After more than 54 years on the air, the CBS soap opera As the World Turns comes to a close this week, and so does the groundbreaking storyline of Luke Snyder.
Created in 1956 by iconic soap opera writer Irma Phillips, As the World Turns followed generations of family drama in the fictional town of Oakdale, Illinois. It was one of the very first 30 minute serials on American broadcast, and within just a few years of its debut became the most watched show on daytime television; a title it would hold for two decades.
ATWT made television history in 1988 when the character of Hank Eliot came out of the closet, making him the first gay male on daytime TV. He had several storylines after that, including the revelation that his little seen partner Charles was dying of AIDS in a Charleston hospital. Though Hank was written off the show in 1989 (possibly due to protests from religious groups), actor Brian Starcher won “Best Newcomer” at the Soap Opera Digest Award for his portrayal of the character. What’s more, the show was honored for the storyline at the first ever GLAAD Media Awards in 1990.
The show made headlines again in 2007, when two months after introducing longstanding (and openly gay) character Luke Synder to the new-in-town Noah Mayer, the characters shared daytime’s first ever gay kiss. The long awaited moment quickly became a smash hit on YouTube, with clips of the kiss garnering over 2 million hits.
The newly christened “Nuke” was described as a soap opera “super-couple” by TV guide, and Entertainment Weekly called the kiss “a landmark moment.” It would also prove to be a rare one, as the characters would soon see their shared screen time greatly reduced, along with any outward displays of affection between them following a second kiss. This prompted many of the show’s fans to start a “Kiss Campaign” in the hopes of convincing the show's writers to start treating “Nuke” like any other soap opera couple, kissing included.
Seven months later, Luke and Noah finally shared kiss number three, and ultimately consummated their relationship (off-screen) a year and a half after their first meeting. By soap opera standards, “Nuke” was downright chaste.
Regardless of the controversy, many fans were happy to see regular gay characters on daytime television, not mention ones in a loving relationship. Like most soap couples, Noah and Luke eventually split, and Luke found love again with a handsome neurosurgeon named Dr. Reid Olliver while Noah was left to pine over his ex from the sidelines. That was not to last however, as the good doctor was killed in a train accident, leaving Luke heartbroken.
Many LGBT viewers have been left upset and frustrated by the fact that most of the show’s longstanding characters had been given neat and happy endings as the series draws to a close on Friday, which Luke would most certainly not be getting. Head writer Jean Passanante defended the storyline however, saying ““Luke has been straddling the line between childhood and adulthood and this really makes him an adult. It’s his growing up story.”
Regardless of the controversy, it can’t be denied that As the World Turns has made a significant contribution to LGBT images on television, bringing gay storylines to audiences who may not see them anywhere else. The show was nominated in the “Daily Drama” category of the GLAAD Media Awards for the last four years in a row (which it has won twice), and actors Van Hansis and Jake Silberman have made several appearances as presenters and acceptors.
As the show comes to a close with its final episode this week, how do you feel about the show’s history, and the way Luke’s storyline is ending? Let us know how you feel by voting and leaving your thoughts in the comments below.