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GENERAL HOSPITAL Head Writer Ron Carlivati Responds To Criticism of Felix Character

On Tuesday, We Love Soaps posted a story about the arrival of a new gay character on GENERAL HOSPITAL, Felis Dubois, played by Marc Anthony Samuel. The feedback has been mostly positive but mixed with some unhappy Felix was too much of a "sterotype" of a gay man (he gave Sabrina a makeover). I personally appreciated seeing a gay character on a daytime soap that seemed to be out and perfectly at peace with himself. Gay blog Towleroad picked up our story describing Felix's arrival in this way: "To establish his character as gay, his first scenes involved him pulling out a tube of lipstick and offering to touch up a heterosexual woman. Oy."

GH head writer Ron Carlivati took offense to this and some of the negative comments on Towleroad and fired back:

To Andy Towle and the readers of this blog: My name is Ron Carlivati and I am the Head Writer of General Hospital. I am also an openly gay man. I created the character of Felix Dubois, the "lipstick-wielding gay male nurse," and I am frankly appalled by the intolerance and internalized homophobia expressed in this post and in the majority of its comments.

During my career, I have brought no fewer than six gay characters to daytime television: male, female, Black, White, Hispanic...all shapes and sizes. I have written coming out stories, gay bashing stories, gay marriage stories, gay parenting stories and gay love stories. I wrote the first love scene between two gay men that ever aired on daytime TV. I won a GLADD award for these stories. What exactly is it about this character that is causing such righteous indignation? The fact that he carries a tube of lipstick in his scrubs? SPOILER ALERT: Felix sells cosmetics to put himself through nursing school. This will be revealed on Monday's show. Not because I think gay men love lipstick, and certainly not to "establish" himself as gay. But even if that were the reason, so what? Does this make him too queeny? Not straight-acting enough? Is that the only type of gay character allowed on TV now? As far as I'm concerned, to be offended by this character is what is offensive. And just FYI, the majority of women (our core audience) I have heard from thus far about Felix have expressed to me how much they like him. The only people who seem to have a problem with him are certain gay men who are apparently afraid of a gay character who might be portrayed as a little bit effeminate. Well, I say shame on you, and shame on Andy Towle, too. Oy, indeed.
He continued commenting later saying the following (spoilerish):

@Jeff: I thought the issue we were discussing here was whether or not this character was promoting stereotypes. Now you're attacking me for my storytelling ability? A little off the subject, but also a little misinformed. I did not write Luke/Noah on ATWT. Secondly, my writing the stereotype of a gay man selling lipstick (since when is this a gay stereotype???) was not "completely gratuitous." There is actually a story reason why it had to be lipstick and not vacuum cleaners, which will also become apparent on Monday. That's the thing about soap operas, they're on every day, and you actually have to watch them to get to know the characters. You don't learn everything there is to know about them in one day. So in spite of your misinformed opinion, I am not ashamed of Felix. I am proud of Felix. He is sweet and kind and charming and would never be caught dead selling vacuum cleaners.

***

@Rick: Wow. First of all, I'm not a Hollywood-type, I live in New York. Secondly, you don't know my bosses are hetero. Thirdly, you don't know my bosses at all, so how do you know what they do and do not delight in? Fourth of all, as I already pointed out in my first comment, I have created at least six gay characters in my career, and I have had tons of feedback from many gay men, both young and old, that these characters helped them in some way. I don't know if any of them were young gay male athletes in Kansas, but I think there are plenty of other role models out there for them besides gay Black nurses on General Hospital, although I still think, as role models go, they could do a lot worse.

***

Okay, @UFFDA, this is my final post on this topic. I HAVE done the work. I CAN prove the point. I CAN imagine the type of gay man you describe. Because I HAVE ALREADY WRITTEN HIM. More than once, in fact. I have written masculine gay men, gay cops, gay med students, gay activists, lesbian activists, and now a gay male nurse who, yes, sells makeup to make extra money. If that makes me a hack, then fine, I'm a hack. Now go away and leave me alone. Oh, and watch General Hospital. It's a really good show.
No matter what side of the debate you are on, there's no question the Felix character stirred up more discussion after one appearance than any new creation in recent memory.

UPDATE:
Andy Towle has posted a follow up in response to Carlivati's comments.

There's no question in my mind that Mr. Carlivati should be allowed the chance to develop his character more fully before judgment is passed and I regret if my commentary suggested that it should. My expression of "oy" over what I perceived to be a stereotype may have been hasty, but was also informed by having written this site for 9 years and seeing more than a few damaging caricatures in television and movies along the way.

I've also reported very positively on other soap characters written by Mr. Carlivati. I'm looking forward to seeing how his Felix Dubois character develops and thank him for his remarks and reaction.

31 comments:

  1. I was very angry at the attacks on Carlivati, because I did know his history of writing all of those other LGBT characters.

