Friday, March 16, 2012

GCB: Soap Opera or Real Life?

On March 4th, I watched the first episode of GCB, a new soap opera on ABC. Surprised? I don't normally watch soaps, but I was curious to see how network television would portray Christians. Leslie Bibb, as Amanda Vaughn, a former mean girl, returns home to a suburb of Dallas, Texas, after her husband dies in a car crash. Kristin Chenoweth's character, Carlene Cockburn, now the queen bee in her town and at her local church, who had been mistreated by Amanda in high school, plots revenge, all in the name of God.

To say the least, my gut reaction to the characters and situations was that I was highly offended. I don't know any adult Christians who would act the way Carlene and her gang would act or say the things they said ("Cleavage makes your cross hang straighter"). The characters seemed to be no different from the exaggerated negative stereotypes that are portrayed in the majority of mainstream television and movies, if Christians are seen at all.

Nonetheless, I asked myself, "Instead of bashing the show, what good can come out of it?" I thought about how African-Americans were first portrayed on television as maids, butlers, and negative stereotypes. But now they play important roles and star in shows (although lately the number of them has waned, but that's another topic). Perhaps for Christians, this is a start. There have been other shows in which Christians were portrayed as "the good guys," such as Touched by an Angel and Father Dowling Mysteries, but not in a while. Hopefully, GCB will open the door for more shows and movies with positive Christian characters (and not more stereotypes.)

Another thought: Soap operas are not real life, but lend themselves to over-the-top characters. To have drama, you need conflict, hence, the highly exaggerated Carlene. The pilot introduced Carlene's friends, Jennifer Aspen, as Sharon Peacham, a former beauty queen who is now overweight, Marisol Nichols as Heather Cruz, a successful real estate agent, Miriam Shor as Cricket Caruth-Reilly, a strong-willed businesswoman, and Annie Potts, as Amanda's mother Gigi Stopper. Each of these women has her own problems.

It will be interesting to see if some of these negative characters will change and exhibit good characteristics.

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