The term Character Assassination comes into play when a soap character begins to act in ways that are inconsistent to that character’s personality and history. While soap characters can change over time, these changes are usually prompted by storyline and are gradual, thus, seeming more natural. However, sometimes writers will instead change the characters to fit the story and therefore viewers are left judging characters by their onscreen actions instead of their history.
With no reason shown for the sudden change in a character’s personality or actions viewers are left grasping at straws and changing their views based on what they see instead of what they knew about the character.
Over the course of Guiding Light’s long history there were several characters that were subjected to this type of character destruction, and probably many more than you could even make a list for. But for the sake of condensing I compiled this list along with other Guiding Light fans.
10. Tony Santos. This one is of course one of my pet peeves, that I have spoken about in length. The Tony Santos that viewers were introduced to in the early years was very complex and multi-layered. He was torn between wanting to be a better man and the life he had grown up in. He was impulsive, reckless, and could be cocky at times but he had a good heart. The two constants in his life were his love of Marah Lewis and his loyalty to his cousin Danny. Yes the role was recast and viewers were forced to accept another actor as Tony but that change wouldn’t have been so difficult if Tony wouldn’t have started acting completely out of character. Suddenly his love of Marah was completely forgotten. Instead of his undying loyalty to Danny he was jealous and wanted everything Danny had, including Michelle. And though he and Danny had left the mob life years before Tony was drawn back in, he actually seemed to welcome it. Tony’s character lost all the positive aspects of his character until he became a dark rather unappealing character.
9. Alan-Michael Spaulding. While Alan and Phillip embraced their Spaulding instincts a key ingredient of Alan-Michael’s character was his desire to be different from his father and brother. He was Alan Spaulding’s biological son but he always felt like Alan favored Phillip over him which made his desperate for his approval. Despite his need for Alan’s approval he knew his father didn’t deserve his love, not when Alan pitted Alan-Michael and Phillip against each other, both in the family and in business. That was the background of his character: the constant need to prove himself worthy of his father’s love, his need to prove himself worthy of Spaulding, and his desire to not be like Alan and Phillip. Though Alan-Michael was never really a “good guy” his return in 2005 marked a huge deviation from his usual characterization. He had no problems using his ex-wife Harley and old flame Dinah to gain control of Spaulding, he faked being paralyzed to try to win the heart of Ava from Coop, and he exposed pictures of Olivia and Jeffery kissing on the day Olivia was set to marry Buzz Cooper (his ex-father in law). When all was said and done Alan-Michael Spaulding, the Spaulding who had always tried to be different from his father and brother, was boasting about how his family owned the whole town. Gloating that his family owned the whole town it was a vast change from the humble man who worked at the Meals and Wheels Diner after marrying Harley. The man who could so callously screw over his friends was a far cry from the man who helped Lucy get a job at Spaulding even though she initially struggled as an administrative assistant. No, Alan-Michael was never a “good guy” but he was never a bad guy either. Alan-Michael was a characters with all kinds of shades of grey. He was manipulative, calculating, and shrewd. But he was also protective, loyal, and loving. He was Spaulding but he had enough Bauer in him that the good qualities often overshadowed the bad. But when the writers decided to take Alan-Michael in a “new direction” the aspects that made him such a dynamic character were missing.
8. Annie Dutton. Long before Annie Dutton became one of Guiding Light’s favorite villainess she was simply a nurse with a past. As she treated Josh Lewis for his broken leg they quickly fell for each other. But Annie had secrets, she had been married to Rick Bauer in Chicago but the marriage fell apart due to her alcoholism. Annie hid the secret from Josh and the two became engaged, but not long after, Annie told Josh her secrets. After initial resentment, Josh forgave Annie and the two married. In 1995, Reva Shayne was discovered alive meaning Josh and Reva were still legally married. Josh was determined to stay with Annie and he divorced Reva and married Annie legally. In time, Josh and Reva grew closer again, but Shayne, and especially Marah, loved Annie and wanted her as their mommy. Annie knew that Josh was still in love with Reva. This infuriated Annie, who had started drinking again and had become addicted to painkillers. She was caught stealing drugs from the hospital and forging Rick’s name on prescriptions, and Lillian Raines fired her. Josh and Rick intervened with the help of drug consultant Rachel Sullivan, and Annie went through a radical withdrawal treatment in the Bauer cabin. To Josh’s dismay, Annie then took a job as a private physical therapist to Alan Spaulding, who soon fell in love with her. She was desperate to keep Josh and went so far as to get artificially inseminated. She picked a fight with Reva at the top of the stairs at the Spaulding mansion and made it look like Reva pushed her down the stairs and thus caused her to miscarry. With Josh out of the picture Annie moved on with Alan, the two planned to marry, but Reva learned Annie was married to another man. With the return of Reva Shayne it was inevitable that Josh and Reva would find their way back to each other. However, Josh reassuring Annie that he loved her while making eyes at Reva only drove Annie closer to the edge until Annie snapped. Annie’s story would continue, complete with plastic surgery to hide her identity, and Annie would go into Guiding Light history best remembered as a villain. A very different end to a character that started off relatively nice.
