I’ve mentioned it before and I will mention it again, what happened between JJ Devereaux and Lani Price was not an affair but a rape. Why soap operas continue to push the narrative that drunken sex when one or both parties cannot consent is simply sex is baffling to me. It is 2017, it could have been excusable in the 80’s when so many of these true life stories were kept quiet but it’s irresponsible storytelling now. Imagine how tough it must be for viewers who may have gone through similar situations to see the story progress in such an offensive way, when it could have been a really powerful tale. But no, sticking to the tried and true dismissive storytelling of yesteryear is the way to go.
This last week in Salem we learned that victim blaming isn’t exclusive to women, in fact it’s even more dismissive. Gabi Hernandez has always been a polarizing character, either viewers liked her or didn’t like her – I’ve always been on the former side but her reaction to JJ’s ordeal in Miami has been gradually slipping her down the ranks. I know it’s not the character’s fault necessarily, she is fictional and the writers are the ones fueling these thoughts but what awful thoughts they are. It was actually baffling to hear Gabi say that JJ made her sick for sleeping with someone while he was blacked out drunk. As his girlfriend or even as a friend, she should be concerned with what happened to him and especially what led up to the assault. Instead, Gabi is arguing with JJ and Lani about an affair.
Is an affair not when two parties come together in a mutual decision to betray a third or fourth party? Lani claimed to not have known JJ had blacked out in the middle of their romp and to that I have to say, seriously? JJ didn’t even remember who the woman he’d slept with but Lani remembered enough of the encounter to try and defend herself. What that says to me is that she was lucid enough to know exactly what was going on. And that is creepy as hell. When Lani first arrived to Salem she was a serious, focused police officer and very quickly became an obsessive manhunter. The way she lured Shawn Douglass Brady to that seedy motel under the pretense of a stakeout only so she could bang him was beyond weird, probably one of the oddest turns for a character in a short amount of time for a while. And now she’s raped his cousin and is getting away with it. I don’t like that this is who she’s become, especially as one of the few African-American characters on the show. That dangerous stereotype of African-Americans being sex-crazed or irresponsible or all in all argumentative was perpetuated this week in the most disturbing fashion. Along with Gabi, Lani the perpetrator turned the argument over onto JJ just to save her own skin – and then tried to be his friend in the end! They even went to get drinks together as if the last time at the bar together wasn’t bad enough. Modern storytelling should not be this problematic!
What probably irked me the most is the way Gabi came to JJ with the most half-assed apology just a few days later. I cannot completely recall the line but it was something along the lines of, “Sorry for being mean to you but you still cheated on me.” Raising a child and even serving time in prison should have matured Gabi but her mentality when it comes to dealing with others is still so childish. She somehow could not believe that JJ wouldn’t tell him about his great off-screen achievement that got him promoted to detective after she’d repeatedly raked him over hot coals. JJ has never been the kind of character to just lie back and take the abuse. He returned to our screens as an angry, outspoken teenager and yes, he may have begged Gabi to take him back a few too many times but that does not a puppy dog make. I was so proud to see him shoot her down about being “too distant” when they were only there because of Gabi being unable to see that he was in a deeper pain than she could fathom. Gabi’s immaturity and insecurity is astounding and at this point, completely ridiculous. How can she expect to have an adult relationship with any man if her mindset is still that of a teen?
A good storyteller would have had these people at JJ’s back, denying his claims and belittling him while also exploring the true depths of what led up to the non-consensual encounter. He’s got a hell of a lot going on, he always has. Casey Moss is more than capable to handle more serious material if the writers would have taken the story there but instead we’ll get more dismissive, surface level stories that explain next to nothing about these characters. It’s so disappointing to watch.
Three or four years back, Hollyoaks told an incredibly powerful tale on male rape that won critical acclaim. The circumstances were different, a teacher and student were the involved parties and while alcohol played no part the dismissive behavior of everyone else did as well. Where DAYS loses the plot is in the way that the blame game is the only narrative they’re telling, while Hollyoaks made sure to have characters supporting the victim in his time of crisis. JJ has no one to help him sort out his issues and everyone to tell him that his issues are not issues at all. I honestly feel awful for him. I need for him to win, to bounce back from this with his own inner strength since no one seems to want to be on his team.
As usual, if I missed something you really wanted to talk about or something you felt was important, let’s start a discussion! Comment below, tweet me and let’s chat!