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Gays of our lives.

While Ellen Morgan made prune time history on television this year, daytime TV broke gay ground of its own. With ABC's introduction this past season of All My Children's gay teen, Kevin Sheffield (played by Ben Jorgensen), the soaps have inched closer to victory in getting gay characters to a middle-American audience that may not tune in to Ellen or see gay portrayals and story lines elsewhere.

"All My Children won't go as far as Ellen went, and it won't become the great gay soap opera," says Mimi Torchin, editor in chief of Soap Opera Weekly. "But the writers on that show won't back off either. They've integrated the gay character into the show, and they'll continue to explore his story."

Maybe so. But Disney-owned ABC-which has come under fire from the religious right for its Ellen scripts, among other things -- isn't taking any chances that its new gay story line might offend viewers or advertisers. The Kevin character has recently sought psychotherapy, and the show's writers have added a female character named Kelsey who thinks she's in love with Kevin.

All My Children's current attempt at introducing a gay character follows the much-publicized story line about gay high school teacher Michael Delaney (Chris Bruno), a story that peaked earlier this season when actor Bruno left the show and took his character with him. And while AMC tried to introduce a lesbian character as early as 1983, insiders aren't looking for soaps to repeat the success of Ellen. "I don't know that a daytime soap would ever include a lesbian story line, " says Jeffrey Epstein, a staff writer for Soap Opera News. "These shows appeal primarily to women, who may be more comfortable with gay men than with the idea of lesbian relationships."

Torchin says viewer mail indicates that gay soap stories in general, regardless of the gender involved, aren't popular. "We get letters from readers saying that they like Kelsey and Kevin as a couple and that they wish the show would drop the gay thing, " she reports.

Although AMC staffers won't reveal the fate of its sole gay character, it's clear that the show won't delve too deeply into gay issues. In fact, the program's writers were reportedly forced to rework a story line concerning Kevin's attempted suicide because the subject was considered "too sensitive."

Torchin says that even though DeGeneres has made it hip to be gay on TV, negative viewer response and backlash from the religious right may send daytime's queer characters back into the closet. "That's too bad," she says, "because soaps have an audience that might benefit from seeing different types of people in their living rooms every day."

But Epstein contends that Middle America doesn't want different types of people. "Soaps provide an escapist fantasy for their audiences," he says. "Producers are hesitant to bring in gay characters because they don't really feed a lot of women's romantic fantasies."
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Title Annotation:gay teen character in soap opera 'All My Children'
Author:Pela, Robrt L.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 20, 1998
Words:486
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