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Viewing Single Post From: Friday, October 4th Daily Discussion

Oct 5 2013, 09:13 AM
Oct 5 2013, 01:19 AM
Oct 4 2013, 11:49 PM
Oct 4 2013, 11:20 PM

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Thanks for the history lesson! It's kind of mind-bending to see how differently the show dealt with rape from era to era. It sounds as though Bill was kind of allowed to "skate" because he was a)drunk and b)couldn't remember the rape. And because Laura told him nothing happened. But it doesn't appear that Bill was ever expected to feel shame or remorse, even when he did find out. Or that he spent any time as the town pariah for raping his ex-girlfriend/brother's fiancee. Quite a contrast to the Jack and Kayla storyline, which I guess represents something of a step forward by not glossing over the severity of the offense or the rapist's culpability. For the record, I've never much liked what I've seen of Bill, even without knowing the details of what happened between him, Laura, and Mickey. He always seemed stiff, arrogant, and a touch harsh.
I don't think you're getting the right picture about Bill and Laura. My mother watched DOOL from the beginning and Bill and Laura (Edward Mallory and Susan Flannery) were her favorite couple back then. They were always written as the star-crossed true lovers, with Mickey as the interloper. That's why Bill's rape of Laura was so very sad and shocking for its time. And it was old style soap at its very best. It had separated lovers, passion and secrets, repercussions and sacrifice and redemption. My mother loved it, and as a child I heard her tell the story in detail so many times that I still know it by heart.
So here goes....Laura loved Bill Horton. His brother Mickey tried to take Laura away from Bill, and the brothers fought about her. Bill and Laura were engaged, but Bill left Laura and Salem when he was diagnosed with a disease that affected his hands and prevented him from being a surgeon. Bill was in despair, but finally, at another hospital, Bill found a new therapy that helped him regain control of his hands. This was proved when he had to perform life saving, emergency surgery. (Sound familiar? It must have been done so much better the first time.)

Bill returned to Salem, but while he had been gone for so long with no word, Mickey had convinced Laura to marry him. Bill was very jealous. One night when he had lost a patient, a distraught Bill got very drunk and went to find Laura. He raped her and later passed out in a black out drunk. The next day, Bill remembered going to find Laura and was afraid he had hurt her. Bill asked Laura to tell him what he did, but Laura lied to Bill and told him she made him go away and nothing happened. No one knew about the rape until Laura became pregnant. Tom knew that Mickey was sterile from a medical report, so Tom talked to Laura and learned the truth. They both decided to keep the rape and Mickey's sterility a secret. Eventually, Bill saw the medical report and was horrified to realize what he had done to Laura. Bill also decided it was best to keep the paternity of baby Mike a secret and let brother Mickey be happy with his family. So Bill gave up Laura and his son and did not tell Laura that he knew he was the father.

HOWEVER, Tommy's meddling wife Kitty, the Horton bad girl of the day, later overheard and recorded Laura and Tom talking about Mike's paternity. Kitty tried to use her tape for blackmail, but Bill ransacked her apartment and took the tape from her. Later that night, Kitty died, and Bill was tried in connection with her death. Mickey defended Bill, but Bill was convicted because he would not reveal the secret and tell anyone why he was in Kitty's apartment fighting with her. Bill served several years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. His cell mate was Doug Williams, who returned to Salem with Bill.

It was about four years ( real time) after Mike was born that Laura found out Bill knew that he was actually the father and had kept the secret and gone to jail out of his love for her and his brother. Laura and Mickey had not been happy together. Mickey had an affair, but he and Laura had decided to stay together for Mike's sake. Laura and Bill realized that they still wanted to be with each other, but they didn't want to break up Mike's family. Unfortunately, Mike overheard them and thought they were having an affair. Mike confronted them, telling his 'Uncle Bill' that he hated him, and ran off. Mike was hit by a car. Bill saved his life but stayed away after that so that Laura could do the right thing for Mike. Later Mike learned of Mickey's affair. He became more understanding about Laura and Bill and blasted his 'father' for hurting Laura. The confrontation caused Mickey to have a major heart attack. Bill saved Mickey's life during heart surgery, but Mickey later had a stroke and amnesia, and he disappeared from the hospital. Somehow, Mickey ended up on Maggie's Farm (There must have been a Bob Dylan fan among those writers back then.) and eventually somehow he was discovered (I think it was when he was seeking medical treatment so that crippled Maggie could walk again). Mickey, still with amnesia, gave Laura a divorce to marry Bill so that Mickey could stay with Maggie.