7. Nola Reardon. This quirky character was always a fan favorite and one half of the Quint and Nola (Quola) super couple. But in 1995 Nola returned to town with son Anthony and no Quinton. His absence was explained by news of an affair and Nola was understandably heartbroken. But she took over the running of the boarding house and became friends with Frank Cooper. One day he kissed her due to excitement and Nola took it to heart, literally. Nola began fantasizing about Buzz and leaving him cookies and flowers. Breaking into the fire house where he lived to steal a picture…which she had framed and then brought back! Buzz eventually figured out it was Nola stalking him and forgave her, then he fell down some steps and got amnesia. Nola even held over Jenna’s head that the baby Jenna is carrying wasn’t really Buzz’s. Buzz and Jenna forgave Nola she left down embarrassed and ashamed. And in true character assassination form we were never shown why Nola turned to stalker mode. Quint himself had followed in Nola’s wake to win back the heart of his beloved. Nola Reardon was quirky (and quite flakey) but she wasn’t stalkerish. Nola was feisty and determined. This was a woman who when forgotten on her wedding day RAN down the road and hitched a ride on a fire truck. Who survived countless adventures as Quinton’s sidekick. But a case of heartbreak has her descending into stalker behavior? Sorry, not buying it. This story was so bad that Nola’s portrayer Lisa Brown even refused to come back until the final episodes where we were led to believe that Nola and Quint had in fact reunited.
6. Michelle Bauer Santos. Michelle had overcome blindness and survived several murder attempts by her mother-in-law but it would be an explosion in 2004 that would have fans cringing in horror at what the writers had in store for this legacy character. Completely wiped of her memory she turned to the one person she did remember, the person who rescued her, Tony. Michelle felt pressured by her family members to regain her memories and lashed out at everyone, especially her husband Danny. When Tony revealed that Danny was a mobster Michelle was intrigued. In fact, new amnesia Michelle was impulsive and carefree, and Michelle looked at Danny’s attempts at helping her as him controlling her which led to the end of Manny. While fans could have handled some of the changes in Michelle, the character took a big hit when she jumped into a relationship with Danny’s cousin Tony. Especially when her memories began returning and she knew the relationship Danny and her had could never compare to what she was trying to force with Tony. Tony was just a comfortable friend who didn’t push her to remember her old life. Tony himself got the lines blurred between security and love which is why this storyline was really tragic. It saw the character assassination of two characters and would ultimately lead to Tony’s death. Michelle and Danny had an ever rockier road to reconciliation they did find their way back to each other and made their way out of Springfield in 2005. Fans had just spend almost a year watching Michelle act like a completely different woman only for the writers to effectively shrug their shoulders and leave her this forgotten soul of a character. What was truly awful about this story was once Michelle and Danny reunited it was like Michelle had never had amnesia in the first place! Her personality transformation was erased and she just went back to her old self and both Danny, Michelle, and their kids were sent to live happily ever after offscreen. Two character assassinations, one death, and this amnesia storyline was one epic failure that lasted way past its expiration date.
