Political correctness caught up with General Hospital big-time Friday.
It's been 20 years since Luke did it to already married Laura on the floor of the Campus Disco, and now the incident is being re-assessed in the eyes of their teenage son, Lucky, Laura's own son, Nikolas, and by Luke himself.
The look back to 1979 (which was triggered by the Friday, February 13 rape of the show's new girl, Liz) began in earnest this Friday.
It was rape. Date rape. That's the emphasis. Not some wild and wonderful moment of sexual discovery, even though the couple later ran off together and are still married.
Back then, Laura had cried, "No, Luke, no," before the torrid encounter, and afterwards Luke had said, "Oh, my God, what have I done!" But audience opinion was divided over whether it was romantic and passionate or dastardly and criminal.
On the air since 1963, the ABC show soared on the back of the Luke/Laura affair to become the most popular daytime soap of the '80s. But recently, despite just being voted a favorite show by readers of Soap Opera Digest, it has slipped to No 3.
On Friday's show, Lucky spent time over breakfast complaining to his father about the horror of his mother having been raped, unaware that he's referring to a deed perpetrated by Dad. Later Nikolas, having regained his powers of speech, makes the truth clear to Lucky (see above quote).
How all this will pan out is unclear, particularly as Laura, played by Genie Francis (on maternity leave since the birth of her second child), has not been seen on the show for almost a year. (Laura is reportedly in Switzerland with her sick mother.)
Meantime, Luke (Anthony Geary), with sparse gray hair, goatee and earring, is very different in appearance from the frizzed-hair days in '79, when he sent women a-twitter. (Does he really want to see himself in flashback?) However, on Monday, March 16, Luke will have lengthy scenes revealing his perspective on the rape.
"My first reaction was that it was a big can of worms that could eat us alive. I was terrified, basically," Geary told Associated Press about the decision to re-visit the topic.
"For us, it was a great opportunity," said executive producer Wendy Riche, insisting the show has not approached this storyline in order to "make amends" or because its producers felt guilty about the original plot. She claimed it is a rich source for character and plot development.
However, she did acknowledge that a plot line in which a women falls in love with her rapist would not be acceptable to modern viewers.
Robert Guza, the show's head writer, says that Lucky will deal with the issue of rape in a much more appropriate way than Luke ever did.
Carolyn Hinsey, executive editor of Soap Opera Digest, thinks this is "a good way to wrap this up." Just be assured that it will happen slowly, one day at a time.