Drooling Over “DOOL”—A Soap Worth Watching
A little over a year ago, Sonny Kiriakis began sending faint signals of his fondness for closeted 18-year-old Will Horton. Having spotted the athletic, blond Will secretly kissing another young man under a bridge near the town square, the slightly older and openly gay Sonny confirmed what his gaydar had been telling him.
In the ensuing months, Will and Sonny’s friendship grew. Sonny even awarded him a free caffeine-for-life card to the coffeehouse Sonny operated. But it wasn’t until Will confided his sexual orientation to his supportive grandmother (and, gradually, other members of his initially disapproving family) that the two young men became confidantes. Sonny was the mentor, advising Will that life indeed gets better after you come out. Sonny, however, kept his personal passion for Will to himself.
That all changed this past fall as Will came to grips with the fact that his affection for affable brunette Sonny included a physical attraction, perhaps even more. But Will still didn’t comprehend that Sonny had long wanted to be more than pals. Fortunately, in the small community of Salem, everyone loves to meddle in other folks’ business, so Will finally got the message courtesy of just about everyone in town.
Okay, readers, do you know the fellows I’m talking about? If so, you’re probably among the legion of us who tune in regularly to television’s longest-running soap opera, NBC’s 47-year-old Days of Our Lives—or DOOL as we fans call it. For the record, I’m no soap-opera junkie; in fact I’d never seen DOOL until I read that it was introducing a gay male relationship. When I checked it out and saw how handsome the two characters are, I started watching as frequently as my schedule allows—sometimes recording episodes or catching late-night reruns on Soap Net.
Although Sonny and Will’s storyline developed slowly—tediously so for the tastes of many of us—it has in recent months provided groundbreaking scene after scene, including some of the most captivating bedroom moments ever aired (even by cable standards) on the small screen. Certainly, we have never witnessed such true-to-life male-to-male sexuality on daytime, network television.
Much of the credit goes to the actors who portray Will (Chandler Massey, who won a Daytime Emmy for the role last fall) and Sonny (Freddie Smith, who also played a gay character on 90210). Both are heterosexuals in real life, but that has not stopped them from making believers of their gay fans. Their kisses leave little to the imagination, their undressing scenes are frantically passionate, and their bedroom play—right down to the way they affectionately fondle one another’s chests—is tenderly real. Viewers believe these young men truly are hot for and care for one another.
Of course, DOOL is a soap opera so their moments of intimacy are often disrupted. In fact, it seems that every bedroom scene with Sonny and Will is interrupted by another of the show’s characters pounding at their apartment door demanding to speak with one of them “right now.” “I hear you in there,” the intruders insist. (Darned cheap stage-set walls!)
There are also plenty of moments of jealousy and distrust: Why didn’t Will tell Sonny sooner that he is the father of a pregnant friend’s soon-to-be-born child? If indeed Will is the father, that is. You never know how the story will evolve. On a daytime drama even certainties can change, for example when the evil patriarch of one of the town’s most vilified families recently returned after having been shot dead last year. We saw the gunshots, we watched as his covered body was carted away, but now he’s back more conniving than ever.
Actually, the silly scripting is part of what makes the story of Will and Sonny so much fun. It is a pleasure, albeit a guilty one, to see classic soap-opera conventions applied to credible homosexual characters. I laughed groaningly at a recent episode when, following a disagreement between our boys, another gay character came to the coffee shop to put the make on Sonny. At the very moment of their first embrace, Will showed up at the door to apologize and spied them going at it through the window. Of course, Will left deflated, and it took weeks to resolve the situation between our two love birds.
So I say “Kudos” to DOOL head writers Gary Tomlin and Chris Whitesell and their associates for giving us true-to-life gay characters immersed in the belief-suspending antics of a soap opera construction. For those of you who would like to sample the show’s gay-themed moments without committing to a full hour, you can view many of the scenes featuring our boys on fan websites, YouTube, or Facebook.
While much of the content is what you would expect from any soap, the emphasis on gay characters has allowed the show to take up some serious topics. The story has emphasized how important it is for families not only to accept but to appreciate the dignity of their gay children. It recently also addressed the subject of bullying when Sonny was beaten up by another young town resident who claimed that Sonny was responsible for turning poor Will gay.
To Freddie Smith, who plays Sonny, bullying is an issue of major importance. Last July, he testified before Congress urging tougher national legislation during the Children Uniting Nation’s annual national conference. Having been bullied as a kid, the Ohio-born Smith told Outlook Columbus magazine, “It’s very emotional to be bullied. When you go through it, it’s a big part of your life. …I wanted to let people know that parents need to get involved at an early age. They need to understand that it isn’t just funny, it has a negative effect on people later in life.”
Smith said he was bullied “a lot” in elementary school. “It wasn’t about anything. It was just, ‘We’re going to pick on this kid in the bathroom. Let’s rip his shirt.’ …I feel badly, because some people have it a lot worse. I know friends and family who have had it worse. It’s a huge issue and needs to be addressed.”
Both Smith and Chandler Massey have repeatedly told interviewers they hope their performances on DOOL help bring respect and equal rights for LGBT people. In my view, they’re playing their parts very well.