I have been hearing quite a bit lately about labels. Labels are everywhere, from the cereal I eat to the fabulous new shoes I bought. I use labels to make sure I wash my clothes so they don’t come out looking like toddler apparel. I use labels to ensure I am getting my recommended daily allowance of all that is good for me. My virtual girlfriend, Jillian Michaels, taught me that in all those weekly product placements on Biggest Loser. I just can’t get away from labels.
The same can be said about societal labels. We are all subject to labels just as the food we eat and the laundry soap we choose. From the time I came out at the Junior League’s cotillion until the time I came out for good, I have always been labeled. Most of the time, I had little say in the matter. As if a can of green beans, I was marked with a societal insignia that is mass-produced with a generalization about what is inside. I don’t think it is a stretch to infer that has happened to everyone. Labels such as geek, loner, popular, wealthy, jock, pretty, plain, fat, skinny, and millions more are all part of our school years. We spend so much of our time trying to scrape off those labels, but no matter how hard we try, or what we accomplish in life, only the first layer of the label comes off, and we are left with that white glue part that is never fully removed.
As regular readers of this blog can attest, I comment quite a bit on Guiding Light’s storyline of OTALIA. When you get past the demon possession, the alien abductions, and the coming back from the dead, soaps can be a microcosm of the society that envelops us. On the heels of other daytime, same-sex storylines, Guiding Light has quietly stepped through the door the others had to kick their way through. Guiding Light has been keenly careful in its attempt to market this same-sex coupling as label-less. I believe that approach is just short of genius. By leaving OTALIA naked, so to speak, it allows the network and the producers the unofficial luxury of placing it in the hands of the viewers to apply the label. And let’s face it, no matter how Telenext, CBS, or Guiding Light decides to doctor the spin, we, and I mean the collective we, would diagnose it the way we see it anyway.
I have read in recent days where some closet OTALIA viewers or fans of the other network’s team, this competition of sorts mystifies me, have publicly chided CBS and Guiding Light for this tactic trying to force some kind of official statement. It will never happen. By staying pat on some kind of official moniker, the powers that be allow thousands of different labels to be applied, each and every one placed by a different viewer. It’s personal and assumes ownership, and it allows infinite boundaries. Why confine this storyline to the two dimensional signal of its origin?
Oh, and let’s face it, who really comes out any more? You just are. A confident courage is the new rainbow flag. I didn’t send out any formal announcements letting the new neighbors know I am a lesbian, I just baked them muffins and introduced them to my soul mate of many years. When did Jodie Foster officially announce her pride on The View, I must have missed it? I am not so naïve that I would expect everyone to live as I live. I judge no one. Living our lives openly and honestly is the most difficult and the most courageous decision one can make. It is a personal truth that involves deep introspection. It does not come easy. Easy, is allowing a corporate entity the power to do that for us.
I believe the OTALIA characters are trying to define their relationship, not label it. Labels are superficial and cover the surface, but defining a relationship goes to the core of its foundation. Upon that foundation the careful construction of a lasting relationship begins. True, the pace is excruciatingly and frustratingly slow, but I have to remind myself at times that a definition runs deep in the best of reality. This is a daytime drama where the only thing done with any semblance of speed is aging small children at the whim of script development.
Some can question my knowledge of the daytime drama, and to that, I say, that’s fine, it’s not rocket science…though I do know a great deal about rocket science, so maybe I should find a new metaphor. I’m not really sure how you become an expert on soaps other than to watch them, or if there is some class to take. I guess I could expound upon my experience by soap-couple name-dropping the likes of Tara and Phil, and Jenny and Greg, but that just makes me sound old. I have experienced quite a bit of life in my years, so maybe that allows me to elaborate on life situations personified on screen, but that doesn’t make me unique either. Perhaps there is no expert ranking, just varying degrees of fandom. As a fan of the genre, I admit I am enjoying the opportunity to watch and at times question a storyline that parallels my life experiences in so many ways.
So, back to labels. We all have them, we all assign them, and we all run from them. Labels are better left to nutritional information and haute catoure. When applied socially, these sticky notes are most times erroneous first impressions imprinted with little thought of what lies beneath the exterior. Why must we be so concerned with applying labels? Maybe we should all follow Guiding Light’s example, though probably with a different motivation, and resist the urge of reactionary characterization.