So it was some ten years after their engagement and eight years after the drunken rape that Laura and Bill could finally marry, still protecting Mickey and Mike from the paternity secret. That finally came out when Mike had a farm accident and needed massive blood transfusions. Among the family, only Bill was a donor match. After seeing the medical records, Mickey finally learned the truth. The shock made him recover his memory, then go insane. Mickey blurted out the truth to Mike, then tried to shoot and kill his brother Bill, wounding him in the shoulder. Mickey was committed to an asylum for a while.

Somewhere about this time, Jennifer was born. Laura went into a deep post partum depression and pushed Bill away. Bill and Marlena tried to help Laura recover, but Bill had gotten involved with another doctor and finding out about the affair drove Laura over the edge. She tried to hang herself. Bill saved her, but she was committed to a mental institution for many years.

So that is the back story of Bill and Laura. There was a rape, yes, but before and after there was a very long, very soapy love story of two people trying to do the right thing for family.

Thanks for providing a fuller picture, KAM! I don't know that it makes me like Bill any better in retrospect, or cease to wonder how Laura could have forgiven him for the rape, previous romance and lingering feelings, or not, but it does sound like the kind of story that provided years of soapy complications for all the characters involved.

Thanks so much to everyone who posted about my recap on the back story of Bill and Laura. I see from some responses that I should have been a bit more expansive in telling about the rape. I was very terse and blunt, I think because I didn't want readers to be stopped by thinking I was an apologist for Bill's action. I am not. My mother was not. And DOOL was not. But without putting the rape in a little better context, I can see where the reaction of the character of Laura might not be understood. Not to mention the continuing positive viewer response to Bill and Laura as a couple.

I think to understand what DOOL was doing in the Bill and Laura story, current viewers have to put later soap stories about rape such as Jack and Kayla or Luke and Laura out of mind. The year was 1968. Among many long-running and well-established daytime dramas, DOOL was still a very new and struggling soap, whose long term renewal prospects were still in doubt. The head writer was the brilliant William Bell, who wanted to honor the successful genre traditions, while also creating more vital and modern characters and putting them in creative and cutting edge story lines.

One of the ways that Bell did that was by writing more directly about the sexuality of some of his characters. Soaps had been dishing the repercussions of romantic drama for decades but usually shied away from any emphasis on the underlying sexual urges that caused the drama. It was so very different then than today's sex-obsessed soap stories with the bed hops, hookups, and marriage go rounds. In 1968, there was social turmoil and a 'sexual revolution' among young single adults but traditional moral attitudes toward marriage prevailed and divorce was still uncommon.

The key to the story of Bill and Laura is understanding the impact of Susan Flannery's Laura. That may be hard for those whose idea of Laura is Jamie Lynn Bauer or who first met Susan Flannery as Stephanie Forrester. Flannery's Laura was both a classical soap heroine and a modern professional woman. She wanted marriage and children but she had a strong desire to excel in her career. She was intelligent, poised, and incredibly beautiful. And she was beloved and admired by female viewers.

Both Bill and Laura were portrayed as ambitious young physicians in training -- he as a surgeon, she as a psychiatrist. They were matched as equals in terms of personal charisma, romantic attraction, and the importance of medicine to their sense of self. Bill turned down residency options in major hospitals to stay in Salem with Laura. They fell in love and became engaged, but Mickey was a continuing source of conflict in his attempts to get Laura away from Bill. The brothers fought about Laura as William Bell introduced sexual jealousy into sibling rivalry with this triangle.

Then came the plot point that drove Bill and Laura apart. When Bill's hands were presumed to be permanently disabled by disease, preventing him from ever again being a surgeon, he was not only impacted physically, but also unmanned psychologically in his relationship with Laura, through his sense that he was no longer the man with whom she had fallen in love. So in despair, Bill disappeared from Salem, leaving Laura behind. By doing this, Bill thought to set Laura free from his failure. However, by preventing Laura from using her psychiatric skills to heal his heart, Bill not only broke her heart but undermined her own sense of usefulness as a physician.

