Words cannot express the disappointment felt by fans of Rebecca Herbst after learning of her upcoming exit from General Hospital. It’s hard to say goodbye to a character you’re so fond of, one who’s made such an impact on not only myself, but others as well.
It’s with a heavy, heavy heart that I sit down to write this column, and only viewers alike of the soap genre can understand why. I’ve mentioned before that I grew up on soap operas. I spent a good part of my childhood sitting at my grandma’s feet as she tuned into ABC every weekday, so naturally these shows became an integral part of my life. Any soap fan who has watched for years and years understands exactly what I mean. Soap viewers invest wholeheartedly, almost abnormally, in shows. Pending the occasional pre-empts or repeat, we spend five days a week with these characters and their stories. As strange as it sounds, they are a very big part of our lives, and it’s always devastating to lose a character you’re so fond of.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Emmy nominee Rebecca Herbst would depart General Hospital this spring in a storyline dictated exit after thirteen years of portraying legacy character Elizabeth Webber. That’s right legacy. Elizabeth – the daughter of Jeff Webber and the granddaughter of Steve and Audrey Hardy, characters who frequented the town’s hospital decades ago. The Hardys contributed much to the foundation of General Hospital’s history and are just as equally important as the Quartermaines who were introduced in the late 70′s. Some might say Herbst’s exit shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the show’s infamous systematic elimination of legacy characters during the last six years, and the dismantling of popular families and fan favorites over the last 10. That said, it’s still devastating in its own right. Just like that, I was losing my absolute favorite actress and a character I had grown up with since I was a pre-teen.
As I wrote last January in the column GH: Elizabeth Gets a Point of View: “I’ve experienced all the important moments of her life with her: falling in love for the first time, a horrific rape, various health complications and miscarriages, the birth of her children, the loss of her best friend, and falling in love yet again and again and again. Like a best friend, when Elizabeth loves, I love, when she cries, I cry, and when she stumbles, I wait patiently for her to pull herself together.”
This character, one who’s had such an impact not only on myself but on thousands of her fans, is one the show chooses to give up because it’s what the “storyline dictated.” It’s inconceivable to me that a character with so much history, so many core roots – whose children are tied to other legacy characters and families – could simply come to an end like this.
Ask any fan of Elizabeth Webber — they can name the countless stories that still need to be told for this character. From the broken relationship with her parents, the rapist she helped send to prison over ten years ago, the true paternity of two of her children, rebuilding herself as a strong single mother of three – the stories are there. Not to mention that the romantic entanglements are endless as well. Whether it’s the unresolved and incomplete story of her romance with Jason or the non-ventured territory of an affair-turned-romance with Nikolas – the potential is there. What’s even more heartbreaking is the missed opportunity to reunite Herbst with Jonathan Jackson’s Lucky — the one who she illuminated the show with during the beginning of Lucky and Liz’s romance as teenagers, and give his Lucky a chance to be with Elizabeth as an adult.
Romance aside, there’s more to Elizabeth Webber than the men she loves. Fans appreciate her fire, her sassiness, her compassion and her loyalty. Becky Herbst once said, “She can be the sweetest girl in the world or she could tear you apart and I love that about her.” Those qualities make her character important because they make her real and relatable. It’s my opinion that Elizabeth is one of the most relatable characters on the canvas. It could even be said that she is akin to women who watch this show – a great mother, a flawed woman with an earnest career who works hard and attempts to persevere through hard times and failures. To borrow a few compliments from a close friend, “Elizabeth loves like we do, fights like we do, and understands like we do. She is a true heroine. She is never truly malicious in her actions and always puts the feelings of others above her own.”
These are all signs of an amazing soap character, whose thirteen years of story will be summed up this spring, ending the Webber family, the Hardy bloodline, and for this viewer, General Hospital in its entirety.
I still don’t know how to feel about this. It’s strange that a fictional character can stir up such a flood of emotions. I’m shocked, sad — heartbroken even, but also angry. In fact, angry doesn’t begin to describe the level of anger I’m feeling. It’s a strange kind of grief, one that will take a little while to reach acceptance.
I too, am sad, heartbroken and angry for Rebecca Herbst. I’ve always appreciated the kindness she shows her fans – navigating the many loyalties fans have to her pairings and being a modern working mother with a beautiful family. Not only is her character identifiable in that way, but so is she. The outpouring of love and sympathy for the actress on the internet has been overwhelming and shows the impact she has made on her fans. It’s these individuals who have written letters, attended events, donated to her charities, bought gifts for her and her children, and supported her every step of the way.
Another friend of mine said it best, “We have been watching her for years and Becky seems so much like a person we know,” and that connection alone is why she’s so beloved. I wish her the most beautiful things that the future can bring and pray (I really mean it when I say pray) that she graces her fans with her presence when other acting opportunities come her way. I won’t dare to speak for her fan base, but I’m sure it’s safe to say that her fans would follow her anywhere.
For now, instead of letting the anger and sadness get the best of me, I’ve decided to take a look back at a few moments from this character’s long history. It’s been said that in times of death (and really, this is the death of our beloved Elizabeth Webber), we should celebrate not mourn. So without further adieu (and in no particular order):
1) Elizabeth & Lucky’s Wedding 2005- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ehe-iqUPRg
Their friends worked overtime to give Elizabeth and Lucky their dream wedding at Wyndemere, one reminiscent of the grand balls they watched occur from afar at the castle when they were teenagers. He was handsome, she was breathtaking, and it was a memorable and magical soap wedding.
2) Elizabeth’s Rape 1998 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qpxe2-8QjaQ
Incredibly written by Michele Val Jean, this was quite possibly the most pivotal moment in Elizabeth’s history. It changed every part of her who she was and still resonates within her character. This was a haunting moment that fans still carry with them.
3) The Panic Room 2003 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKTW2_YOofI
Say what you want, but this was a very, very soapy story. Completely in love with Ric, Elizabeth has no idea that he’s actually holding Carly hostage in the panic room in their home. Fans still loved the couple despite his evilness, and if I may say so, they were pretty darn sexy together despite this.
4) The Night of Passion 2006 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOBfMoSRJS8
It doesn’t need to be said that fans of Jason and Elizabeth waited a long time for this moment. While the story ended up being disappointing, it had a very beautiful start and made fans fall in love with them all over again.
5) Girls’ Night Out 2006 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzr0JNgdlMU
It’s basically Sex and the City Port Charles style and I shameless adore the Patrick fantasies. I love this because not only did Elizabeth cut loose, but she did it with her girlfriends and taught us all to “lick it, slam it, and suck it.”
And finally, a fantastic fan created music video to the song “Lessons Learned” by Carrie Underwood can really sum up everything about the character.