    The comments on Towleroad just reeked of a certain kind of internalized homophobia, where only the "good gay" that conforms to heteronormative standards is acceptable to see on TV or in media. It infuriates me to no end.

    And most of the commenters didn't understand soaps, either - you never get the whole story on day one.

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  2. I don’t get what the big deal is about Felix. I wonder if the same people who are offend by Felix are also offended by Kurt on Glee, Justin on Ugly Betty, Stanford on Sex in The City, etc. I don’t consider a gay male character on a show to be a stereotype just because he isn’t butch. I also know gay men in real life who are what one would call a little "effeminate.” There is nothing wrong with it. I think what is stereotypical is expecting a man or women whether gay or straight to only have the traits which society has assigned to their gender.

    My hairdresser is a gay male and he’s a really good person. It would break my heart if I ever heard anyone refer to him as a stereotype because he gives me a make over every few months. Oh and General Hopsital is a really good show so watch GH!

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  3. Thanks for letting me know Ron had responded, Patrick. I sent this story to Towleroad thinking it was a "good" thing. (Sorry, Ron.) As much as I enjoy reading that blog most days, I probably should have expected the comments. That's kind of the direction most things go there.

    In terms of gay characters on TV, I want to see all different types of men and women. It's hard to judge a daytime soap character after one day but I liked Felix because he 1) seemed like a good guy/friend and 2) seemed different than the other gay characters we've seen in daytime. As much as I've enjoyed the coming out storylines on several soaps, I'd love to see something completely different this time.

    I watched Marc Anthony Samuel on NCIS two weeks ago and really enjoyed his performance.

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  4. Good for Ron Carlivati. As another openly gay man who's worked on a number of daytime shows, including GH, I am sick to death of being hounded for writing characters that aren't gay enough or aren't masculine enough or aren't numerous enough for the self-appointed "gay normality" police of soaps. No single character, no six or twenty characters can redress the decades of slanderous portrayals of gay men and lesbians on TV, when we were seen at all.

    Consider too that our sponsors measure our success in how well we reach the female viewing audience ages 18 to 49. Selling ANY gay male character to the network, or any content for the gay male viewer, requires more patience, perseverance and persuasion than those not in the business can readily understand.

    Soap-opera characters don't change the world: out real-life LGBT people do. Carlivati's one of the most respected writers in daytime. He and his executive producer are credited with pulling GH back from the brink of extinction. Clearly he's telling stories his audience wants to watch.

    Years ago, a development executive on another network actually told me, "Sorry, but we don't hire writers we know are gay. They don't know how to write action and they don't understand romance." Ron Carlivati is one of the reasons it's unthinkable a young writer could be turned away with those words today. Those determined to frame his storytelling as a simplistic political statement must take that into account as well.

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  5. I am a white straight little more then middle aged woman..I have worked in nursing most of my life, working both w/ gays and straights, all my friends to this day...I also have a very straight male young man who has 5 sisters and his mom is a make up artist..he carries all kinds of stuff w/ him at all times..When I saw Felix I didn't even think if he was straight or gay, I saw my friend, I am so confused what all the nonsense is about..Finally GH is a well written show w/ a lot of compelling characters, Felix being one, I liked him on day one, so why doesn't everyone get over themselves, and just enjoy the awesome soap

    Ron Carlivati should be thanked, hugged, patted on the back, etc for what he has brought to us for our enjoyment, and believe me I am enjoying every minute, sometimes watching it twice to see what maybe I missed...

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  6. I honestly don't understand the backlash about Felix. I have several gay male friends, and they all have different personality types. Some are more effeminate, and I can see those friends in Felix. Some are more masculine and seem uncomfortable with any kind of feminine traits. Human beings are different from each other, and I don't think Carlivati's creation of Felix is an attempt to perpetuating a stereotype, and, in my humble opinion, I love the fact that the character is so open and comfortable with himself. Sometimes gay characters on soaps come off as tortured and unsure of themselves. Felix is refreshing and fun, and I can't wait to learn more about the character in the coming weeks!

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  7. You Go Ron! :) LOVE Felix and love what you're doing with GH.

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    1. Love Felix he is awsome and GH wouldnt be the same without him.

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    2. Love Felix he is awsome and GH wouldnt be the same without him.

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  8. Ron Carlivati I adore you. As a gay man that crafts, sews and has a bit of a swish to my step I applaud you. Your bravery at creating a character that is not the "typical television white-washed gay man" and just as importantly to defend him on that blog is monumental. I will be happily enjoying the journey of Felis Dubois and tuning into GH for the first time in years. Again, thank you for including a depiction of another flavor of the gay community.

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  9. "I am not ashamed of Felix. I am proud of Felix. He is sweet and kind and charming and would never be caught dead selling vacuum cleaners."

