventions and finally meet Erika Slezak, who played Viki for 41 years. I think about what I will say to her. It’s not unlike what I envision saying to my biological mother if she ever agrees to meet me and discuss her decision 40 years ago. Soap-style dialogue runs through my mind when I imagine both encounters — big emotional statements worthy of a Daytime Emmy Award. But, really, I think I would start with both women by keeping it simple and just saying, “Thank you.”’
What do you think about Healy’s words? How have you been forever impacted by One Life to Live? Share your thoughts!