Is #GH ’s #JasonMorgan Really All That and a Bag of Chips?
General Hospital’s local amnesiac mob-enforcer, Jason Morgan, generates the kind of reverence and enthusiasm typically reserved for Catholic saints and Batman. Residents of Port Charles hang on his every word hoping against hope that he will choose their Thanksgiving table over all others. A little of this worshipfulness goes a long way and while Jason has his charms, none of his attributes justify turning the gaze of an entire city on his well-toned abs. Port Charles, especially its female residents would do well to learn that Jason Morgan is not all that.
Jason enjoys one of the best origin stories in daytime. Once upon a time Alan Quartermaine’s much-loved illegitimate son took up space on our television screens as “the good son/brother/friend” pleasing all who knew him except fans who hit the fast-forward button the moment he skipped into our living rooms. He waxed on about chirping birds, blue skies, and the general goodness of life while his Aunt Tracy rolled her eyes and said, “Would you please shut up!” Who among us wasn’t cheering on a sloshed A.J. as he drove his car into that tree with precious Jason in the passenger seat? In a stroke of genius, rather than nuke a legacy character (I’m looking at you, Emily Quartermaine) GH clean-slated him, wound-up his id, and turned him loose on Port Charles as Jason Morgan.
These early years were Jason’s best and among the show’s finest. GH rolled him into the ground-breaking Stone/Robin HIV storyline by linking Robin’s grief over Stone’s death and the potential loss of her good health with Jason’s rebirth. The early months of their relationship where both taught the other “how to live again” produced an organic connection between two characters that remains unmatched in GH lore. Jason’s choice to turn his back on the upper-crust Quartermaines in favor of poor-kid turned mobster Sonny Corinthos also energized the character. Steve Burton brought out Jason’s aggression and balanced it with a caring sensitivity making him a heartthrob.
Then somewhere along the way things with Jason took a turn for the worse. Robin and Jason outgrew each other, Carly and Jason forged a co-dependent relationship, and the Corinthos crime family took over Port Charles. Friends and relatives (read: writers) over-relied upon Jason’s presence in their lives, treating his monotone as the voice of God. Jason aptly took on the nickname “Stone Cold” both for his killing ways and for his flat, near comatose line delivery.
Jason’s need to protect females like the cave men of yore draws women to him in droves. For example, Carly relies upon Jason as her own personal cleaner/therapist rather than drawing on her own considerable strengths. Jason spends his love life boomeranging between Sam McCall and Elizabeth Webber, two women who can’t seem to tie their own shoes in his presence. Both find themselves attracted to Jason, despite his hazardous employment choices and static wardrobe. The two attack one another and swoon over Jason when they should stop, look at each other and say, “Huh. You know what? There’s a lot of hot guys in this town. Wanna go hit the bars and see if we can find one who doesn’t shoot people for a living?”
When we first met Kelly Monaco’s Sam McCall she was a savvy con-artist who knew how to manipulate powerful men and women. Despite her ability to play this aspect of Sam convincingly, it soon became apparent that Monaco’s greatest talent lay in crying. This talent ended up working against the actress’s interests by boxing Sam into a cycle of peril and rescue, thereby watering down the character’s depth.
Kelly Monaco and Steve Burton complimented one another’s strengths and weaknesses, fitting together like peanut-butter and jelly, but after a while a person gets tired of eating PB&J for lunch every day. One suspects Steve Burton felt similarly as he packed his bags for Y&R’s Genoa City (I am getting hungry). By the time Cesar Faison kicked Jason’s corpse into the PC harbor, Sam’s character had been reduced to a teary pool of vulnerability.
A Jason-free Port Charles allowed Sam to grow as a mother and as an individual. She made matches with two men, Drs. Clay and Drake, both of whom knew how to make conversation and happened to occupy the profession Jason Quartermaine once hoped to claim as his own. Kelly Monaco rekindled her legendary chemistry with actor Michael Easton who played the smart, hot, and damaged Silas Clay to perfection. Then GH split up the duo perhaps in preparation for Jason’s return from the dead (not that Jason, but I understand the confusion).
GH chose Billy Miller to reanimate the character and his Jason more closely resembles a bully than a loving protector. He briefly played amnesiac Jason as Jake Doe, a rather insipid piece of beefcake who Elizabeth welcomed into her home without knowing a thing about him. [FYI, in real life this scenario ends with a crime scene not a thwarted wedding]. Elizabeth discovered that Jake was really her beloved Jason and spent months whining about how much she loooved him and could not stand to lose him. All of her moaning smacked of plot-driven writing designed to do nothing more than delay the inevitable JaSam reunion. One suspects that Rebecca Herbst tired of Elizabeth’s ridiculous addiction to NuJason as quickly as the audience did.
Unfortunately, since her reunion with Jason, Sam has conducted herself no better than Elizabeth. For example, Sam leaves her young son behind to help Jason clear his (once-again) besmirched name and the duo end up on Cassadine Island. Sam behaves as if she cannot take in oxygen without Jason there to guide her breathing. At one point, Sam pitifully stumbles across a beach, yelling “Jaaason, Jaaason!” while Ava responds with a hilarious “Jason’s dead!” likely thinking to herself, “My God this chick is needy.”
Unlike Steve Burton, Billy Miller’s Jason objectifies women and I don’t mean sexually. He treats women like actual objects to lean on, prop himself against, or drape his entire body over. He acts like your ninth grade boyfriend who didn’t know where his hands belonged, other than on you. And he doesn’t just do this with women. Spend some time counting how many people’s shoulders he squeezes, hands he grabs, and small children he ensnares in his crossed arms. Just watching all of this possessive touching makes me want to roll my shoulders and yell “get off.” When Steve Burton’s Jason put a hand on someone it was to declare his undying love or to send them to the grave.
Miller’s Jason also lacks the warmth of the original. He invades Elizabeth’s space in an almost menacing way obliterating the unspoken love that simmered beneath all of Herbst and Burton’s interactions. Burton’s Jason also displayed real affection and patience for Laura Wright’s Carly whereas Miller greets Mrs. Corinthos with a forced smile and a wince suggesting that his Jason can barely stand to be in her presence. GH appears to have noticed and we see little one on one interaction between the two.
Finally, NuJason talks too much having turned the character from laconic to loquacious. For Miller, every “hey” is followed by a “man” or a “son.” I am pretty sure that Burton’s Jason never called anyone “man” unless he was drunk or delirious; though there is a chance that Jason Quartermaine threw the term around in a sad attempt to look cool. True, Burton’s grunting wore thin, but it defined and distinguished the character. Perhaps we can blame Jason’s recent personality change on his stint in a cryogenic freeze tank or that time he was run over by a truck. In any case, Jason’s behavioral changes are noticeable enough that some night Sam should say, “Honey could you shut up so I can get some sleep?”
Billy Miller’s performance makes me yearn for Steve Burton’s Jason. In hindsight he wasn’t so bad and he could walk past a person without putting his hands all over them. The character would benefit from the John Black treatment. When Steve Burton tires of whatever he’s doing in Genoa City he can return to Port Charles as the real Jason and take up with his true love Sam (if she hasn’t drowned in a pool of her own tears). Miller can resume his life as Jake Dull Doe sharing random conversations with people only marginally interested in his existence so long as he never darkens Elizabeth and Franco’s door.
Port Charles benefits from Jason’s presence in small doses especially Burton’s dangerous yet gentle version of the character. Women like Sam, Elizabeth, and Carly shine when they’re standing on their own instead of sitting on the ground wailing, “Jaaason!”
And that’s because Jason Morgan is not all that, he carries no chips, and no one has seen him operate a toaster.