Frank Valentini Fired Genie Francis. Bad Idea, Dude
General Hospital’s Executive Producer Frank Valentini has chosen to fire beloved soap star Genie Francis on the anniversary of the Women’s March, in the midst of the #MeToo movement, and on the heels of the Michelle Williams/Marky Mark equal pay scandal. How out of touch can one male television executive be? Has he not noticed that women are seething with outrage and desperate for an outlet that will not land them in jail? Perhaps I should thank General Hospital for stepping in and saving me from a nickel in Pentonville. Settle in, Mr. Valentini, while I point my rage in ABC’s direction.
Like everything else these days, I can’t believe this is happening. Must I explain to a network executive the value of Genie Francis to General Hospital? Even my friend Tanya, who is reading this post and irritated that it is about a show she does not watch, knows who Genie Francis is. As one half of original super couple Luke and Laura, Francis put General Hospital on the pop culture map during the early years of the Reagan administration when the president wanted to tear down walls and not build them.
Francis embodies a character who has shed her identity as “Luke’s wife” and built a career for herself as a public servant and Port Charles guardian. And, it has to be said, her current husband, Kevin Collins, never raped her on the disco floor. Francis’s Laura has found her voice and every time she uses it to blast her nemesis Valentini Valentin the audience cheers. Her performances radiate strength, confidence, and resilience –the very qualities women need to personify at this moment.
Three days ago, I naively believed GH was launching an election storyline through which audiences could process some unresolved feelings about recent history. We could watch a female community organizer campaign against a male millionaire who didn’t have sex with a porn star and then create a shell company to buy her silence. “Laura Collins versus Ned Quartermaine for Mayor” felt like a timely way to acknowledge politics and recognize that GH’s predominantly female audience might enjoy a cathartic victory for one of their own.
Instead, the storyline took an abrupt retrograde turn, “Female Candidate Drops Out of Race to Nurse Sick Grandson.” Laura’s husband endorsed her decision with this vomit-inducing platitude, “If you put your ambition, even your ambition to do good, ahead of family you wouldn’t be the woman I love.” So much for feminism. Here’s a news flash, women can be ambitious and love their families at the same time. In New Zealand they can even lead countries while gestating.
ABC has a long and sexist history of disrespecting Genie Francis’s talent and power. Let me be clear. This moment, this estrogen-drenched moment in our country, is the wrong time to sideline a queen. Do not take Laura’s compassion and moral leadership from us, Mr. Valentini, when we need it the most. Show your audience a little respect and pay Ms. Francis whatever she’s asking. Even then, ABC still won’t be approaching what she’s worth to General Hospital’s success.