    Of course, what he meant to say was...

    "that is, unless they were HOOVERs!"

    Bravo to the master scribe, Mr. Ron Carlivati, who constitutes half of the renowned binary weapon team of Valentini-Carlivati that powerfully brought OLTL to the heights of its powers on Manhattan Island as it now has #GH on fire on the West coast. Given straw, in past years, those two men were witnessed building The Taj Majal - and put the lie to the notion that a New York City team -- could not operate a phenom written and directed soap, and do so masterfully with the greatest daytime dramatic ensemble ever heretofore assembled, and UNDER BUDGET. Introducing any gay male or gay relationship to any major tv network is a Herculean effort, and Mr. Carlivati thankfully continues his arduous efforts toward sustaining such in American daytime television, it being no small treasure to our American culture writ large and future generations will mark in thanking his efforts. Long may Mr. Carlivati thrive in doing so, in #GH as well in Llanview, PA, in a prospective OLTL resurgence. We should all be so lucky...and may it be so. "Hello, Fish, welcome back."

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  10. Ron is doing great, ignore the ignorant or write about them, don't fuel the fire! Xoxo #Carltini

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  11. You go Ron!! Love GH now, finally some fabulous stories!! I have watched the show since early Luke/Laura days and it's finally good again. Loved OLTL and miss it desperately but so happy to see some of the OLTL characters living on. Please don't stop what you're doing on GH! Oh, and I love Felix! Can't wait to see more of his story. There are all kinds of gay men just as there are all kinds of people. Write on!!

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  12. Ron is doing great, ignore the ignorant or write about them, don't fuel the fire! Xoxo #Carltini

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  13. When I saw the original comments at Towleroad, I just rolled my eyes at the criticism, because the mere fact that "Felix" is a contract role means we'll be seeing much more of him. How on earth can one label a character a stereotype in one, short scene?

    Just for the sake of controversy: Marc Anthony Samuel for Actor of the Week!

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  14. I have to say I was flabbergasted at all the instant criticism heaped upon the character of Felix, much of it coming from the Gay community. Felix was only on screen for a few moments, not really enough time for me to even formulate an opinion of him, other than he seemed like a nice, pleasant guy & a good friend to Sabrina.

    I honestly made no assumptions about Felix having a tube of lipstick. For years my poor husband has toted my lipstick in his jacket pockets along with all sorts of other girly accoutrements that didn't fit in a small evening bag. Of all my Gay male friends, I only have one who wore lipstick from time to time, and he was the best player on my bowling team.

    I also don't think "male nurse" is a Gay stereotype. I know many straight and gay male nurses. If soaps and life have taught me anything, it is not to judge a book by its cover and not to jump to conclusions. I don't know much about Felix yet, but I am going to watch GH to find out more before I decide whether I like him or not, and I won't make that judgement on his sexuallity or a couple random scenes.

    Ron Carlivati is responsible for some of the most diverse characters in the history of soaps, and I trust him. If anything, the firestorm surrounding the character of Felix tells me once again soaps have hit a societal nerve that needs to be explored, and soaps are uniquely suited to do just that. I am along for the ride.

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  15. WOW! Patrick, THANK YOU for voicing your opinion on this! Love your contribution to daytime (one of the best, if not THE best scriptwriter in the business).

    Roger, I applaud your staunch and common sense approach to this topic. One of many reasons I love your site (and why it's respected...um, ah-hem, unlike others we've been at).

    Ron and his team are doing a great job at GH. It's great to see THE ENTIRE cast involved in the storylines for a change. All ages, genders, colors and whatever else!!!! I was tired of General Mobspital.

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  16. Wow, just when I thought I could not love Ron Carlivati more than I already do! Personally, I love that Felix is expressive (i.e. what others may deem as "queeny") and that he's not butch and not passing as straight. I know a lot of gay men like Felix and very few that are butch. It's 2012 for criminy's sake, can't we be who we are without our own community ripping us apart for it? Bravo, Ron! I watch GH faithfully every day and can't wait to see what happens next.

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  17. I must admit that my first impression of Felix was to roll my eyes. But then I took a breath and thought of two things: First was how few gay men of color we see on tv, let alone daytime. Second, that Ron Carlivati was writing this character and he had done a fantastic job with Kyle and Fish (my favorite daytime couple) and Nick, so I was ready to cut some slack here. I know that Carlivati doesn't write one-dimensional characters, so I figured I'd wait to see how Felix develops. I look forward to seeing what happens with this character.

    Vern in San Francisco

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  18. I would like to go on record as saying that I am in full support of GLAAD, the HRC, and any other form of activism in the gay, lesbian, and transexual communities. In all my time, watching soap operas, I have only seen 3 gay male characters or couples; Oliver Fish and Kyle Lewis from OLTL, Will and Sonny from Days, and now Felix on GH. I agree that we need to move forward, as it relates to our tolerances and diminishing stereotypes. The times of a "real man" being defined by his large muscles, hairy chest, and his ability to scare people with his intimidating prowess has long since passed over. I look forward to seeing Felix, any many more characters like him, to pave the way for more understanding and civilized future.

