Soap Acting: It’s ‘Government Sponsored Television’ (UPDATED)

This may be the story of the week as General Hospital’s actors are leaving the soap opera because they don’t support ABC’s continued disregard of the federal court-ordered anti-vaccination mandate.

Apparently, the soap actors’ fear of being associated with anti-vaccination propaganda prompted them to cancel appearances during a role-playing “day of resistance” that took place to send a message to both themselves and ABC.

This was on “General Hospital” the other day. Jason was set to play the role of Fred Juedecke, the father of Joshua Juedecke, one of the characters on “General Hospital.” He informed the cast and crew about the mandate, and told them to withdraw from the occasion to send a message.

Obviously, ABC found the message too extreme. The cast and crew withdrew from the “day of resistance” rather than play Juedecke. Even though the mandate was endorsed by a federal court, ABC is making General Hospital the only broadcast network in television to keep it. This display of corporate censorship isn’t surprising given ABC’s defensive response to the court mandate.

Soap operas have always seemed like “Government Sponsored Television.” Actors, writers, crew and others agree in part with the government or government policy. They are asked to take positions that are likely to draw social and political protests, or at least expose them to them. This exposes them to constant political risk, and to few financial advantages if they are forced to make a principled stand.

They choose to engage in this kind of work out of passion for public service, and may or may not respond well or persist in positions that put them at risk of losing jobs or career advancement. A few will succeed at these values, and it is entirely possible that many others choose not to.

While actors from I’m Dying Up Here and The Young and the Restless have taken on the Anti-Vaxxer cause, few actors from General Hospital have been outspoken against the mandate. General Hospital has been the only soap on broadcast television to uphold the mandate. This was the main reason that the actors withdrew, according to their contracts, on the day of resistance.

General Hospital’s actors just thought that ABC “hates” them and doesn’t value their art. In fact, we should probably consider this the story of the week: The actors were not fired because of their positions on the vaccine mandate, but because they chose to stand against General Hospital’s corporate censorship.

The Mandate, which includes a requirement that all children’s immunizations be fully documented and that parents provide a signed statement against the mandate, is being implemented by various state legislatures. These mandates will undermine childhood immunization, particularly against diseases like measles, mumps and rubella, which haven’t been seen in decades.

A 1999 measles outbreak in New York City of approximately 80 children has been associated with unimmunized children. Such a outbreak could make any community very sick, or result in death. It would disrupt the economic security of those communities, which tend to be low-income, inner-city neighborhoods.

In California, the vaccine mandate has been overturned in court by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. However, it continues to be part of the health care policy for children in California schools. This year, the parents of the San Francisco Giants’ catcher, Nick Hundley, successfully blocked an attempt to enforce the California mandate.

Unfortunately, the reasoning for a “right-to-personal-belief” is based on the misreading of the Bible, and the actual text of the Bible affirms that the duty to the Lord is to “protect and defend the weak.”

It is time for ABC to cease its corporate censorship, and follow the courts’ wishes. When kids get sick, when the rich get richer, and when economic gain is tied to making our country “safe,” then the wishes of the courts should become the bottom line.

Marilyn Bechtel is the editor-in-chief and chief executive officer of Universal Pictures (northwest division) which produces and markets motion pictures.


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