While Bill was gone without word, Laura recovered a sense of her professional self worth by Mickey asking her to assist him with psychological evaluations in (I think) the Susan Martin trial. Laura saw Mickey in his professional world, began to admire and care about him, and eventually agreed to marry him, in the belief that Bill was gone for good from her life. Of course, Bill came back, fully restored by an experimental therapy as a skilled surgeon, only to find that he had lost Laura to his brother. He was consumed by regret as well as sexual jealousy over the thought of Laura as Mickey's wife. On his part, Mickey was dealing with sexual insecurity over the growing fear that he could be responsible for the failure to conceive a child with Laura.

Most everyone, except Mickey, understood that Laura's marriage was a mistake that was likely to cause lasting unhappiness for all concerned. Laura and Bill both felt angry at each other as well as personally guilty -- he for running out on Laura instead of letting her help him; she for trying to replace Bill with his brother. Viewers were disturbed and saddened by Laura's situation. However, this being a Horton story in 1968, it was absolutely clear that Laura's marriage vows to Mickey must trump her love and desire for Bill.

Into these fraught relationships, William Bell dropped his bomb shell. One night Bill got drunk after a patient died during surgery. He knew he once could have had Laura to talk him through his despair, but he was alone. At the bar, Bill heard a song about a woman named Laura, who was only a dream. Drunken Bill muttered that she was not a dream...she was real. He staggered back to the hospital where he found Laura sleeping in quarters and had sex with her. Of course, this was not shown on screen in 1968. William Bell later said he deliberately left it to the viewer to determine what Laura's response was to Bill. But it was rightly viewed as rape.

Also, it had to be seen that way. As much as viewers wanted Laura to be with Bill again, her marriage vows absolutely prevented their sexual union at the time. There had to be some external compulsion that both caused and excused their sex. Bill had to have his moral sense repressed by a black out drunk that unleashed his sexual desire and Laura had to be overwhelmed before she could have extramarital sex with her husband's brother. Years later, social mores had changed to the extent that, in a similar story line, Laura's successor was allowed to reconnect with her lover despite her existing marriage. Marlena was able to act willingly on her sexual desire for John. Even though her marriage made it 'wrong,' it did not ruin her character as a heroine. It was simply a spring board for great soap drama that has continued on today.

But in 1968, William Bell had to use forcible sex to achieve a break through moment for DOOL. Viewers were shocked in a stunning, jaw-dropping way that Laura and Bill -- these two beloved and admired characters who were supposed to be together -- were in such a situation. 'OMG. Bill raped Laura. How could that happen? What will happen next?' Over the next eight years, viewers never tired of watching to find out if secrets would out and Bill and Laura ever could be together again after such a bad act.

And because William Bell wrote the story with psychological insight, viewers at the time understood why Laura would forgive Bill, just as they eventually did. First, viewers knew that in her heart Laura loved and desired Bill as much as he did her and understood that he came to her out of a need for her comfort and not to dominate or humiliate her. Second, viewers knew that, as a psychiatrist, Laura was trained to analyze and understand human sex drives and psychological pressures. Laura knew that her marriage to his brother was a torment to Bill, and she felt some responsibility for creating that stress. Finally, viewers knew, long before Laura did, that Bill was willing to sacrifice his love and his freedom to protect her and their son.

Still, it took many years and obstacles for Bill to be redeemed, and Laura could only leave Mickey after Mickey had cheated on her and later abandoned her for Maggie. (Mickey had his own mitigating factors, since viewers knew he was unfaithful to a wife who didn't really love him and his final abandonment was the result of amnesia. Plus Maggie was apparently very appealing back then as Mickey's true love.)

IMO, the story of Bill and Laura was one of the most important in DOOL history, successfully modernizing the soap genre in terms of dealing with sex while staying true to its romantic traditions. Its down side came later after William Bell left the show. Subsequent writers kept trying to trade on its success and created a DOOL tradition to turn to rape as a fall back plot point when other creative resources ran dry. Sometimes this has been done with true psychological insight and good dramatic repercussions, as with Jack and Kayla's story and the whole Johnson family saga. Too many other times it has not. It is interesting to think about the social and sexual changes reflected in soaps today, as the show has Bill and Laura's daughter and grand son deal with the fall out from Jack's rape of Kayla. I look forward to seeing how this revisit of DOOL rape history is handled now, and if it lives up to its dramatic potential.
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Friday, October 4th Daily Discussion · DAYS: News, Spoilers & Discussion