Days of Our Lives · Commentary

The Failure of the Immigration Story

Originally posted May 8, 2019.

Believe it or not, I’m actually not a difficult soap viewer to please. As long as the show is watchable and I have the time, I’ll watch any story even if my favorite couple or character aren’t at the center. I’ve always been a fan of the ensemble nature of these shows and I like to think I’ve been flexible on my couples.

I usually use three measures to decide what makes a soap story watchable. Does the story make sense? Does it serve the characters? Is it entertaining? The best stories hit all three marks, but they’re rare. They’re the Metro Court Hostage story on GH in 2007 or the hospital quarantine of 2006. In my short time as a Days viewer,  I thought Kristin’s return hit all three but I didn’t really know to measure it in terms of character because I didn’t know those characters yet.

This immigration story is a bust on every single question.

Does the story make sense? 

No. And it’s not that I’m mad that the show is attempting to take on a hot social topic. I’ve always thought my other soap, GH, was at its best tackling stories like breast cancer, AIDs, sexual assault, and the death or illness of a child. Those have been some of my favorite and most lasting memories.

My problem with the actual structure of this story is that they’re trying to have their cake and eat it, too. You cannot tackle the MAGA immigration angle at the same time you’re writing a traditional Green Card marriage. This isn’t Robert and Holly on 1980s GH. Haley is not a European immigrant, she’s a Chinese immigrant and that has always meant something different in this country, going back to 1882 and the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was the first piece of legislation this country ever passed limiting immigration due to race.

I think Haley’s story needs to be told, and I would have respected it if they’d gone with the Dreamer angle. She’s young enough to have qualified for the program. That program is in constant peril and that might have been more compelling.

There is no way on this planet that a young Chinese illegal immigrant would have a deportation order issued, marry an American citizen, and then have her deportation waived. It’s simply not believable.

And that’s before we even discuss the INSANITY of Jack running for mayor after five minutes of being back with amnesia. The optics of a supremely unqualified white man coming back from the dead with amnesia to run against a black man and an Asian woman who both have more experience without once ACKNOWLEDGING the racial implications of that vision is irresponsible storytelling. You don’t get to take on a racist topic and then be completely racist while doing it.

Does the story serve the characters?

The only person that has escaped this story without looking like complete trash thus far is JJ. He made an obviously horrible mistake in trusting his father, but that felt right and believable. But this story has literally destroyed nearly everyone in its path. We’ll work our way up.

Haley was the most sympathetic, and I was with her until she married Tripp.  I can forgive her slightly because she’s obviously desperate and that might be way she’s not reading Claire’s obviously crazy eyes. I understood why she thought marrying JJ would bring more scrutiny on her from Jack, but marrying a man who has a girlfriend and then YOU’RE the one who tells her she has to move? It’s not a good look, and as a new character, she doesn’t have a lot of leeway with the audience. We forgive so much less when we don’t know you.

Tripp is complete trash for suggesting this plan, for making Claire go through this publicly, and then not even offering to move out. The worst thing about it is that this story was making me warm up to Tripp finally but it’s a complete nosedive.

Claire is probably not meant to be the hero of this story, but damn if I’m not rooting for her to blow everyone up. Olivia Rose Keegan is killing this material, but I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to be dreading whatever she’s planning. I’m just not a fan of Claire going after Haley alone. Light them all up, girl.

Smaller casualties are probably Jen and Adrienne, and that’s mostly because they’re not given a lot to do other than wag their finger at Jack in moral outrage. It’s not interesting. There was a moment when I thought Adrienne was going to pretend to marry Jack and Eve and that would have been fun. Instead, she made a complete fool of herself which is sad because A — she’s not on enough for me to have built any opinion of her since August and B – I KNOW she’s part of a hugely popular 80s supercouple. I want more for her based on all of that.

Which brings me to Jack and Eve. They’re destroyed utterly by this. Completely. And irretrievably. I don’t know if I can EVER look past those rallies and want them anywhere near these other characters I’ve grown to love.

Jack’s return had me super excited. I know how popular he was, and I’ve always loved Matthew Ashford since I saw him on 90s GH as Tom Hardy.  That promo announcing his return was incredible — and MA has been turning in a killer performance.

I get that maybe we want to explore who Jack is without Jen. I know from reading his profiles that he was not a great guy even before he raped Kayla. I know that he was “redeemed” by Jen’s love for him. (Another trope I’ll set on fire at some point). But why did we need to turn him into a racist asshole to do it? The minute he stood up and outed Haley and JJ — I wrote him off. I don’t know if we can come back from this. And if that’s how I feel as a new viewer, my heart breaks for the Jack fans who wanted him back for so long.

And Eve.  My God what they’ve done to Eve.

I grew up watching Kassie dePaiva on and off as Blair Cramer. I was never as devoted to OLTL as I was to GH, but it’s probably the soap I watched the second most — and I always loved Blair. I was ready to love Eve because I LOVE Kassie. Last fall, everything about Eve made me happy. And when she left town, walked out on Brady after learning he’d slept with Kristen, I was so excited she’d left on a high note. I was excited for her to come back.

And this is the Eve we have. The worst thing is that there are flashes of the Eve I liked last year still there — the scenes with Claire are lovely, and bring back memories of Blair and Starr. Kassie has a wonderful way of playing mama bear and if Claire’s parents or family can’t be bothered, I’m happy Eve is there.

But Eve is trash. Her only redeemable value is Kassie is playing her and I am predisposed to loving her so when they clean Eve up, I guess I’ll let them. But this story screws her completely.

Is it entertaining?

When a story makes no sense and trashes everyone involved, it makes it hard to get to this question. I can’t think of a single story I’ve ever liked that didn’t do the first two things. The only thing I like about this story is that JJ hasn’t been trashed yet. That’s a low bar to clear.

The Days immigration story is the kind of material that you get through because you love these characters and you love the actors. But the material makes me cringe and I actively dread days when it’s on. I hate that the writers wrote the story this way, but I hate even more that the show tapes so far into the future that there is no course correction to look forward to.

We’re all in this until the bitter end, and I’m pretty sure we’re just going to wave a magic wand and somehow Haley won’t be illegal anymore. Which means we’ll have destroyed characters for NO REASON AT ALL.

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