How far is too far? Did General Hospital go beyond the extreme by using Robin’s HIV as a weapon?
There seems to be a lot of controversy surrounding the Monday, October 24, 2011 of General Hospital. After a year of scheming, villainess Lisa Niles (Brianna Brown) enacted her most dangerous and vengeful plan against super couple Patrick (Jason Thompson) and Robin (Kimberly McCullough). The episode, written by former Guiding Light scribe David Kreizman, has the psychotic Lisa attempting to inject Patrick with a syringe of Robin’s blood. Even if Robin’s HIV status wasn’t a factor, this would be a major don’t. And it’s disgusting.
Twitter exploded with angry comments from fans who felt this story has gone too far. According to strongly worded tweets appearing in my timeline (@SourceRyan) and in the @SoapOperaSource timeline, most agreeing it was shameful to reduce HIV to a plot point.
I engaged in a number of fiery discussions, with people challenging my lack of outrage over GH “sinking to a new low.” To put it rather bluntly, it’s a fictional television show, whose purpose is to create drama. This particular plot point is hardly worse than the many potentially offensive plot devices they’ve written in the past, including but not limited to using rape, alcoholism, drug addiction and various types of abuse as nothing more than a source of conflict and drama.
This is the same show that uses child abuse as a reason as Sonny’s excuse for the horrible things he does; the same show that wrote Emily’s rape in 2005 by a man who was a spitting image of her husband to precipitate their break up and set up an affair between Nikolas and Courtney; the show that had had Jason and Carly mock Jax for being raped by Irena; the show that had Michael be raped in prison by inmate Carter to further the feud between Jason and his obsessed stalker Franco.
What was once one of daytime’s most iconic, topical, socially driven stories has been reduced to a plot point for years leading up to this most recent incident.Since Kimberly McCullough’s return in 2005, the show has frequently used Robin’s status as a way to heighten tension and elevate the angst of those involved. Robin is rarely shown in a character driven story, highlighting the struggles she goes through as she lives her life as an HIV positive woman. The series reminds viewers regularly that Robin’s viral load is very low, yet it suddenly becomes a crisis when something goes boom or she’s shot. During the Metrocourt storyline, the possibility of Robin infecting those injured inside the hotel became a reality when she was shot by Jerry Jax. Yes, her HIV was used as a plot point. When Patrick slept with Leyla, Robin’s HIV was used as a plot point. The possibility of Robin passing HIV on to Emma during birth was used as a plot point. Robin’s infection after being burned in the fire (thanks to Lisa) was used as a plot point. When was the last time Robin’s HIV status was used in a manner similar to when she contracted the virus from Stone?
While soap operas can and have been a useful tool in telling topical, socially relevant stories with educational value to its audience, it’s been clear for years that General Hospital no longer sees a value in that. It’s not the responsibility of GH (or any television show for that matter) to set a good moral example for its audience, and Lisa was never presented as a character who should provide a moral compass. To the contrary, Lisa is a villain. Her actions present the opposite of the kinds of values good and righteous people should exhibit. The purpose of their stories is to create drama and conflict and yes…controversy. The reaction to this particular story is a measure of its success. It elevates the discussion about HIV and increases awareness. However, more importantly, it delivers shock and outrage as intended. As controversial as some feel it may be, I do not share such an opinion.
Not every interaction Robin has with HIV needs to be positive. Despite advances in HIV drug protocols, this remains major life threatening disease that Robin carries with her every day. It weighs on her and impacts the decisions she makes. It was an interesting dynamic to watch Robin struggle with the myriad of emotions she felt when she realized what Lisa had planned. The potential risk of Patrick contracting HIV was addressed before they began a sexual relationship and at times since then, but Robin could never have anticipated Lisa, as crazy as she is, would take her vendetta against her and Patrick this far or in this particular way.
I was genuinely shocked and appalled at Lisa’s actions. That’s the reaction I’m supposed to have. This was reminiscent of Lucky being injected with his drug of choice by Anthony Zacchara’s goons. When I realized Lisa’s plan, my first thought wasn’t, “Oh my, what a horrible example GH is setting for younger viewers. I’m so offended.” It was “Oh my god! Please don’t do it Lisa! Patrick isn’t worth it.” When Lisa is inevitably killed off, kicking off the show’s latest murder mystery, will that too garner such staunch criticism from the soap universe? Or will that be chalked up to simply another plot point?
Kimberly McCullough should be applauded for effectively portraying the fear and desperation Robin felt during the incident. It should also be noted that in today’s episode, Robin was the one to save Patrick from Lisa. In the days when women on soaps are written as weak and dependent on a man to save them from danger, Robin was written against what has become the new norm. She didn’t need a man to come and save her. Robin tapped into the love she felt for Patrick to find the strength to rescue herself and her husband from the clutches of the evil Lisa. Robin was her own hero.
What’s your opinion?