Sunday, June 25, 2017

Giving Black Love A Chance & The Best Black Soap Opera Couples (In No Particular Order) of American Daytime History

Watching a black couple fall in love with each other was often not a common occurrence in the daytime television scope.
In daytime television realm, representation will never not matter. Writers, producers, and directors, often overwhelmingly white, must understand the outcry. Minorities (who pull in largest audience numbers) need to see those who look like and fall in love with versions of themselves. Soap operas should not be so far behind in showcasing black love, but truth is, they are.

Among overbearing seascape of white Newmans and Abbotts dominating Young and the Restless' fictional town of Genoa City, Wisconsin, is the most prominent black soap opera cast. In the distant past, the Barbers and the Winters felt like my own family. They channeled through having this rare triumphant presence, the ups and pitfalls of staying in love, and wrestling in the power hungry business world. Other soap operas, with just four remaining altogether, have entered the minority foray, allowing their black characters a turn in the romance department.

Since its fruition, Bold and the Beautiful's fashion rivalry paradox neglected adding diversity while Days of Our Lives had a black pairing often put on back burner.

Times are changing.

Nicole Avant Forrester (2x Daytime Emmy nominee Reign Edwards) and Zende Forester (Rome Flynn) are the premiere black couple on Bold and the Beautiful, having gotten married in a beautiful Valentine's Day ceremony this year.
When it comes to daytime television, however, it is important to realize that the struggle is real behind-the-scenes too.

Former Young and the Restless star Victoria Rowell told Black Press Magazine this:
"We have the most popular daytime show and the number one show for African Americans, hands down. Yet, there are no black writers, there are no black producers, there are no black directors. There are no Black make up artists. There are no Black hairstylists."
So yes, in many aspects, soap operas may reflect "diversity" on the outside, but it's a false sense of inclusion security, nothing at all like what Ava Duvernay is accomplishing at Queen Sugar. Then again, none of the soap operas are truly creating three-dimensionally rendered characters as the hit OWN show. Head writers come and go and with that comes characters transforming, doing things they wouldn't do under another regime. The inside will remain backwards until someone else speaks up. Yet whenever that happens, that individual becomes an outcast, causing soap runners, writers, and fans to go on a ranting witch hunt....

Still, if soap operas tried different tactics as opposed to sticking with old, formulistic habits, maybe numbers wouldn't be rapidly declining. They have to allow black writers, directors, and etc. to enter the closed door, let their ideas come into play.

General Hospital had its black queen slash Port Charles police commissioner Jordan Ashford (Afro-Canadian Vinessa Antoine) torn between two men: psychiatrist Dr. Andre Maddox (Anthony Montgomery) and P.I./former brother-in-law Curtis Ashford (Donnell Turner).
It is worthy to note that some actors featured in the top black soap romances have been celebrated at the Daytime Emmys. Two years ago, in a special fan favorite category for "Most Romantic Duo," Young and the Restless' highly popular Devon and Hilary took the "prize," beating out the two competing white couples. Nonetheless, at the real Emmys themselves, there are problems primarily for a black actress to receive a golden statuette, let alone the coveted nomination. In fact, Debbi Morgan's sole win is shadowed by being tied with Nancy Lee Grahn, a white actress who spewed venomous rage about Viola Davis's Primetime Emmy speech.

