Laugh if you will, for me this is a day of mourning. This too shall pass because we know life moves on despite the things we’d like to halt for a time. Believe it or not some of what I have learned about life, love and learning are due in some small part to watching AMC.
I started watching AMC the summer I was 15. The real world was just beginning to creep into my consciousness. My politically savvy mother never missed the opportunity to inform us of what the government was really up to with the Vietnam War, the economy and how crazy five children could make a person. I couldn’t change the war, the economy or the fact my mother was crazy due to her own personal choices concerning procreation. But I could watch All My Children. From the beginning I was “hooked”.
That first summer I was full of the bloom of youth and hopefulness and discovered there was such a thing as rebellion. Erica Kane, the saucy and rebellious heroine, daughter of the long suffering Mona Kane was not much older than me. I could relate as I too was struggling with rebellion at this time. Granted mine manifested in small ways such as pulling for Auburn over Alabama during football season and repeated attempts to go bra-less. Things guaranteed to drive my mother crazy.
I was enthralled by a world inhabited by the citizens of Pine Valley, from the queen, Pheobe Tyler, to Donna Beck, the prostitute saved by Pheobe’s son Dr. Chuck Tyler. The Vietnam War, a subject I had little occasion to escape thanks to my mother and the evening news, was an issue that the liberal Amy brought to the forefront while she led anti-war protests that really shook up Pheobe and the rest of Pine Valley. This was the first time I had the idea my mother was most likely a genius, though it would be many years before she would hear me admit the thought.
I learned something about the importance of personal responsibility concerning sex and birth control. I was a young lady at the tail end of the sexual revolution. Religion aside on the subject, mothers discussions on the topic of sex were usually something like, “a man will tell you anything you want to hear in order to have his way with you”. Although true, it was nice to know somewhere women were discussing the possibilities that besides a besmirched reputation, there was one less worry in the argument for and against should we do “it” or not. The struggle Erica had with abortion came about directly after Roe Vs. Wade. Hiding birth control pills from her husband and the abortion on the show opened up subjects women have struggled with since the beginning of time. The debate rages on today.
While I was furthering my education and entering the work place Billy Clyde Tuggle and Donna Beck were discovering careers not involving Pimps and prostitutes. Ray Gardner was assisting Billy Clyde in opening the eyes of the viewer to the horrors women and children who are victims of domestic violence while they beat Donna and Opal. The harm caused to the children of abusive men was realized when Tad came into the picture as a first class lout.
When I fell in love and married my husband the decade of young love was beginning on AMC. Enter Greg and Jenny, Jessie and Angie, Liza and Tad, Tad and Liza’s Mom, Marian. Oh well, two couples with enduring love are better than none. Jenny was blown up while riding a jet ski on the lake and Greg moved on. Jessie was killed and Angie moved on, but now he is revived and they are together and in love despite his return from death, his daughter, their son, blindness, eyesight restoration and surviving the witness protection program. This is the period of my life when rebellion is out and setting up housekeeping and planning meals becomes the biggest challenge de jour.
While my children were young I lived vicariously through the greatest love affair of the century between Tad and Dixie. Adam Chandler was constantly dragging Dixie through the mud and mental hospitals while attempting to prove her an unfit mother to their son, JR. Tad is the Knight in Shining Armor of Dixie’s and housewives dreams. At least for one hour a day while the children are napping or in school, we could unplug our phones, put up our feet and dream of being rescued by Prince Charming. About this time I began to seriously doubt my chances of making a guest appearance that would rock the soap nation and demand I become a permanent part of the cast. Carol Burnett made it look so easy.
While I was caring for my ill parents, AMC was covering issues having to do with drug addiction, mental illness and elder abuse. Erica and her brother Mark were both addicted. Erica held the first ever intervention on daytime TV for Mark. Janet, who was married to Trevor before she made herself a widow was a walking ad for a mental health intervention. A cast of hero’s assembled to shed light on elder abuse in Pine Valley’s retirement community. Erica lost her mother after establishing a formidable bond between the Kane women. I lost my mother after caring for her with as much love and patience as she cared for me all of my life. We both enjoyed AMC at noon every day before she passed.
Erica struggled with the issues of anorexia and lesbianism with her daughter, Bianca. She did the right thing and loved her daughter. A son saved harvesting the embryo of her abortion and born of artificial means paid Erica a visit she would never forget. This visit did more than confuse and upset Princess Erica, it opened the door to the implications of abortion for women later in life. Bianca is the only child Erica was conscious of giving life before she met the very ticked off Kendall. I will always thank God in Heaven the biggest problem we had with our children was coordinating our schedules around their sporting, school, and other pleasant events.
As AMC ends a reign of drama on daytime television on ABC, Erica is still the princess and determined to have the prince, although just like Rhett Butler told Scarlett, Jackson told Erica he did not give a damn. She won’t let that stop her from getting her cake and eating it too. She has one more plan up her sleeve and I am left hanging. I am more like my politically savvy mother, never missing the opportunity of telling people what the govt. is up to with the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and the drone attacks on Yemen and Pakistan. I’m discussing the economy. I am thankful for the decisions I made concerning my part in procreation. I am still rebellious in my resistance to conformity.
AMC most likely holds the record for people returning from the dead. Plots revolving around hospital baby swaps, affairs, lost siblings, babies born in impossible situations, long lost children finding and tormenting the newly found parent(s), good twin, evil twin, back stabbing, new love, lost love, personality disorders, who’s the baby daddy, ghosts and spirituality satisfied all the unreality sometimes needed for a brief respite from the reality of everyday life. We’ve come to love and hate the characters according to whatever zany escapade, crazy scenario and sizzling love scene being played out at any given time.
AMC covered so many social issues over the years. I wouldn’t say I agree with all of the positions taken on these issues, but I will say I am grateful that they were covered with the pros and cons as they were presented. Birth control, abortion, religion, rape, mental illness, domestic violence, sexuality, spirituality, anorexia, bulimia, grief, physical disabilities, greed, discrimination, diabetes, heart disease, HIV, Aids, war, what to do if you are re-married and your deceased spouse comes back to life, and scores of other important issues and their impacts on our lives have been front and center in this creation of Agnes Nixon. Holy run on sentence, Batman! Millions of housewives have changed the way they view themselves and the world as a result of watching All My Children. Many of them have been encouraged to make positive changes to their lives, the lives of their children and others.
I will miss my husband teasing me with the question, “You know this is not real, don’t you”? While I realize that AMC is not real, Erica, Tad, Dixie, Jennie, Jessie, Angie, Adam, Dr. Martin, Opal, Palmer, JR, Bianca, Babe, Kendall and the rest of them have a real place in my heart. AMC played background music in so many seasons of my life.
As I mourn the end of an era I pay homage to those that brought us the issues and the nonsense in all the crazy plots, plans and cliff hangers. AMC had a role in empowering women of all ages and reminded us to make haste while the day is upon us. We have wonderful world of life, love and learning to conquer. In reality, there are few chances for do overs.
September 23, 2011