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  19. As soon as Felix pulled out the lipstick, right or wrong,I assumed he was gay and immediately thought ok, so who will he be paired with...I don't think there is anyone on GH. Too bad, I hope someone is written for him. I DON'T CARE IF PEOPLE ARE GAY OR NOT...JUST GIVE ME A GOOD STORY AND GOOD ACTING! Ron Carlivati is great at doing just that. BTW...I am a straight, white, not quite middle aged woman. Do people care about that?? Probably not.

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  20. I love the new character of Felix and look forward to seeing more of him on General Hospital.

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  21. I totally support Ron C, he is the Best writer Daytime has seen in 20 yrs. No one has written Gay Characters (KISH) better and Gay representation better. Remember he showed the first Drag bar ever on daytime? It was the network/Frons that canned the Kish story. I had assumed Felix was a drag queen, but never suspected he sold cosmetics. LOL. I am still waiting for Lucas Jones to return with Huge story, some day. When I read the comments on Towleroad I was appalled, Andy rarely focuses on the Soaps, and of course his audience don't know daytime. As Harvey Fierstein, said in the Celluloid Closet, 'Any representation of Gay Life, is better then nothing'.

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  22. I personally like the fact that their is a guy character on GH. I support Ron C. I think all those that have a problem with it should just get a life.That's my opinion.

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  23. As I posted on Towleroad, Carlivati apparently doesn't watch prime time. Almost all the male characters are flamboyant, except for the slob on Happy Endings. There are better ways to introduce a gay male, effeminate or not without whipping out the cosmetics. Valentini/Carlivati would have done better to offer Brett Claywell's Kyle a job at GH to try to restore all the good will lost when the Kyle/Fish story line was abruptly pulled.

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  24. This is reminding me of that great episode from indie soap, Husbands, Season 2, Episode 2, "The Straightening."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRnL6GkbTNw

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  25. As someone who is also a gay man, I went and watched these scenes on YouTube after reading about the "controversy," and I actually think the actor is quite good. That he's playing a LGBT character of color is a bonus in my book. I could care less if he's "effeminate," and I don't see how being a nurse could possibly be seen as a negative stereotype.

    Even if Felix were a drag queen and that was why he had lipstick with him, I would be fine with that. Or, if the point were to let the Sabrina character (and the audience) assume that gay men would naturally have lipstick on hand to play fairy godmother to a random straight woman who needs a fashion makeover, only to blow that assumption out of the water a few days later by showing he had another, unexpected reason to have that lipstick, then that's fine, too.

    That said, I do hope that the reason the character carries cosmetics around with him that is to be revealed tomorrow isn't that he has recently begun wearing a Justus Ward mask and needs to do touch-ups, or something along those lines... Which is to say that this show is at best all over the map right now, and certainly doesn't have the credibility as far as sensitively handling real-life issues that it did when the Nurses Ball first was introduced nearly two decades ago. I think people have reason to be apprehensive.

    I also have to say that I don't think the head writer of a national TV show should tell (potential) viewers to "go away and leave me alone" in a public forum. We're all human, but that kind of outburst would have been better directed at his bosses a few years back when they mandated a mass purge of about 5(?) of those 6 LGBT characters that he cited (along with nearly all of the black characters, I might add), and said on the record that they didn't think the audience they were looking for wanted to see characters like that. Really, that GLAAD award that RC touted was barely back from the engraver's when all of that went down. I had real hopes for Valentini and Carlivati at that time, and what was left to command the majority of airtime after those characters were sent packing made it easy for me to give up on OLTL until its last few episodes. I'm not saying I blame RC for trying to preserve his job, but it's a little late for a writer who at best turned a blind eye to a situation like that (and actually took a second job with those same employers) to go all "Network" on posters on Towleroad, of all people, now.

    But hey, I'll see how this goes, and unless and until TPTB screw this up, I can only be glad Felix is here.

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  26. so should the stereotypes be pushed back in the closet and hide ???

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  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  28. I don't believe it should ever be all about the writers. The writers should create storylines to entertain the viewers after all; you can't sell a story and maintain ratings by yourself. Therefore, give the people what they want; you can’t get ratings if it’s all about what you want to happen on the soap. You don't own the show!

    RC, people have spent a lifetime watching GH. You can’t come in and tell them how to feel. At this point, many of us feel betrayed by your lack of sensitivity towards what we have enjoyed as long time viewers. Regardless of whether you have a gay character on the soap, some of the storylines/characters are just ridiculous, and I make no apologies as this is my belief.

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