Another lament from a feminist soap fan

A long time ago, there was this actress on General Hospital named Amber Tamblyn. She was something that doesn’t happen on the soaps too often; she had real freshness, an honest quirkiness about her. Of course, I loved her. You see, Amber is exactly my sort of person. No, she isn’t gay. No, she isn’t a lawyer. No, she isn’t a professor. No, she isn’t a photographer. She feels like someone I could actually know and befriend.

She left the show some years ago, and since then, she’s done a handful of movies, a couple of TV series, and basically worked steadily but not exploded in popularity. I’ve been cheering Amber on from my living room, but my joy at her success doesn’t come without some sadness in my heart.

I wish there was room on GH, and in the soaps as a genre, for people like Amber. Yesterday, I was sitting there at my desk at work reading an interview that Amber did with America Ferrera for BUST. Did you get that? Amber conducted the interview, like a journalist or something. At the beginning, she explains what a Herculean task it is to interview a force like America Ferrera. She asks, “How do you quantify her grace on paper? Her continuous humility in an industry that can barely afford women an honest place within it, let alone a right to dignity?”

So I understand why she left, and I don’t begrudge her her departure. My delusion is so pervasive that I think I am just now beginning to accept that she isn’t coming back. (Never mind that GH recast her character and then murdered her.) I never really thought Amber herself would return, but I had been holding out hope that someone like Amber might show up again someday.

We do have Nancy Lee Grahn, who so mirrors my own sensibilities that most of the time I can’t believe she has been able to stand the genre for the 30 years she has been in it, but hey, I’m still here, too, so maybe delusion is something else we have in common. What I like about Nancy is mostly her willingness to be vocal about her positions on social and political issues, when those positions are so often at adds with the sensibilities of daytime TV, but what I like about Amber is less easily pinpointed. With her, it’s about personality. I’m not saying Nancy doesn’t have personality; of course she does. These are both women for whom I have boundless admiration so I’m not engaged in a comparison here. I just threw in Nancy because I wanted it to be known that there are interesting actresses working in daytime and that they haven’t all defected but I can see why Amber did. Maybe it’s a generation thing. Maybe the Ambers are benefiting from the way that the Nancys paved. That’s how feminism works, you know. Standing on shoulders and all that.

If only there were a recognized career path for a soap opera anthropologist.