Last Friday, CBS' Guiding Light, TV's longest running soap opera, went off the air after 72 years. With it went Olivia and Natalia, popularly known as "Otalia," the show's resident lesbian couple who were never given the opportunity to show any real intimacy on the air.
The pair had a long and convoluted history that began with them as bitter enemies. In a surprising turn of events, Olivia (Crystal Chappell) and Natalia (Jessica Leccia) began to grow closer after Olivia underwent a heart transplant and was nursed back to health by Natalia. LGBT fans became enthralled with the storyline when it became clear earlier this year that their relationship would become romantic.
Unfortunately, the resulting storyline polarized most of Otalia's LGBT fans. Although it was made clear by the writers that Otalia not only had romantic feelings for each other but were in fact a couple, Otalia were never shown expressing their emotions with the same level of physical intimacy as other Guiding Light couples.
While the Otalia story was strong in many respects, the fact that the couple didn't so much as kiss is perplexing considering the displays of affection between LGBT couples shown on other daytime dramas. All My Children broke ground with the character Bianca Montgomery (Eden Riegel), who shared the first lesbian kiss in American soap opera history. The character later married her girlfriend, also a first.
Though Bianca is not currently appearing on AMC, there are presently several other compelling LGBT relationships being depicted on daytime television. Most notably, Luke (Van Hansis) and Noah (Jake Silbermann), also known as "Nuke," have been a popular staple on As the World Turns for several years now. ATWT and CBS ran into controversy similar to that which now surrounds Otalia when Nuke were not shown kissing for a long stretch of time. However, they are now shown being physically intimate with some regularity. Also of note is the budding relationship between Oliver (Scott Evans) and Kyle (Brett Claywell) on ABC's One Life to Live.
It is unclear whether the decision not to have Otalia kiss came from CBS or the Guiding Light's writers. However, GLAAD has been engaged in discussions with CBS regarding the overall lack of LGBT visibility on their scripted programming. Although Guiding Light has now gone off the air, we will continue to work with CBS to ensure that their other scripted daytime and primetime programming fairly, accurately and inclusively reflects the lives of LGBT Americans.
On a final note, there is hope for Otalia fans despite the cancellation of Guiding Light. Crystal Chappell, who played Olivia, will be keeping the spirit of Otalia alive on a new web series called Venice, set to debut in November. Though the characters of Olivia and Natalia will not appear (they are the property of Procter & Gamble), Chappell will be playing a single lesbian woman in Venice, CA. Jessica Leccia, who played Natalia, has agreed to appear on Venice and the two women will at long last share a kiss. The New York Times recently published an article on the upcoming web series that provides a lot more detail, but be sure to visit glaadBLOG in the future for all of the latest on Venice!