Davis's speech:
"In my mind, I see a line. And over that line I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can't seem to get there no how. I can't seem to get over that line." That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something. The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here's to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black. And to the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods. To Gabrielle Union. Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you to the Television Academy. Thank you."
Nancy's hate (deleted tweet):
“Im a f—ing actress for 40 yrs. None of us get respect or opportunity we deserve. Emmys not venue 4 racial opportunity. ALL women belittled."
We must disagree. The Emmy's are a venue for racial opportunity, for real progressive change. Black actors, especially black actresses deserve to be praised for their commendable contributions to "love in the afternoon." It is a hard, demanding business with actors needing to memorize and emote hundred page scripts. The upset is still burning bright for those who feel that Bold and the Beautiful's Karla Mosley was wrongly not pre-nominated for playing the first transgender character in daytime television. She had put on a memorable, captivating performance that remains being hailed. The fact that there is yet to be a black woman winner for best leading actress in a daytime drama provides reasonably substantial debate to Grahn's ignorance. David Michaels, senior VP of the Daytime Emmy Awards, is also blind.
“When I was observing all of the [#OscarsSoWhite] controversy last year, my initial thought was the Daytime Emmys seem to be automatically diverse. I guess it’s because of the makeup of the shows, but the talent in almost every area is very diverse. Therefore, I think maybe the viewership becomes the same way. … Obviously we can control it by making sure that our talent on our award show stays diverse. But if you look at our entries, it’s truly diverse without having to make that happen.”
When it comes to acting nominations, however, Michaels' words aren't necessarily true. All of the winners this year were white. There are many years that the awards went to white actors. The landscape for soaps may be appearing different, but in the end, whom voters choose to reward remains the same.

Notable Daytime Emmy acting winners, not in the list, include Young and the Restless' Shemar Moore, Bold and the Beautiful's Obba Babatundé (a Tony winner), and Guiding Light's Kevin Mambo (who won twice) and Monti Sharp. Black women nominees include One Life to Live's Renée Goldsberry (Tony/Grammy winner) and Young and the Restless' Tanya Lee Williams.

With the NAACP Image Awards no longer having a soap opera category, the Daytime Emmys are the sole opportunity for black actors to receive notice.
Salem PD officers Eli Grant (Lamon Archey) and Lani Price (Saleisha Lashawn Stowers) have something budding on Days of Our Lives.
As the growing addition of black couples continue building in daytime, let's hope that while they cast fresh new brown faces, darker skinned individuals (just as beautiful and talented) are considered. The African diaspora and complexity of hues has always been uniquely sporadic. Daytime should reflect this authenticity.

Without further ado, The Best Black Soap Opera Couples List....

On General Hospital, secret DEA agent Jordan Ashford (Vinessa Antoine) fell for Shawn Butler (Daytime Emmy winning Sean Blakemore) who did dirty jobs for mobster Sonny Corinthos. It appeared to be a Westside Story narrative with Jordan "working" for the Jeromes and Shawn on the opposite spectrum. She originally came to Port Charles, hoping to reunite with her son TJ (whom Shawn raised while Jordan was in jail), remove him from Shawn's clutches, and take down the Jerome family's drug business. Shawn stood in the way, watching her at every turn, warning her, in between stealing kisses or passionate grasps. They enter into relationship territory, but remain resentful of each other's mob associations and also kept their union from TJ. In one of the most epic showdowns, they turned guns on each other, Jordan preventing Shawn from kidnapping Ava Jerome. Soon the chocolate brigade of Shordan were operating together.
It also turned out, they had an affair while Jordan was married and that TJ is his biological son. Shawn is currently serving time for the attempted murder of Hayden Barnes, although it's been known that he isn't the culprit. Meanwhile, Jordan is wrapped up in the arms of Curtis.
On Young and the Restless, divorced couple of billionaire heir Devon Hamilton-Winters (Daytime Emmy winning Bryton James) and executive assistant turned celeb reporter Hilary Curtis Hamilton (Mishael Morgan) have a connection that a piece of paper cannot destroy (let alone the writers of the soap). Sparks flew for Hilary and Devon upon their first meeting even though Hilary stormed into Genoa City to avenge her mother's death. With longing looks and humored conversations over drinks, enemies turned cordial friends. The chemistry between them was undeniable, before the preemptive kiss ever took claim. They fought against love, holding it off for as long as possible, at last succumbing into a steamy, passionate affair, and eventually marrying in summer of 2015.
"Hevon" were so popular, they topped polls and covered soap magazines, becoming the Angie and Jesse of our generation.
Now Hilary and Devon may have moved into other pairings (not as well-received), but the flame is still flickering, waiting to be ignited. Stay tuned....
On Sunset Beach (a soap with Latino, Asian, and black characters), heroic lifeguard Michael Bourne (Daytime Emmy nominated Jason George) and snoopy journalist Vanessa Hart (Daytime Emmy nominated Sherri Saum) had the most wild ride to getting together thanks to the crazy antics of Virginia Harrison, one of the first black soap opera villains. Who can ever forget the turkey baster storyline? Greater controversy was that Michael and Vanessa rarely interacted with the other characters, their stories were often about them and them alone (both good and bad). 
Often wrongly parted, but strongly in love, Michael and Vanessa overcame criminals, his dark past (he accidentally killed Virginia's husband), Virginia's schemes (murder attempts, implanted Martian's Syndrome, rape/pregnancy/miscarriage) to finally tie the knot in a two wedding closer of the soap's series finale in 1999.
On All My Children, Jesse Hubbard (2x Daytime Emmy winning Afro-British Darnell Williams) and Angie "Big Dimples" Baxter (Daytime Emmy winning Debbi Morgan) were the epitamy of black love. Otherwise known as the first black supercouple, roughly raised Jesse fell in love with upper class Angie. They soon eloped after Jesse was cleared by a false rape allegation (Liza Colby, a white woman, lied). Insecurities (Angie divorced Jesse because she thought he wouldn't want the baby), and interlopers (hey Vanessa Bell Calloway) briefly tore them apart. After kidnapping their newborn baby, Jesse and Angie remarried and retained happy bliss until unexpected tragedy rocked their world. In 1988, Jesse died of a gunshot wound, devastating Angie, in turn giving Morgan one of the finest performances of her career.  During this time, the actors covered soap magazines even Essence and hosted a hip hop/R&B music video program. Jesse and Angie are considered the number one supercouple of all time according to Entertainment Weekly.
Ten years later, Angie and Jesse reunited. Jesse had faked his death because his family was in danger. They then suffered further sadness with Angie's blindness, their baby's death, and a desperate baby switch, but stayed together through the soap's end in 2013.
On Young and the Restless, Neil Winters (2x Daytime Emmy winning Kristoff St. John) and Drucilla Barber (3x Daytime Emmy nominated Victoria Rowell) had the rags to riches romance beginning in 1991. Dru was a vivacious, resilient runaway with ballerina dreams, taught to overcome illiteracy by Nathan Hastings, the love of her sister Olivia, a doctor. Neil was the spoiled rich boy eager to make it to the top. Originally, Dru wanted Nathan and Neil wanted Olivia, but their plans to break up the couple backfired and they fell for each other instead. Eventually, they marry. There are problems along the way, however, with Dru posing for a men's magazine, refusing to be a stay-at-home-wife, and building a successful modeling career. Plus, unbeknownst to Neil, she slept with his brother Malcolm and became pregnant with Lily. A huge opportunity came. She chose to go to Paris with Lily over staying in GC with Neil in 1995. They divorced.Years later, she and Lily returned, helping Neil overcome his alcoholism. They remarried, but alas more trouble ensued. Dru started working for Newman (Jabot's rival) and eventually, it was revealed that Malcolm fathered Lily. Thus, Dru and Neil's romance started crumbling once more. Neil separated from her and began seeing another woman named Carmen, inciting Dru's jealousy. When Carmen was murdered, Dru was a main suspect, tortured with visions of "Carmen's body" and checking into a mental hospital. Together, Dru and Neil worked on solving the mystery.
In 2007, Dru falls off a cliff after a violent scuffle with Phyllis. Sadly, her body was never found.
On Days of Our Lives, Abe Carver (2x Daytime Emmy nominated James Reynolds, longest running black actor on a soap) and Lexi Brooks (Renée Jones) met as partners at Salem PD and fell in love. Adopted Lexie, in the bloodline of Salem's dangerous DiMera family,  was booted out of the police force and studied to become a doctor instead. She was a doctor and eventually the Chief of Staff. She tried to be the good, dutiful wife, but had countless affairs (including with Abe's biological son Brandon Walker) and even stole her best friend Hope Brady's baby. Through other moral struggles of temptations (Abe had an intense connection with Lexie's birth mom, Celeste Perrault), the Carvers carried onward, raising an autistic son Theo, Abe's mayoral campaign, staying together until Lexie's tragic death from a brain tumor in 2012.

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