5. Alexandra Spaulding. When I asked my Twitter followers their personal opinions on Guiding Light character Assassinations I got quite a few responses for Alexandra Spaulding. I had to think about it for a while because I have always considered Alexandra as being rather, well,…devious. Especially when it pertained to her relationship with her brother Alan. But in 2004 Alan let investigators see the files for Spaulding Pharmaceuticals, especially regarding the drug Antmonious, which was being sold on the black market as Delirium. When stock holders began dumping their stock in Spaulding Alexandra followed suit and gave a man Brad Green full reign over Antmonious. Things would come to a head when it was discovered that Alexandra was working with Brad to ship the drug Antmonious to the mob, who would then refine it into Delirium and sell it on the streets. Alan then pleaded with Gus to spare her from being arrested (which he agreed to). But when Frank Cooper began investigating Alexandra tried to have him framed. Though Alexandra was in jail briefly the very idea that Alexandra Spaulding would become a drug dealer was ludicrous and completely out of character. A cornerstone to Alexandra’s character was proving to that she could run Spaulding just as good as Alan could. Brandon Spaulding used to pit Alexandra and Alan against each other and it molded Alexandra into the tough woman she was, in business and her personal life. Even if we were to believe that ambition made her blind to the illegal manufacturing practices going on at Spaulding many viewers found it hard to comprehend how Alexandra would ever be that, for lack of a better word, stupid.
4. Matt Reardon. In 2007 Matt sought out investors for a new business venture. When large sums of money began being transferred out of Vanessa’s accounts Mallet began to investigate, which made Matt nervous. Matt’s nervousness wasn’t lost on Dinah and when she inquired about it, he confessed that he dipped into her funds to woo investors and never replaced the money or told Vanessa. Weeks later, Matt was forced to admit the truth to Vanessa when his main investor began demanding his money. Sadly, the investor was nothing more than a loan shark and Vanessa berated Matt for being stupid enough to do business with a criminal, When Vanessa asked why he couldn’t come to her, Matt confessed that throughout their marriage he always felt second-best. Matt also had another secret—he not only dipped into Vanessa’s money; he used Maureen’s trust fund as collateral. When the loan shark, Griggs, shot Dinah and put her in a coma Vanessa said their marriage was over. Matt had just had an argument with Vanessa who warned him to stay away from Dinah since she believed that he was a bad influence on her daughter. Though Matt tried to steer Dinah away from him, she confided that he was the only one she could confide it. When she offered to leave to keep him from getting in trouble with Vanessa, Matt realized that he needed her too and suddenly kissed her. He quickly pulled away and apologized but Dinah insisted that it was no big deal. Later, after Matt made a scene after seeing Vanessa and Billy together Dinah pulled Matt in for a kiss. As they kissed passionately Mallet saw and attacked Matt, which was witnessed by Vanessa as well. In the meantime, Vanessa and Mallet were both highly concerned with Dinah’s well being and irresponsible behavior. Angered that Mallet was treating her like a child, Dinah returned her wedding ring and she and Matt ended up making love. Later, Dinah came for Matt for company again but he was frustrated because he was supposed to spend time with Maureen but she was taking an entrance exam at her new boarding school. Feeling sorry for him, Dinah pulled Maureen out of school and brought her to Matt. After Vanessa and Mallet had Dinah committed to a mental hospital Matt and Vanessa made it seem as if they had reconciled. However months later, Matt confessed to Dinah, who’d since been released, that he and Vanessa were never together. It was all a lie to help Dinah get her life back together. After Dinah hugged Matt, he backed away and told her that they weren’t good for each other anymore. Dinah was always looking for trouble and he did not need that. Early in Matt and Vanessa’s relationship Dinah (then played by Wendy Moniz) had tried to seduce Matt with no success. Matt wasn’t that guy, hell Matt and Vanessa fell in love online again while hiding behind screen names. Nor was he the guy to embezzle money from his wife or daughter. And I am pretty sure after years of being married to Vanessa Chamberlain he was used to her wealth but suddenly he was threatened by it to the point of going to loan sharks. No the character of Matt was destroyed in other to reunite Vanessa and Billy for the sake of history leaving fans of the Matt character and the Vanessa and Matt pairing bewildered.
3. Harley Cooper. After Harley’s marriage to Gus ended in 2007 she was understandably hurt and lost but it would be in 2008 that the character would really take a beating. After being trapped in a building with her niece’s boyfriend Cyrus. Desperate to keep Harley alive and hopeful, Cyrus kissed her gently. Shell shocked, Harley taken to Cedars. As she was released, Gus rushed in to see if she was alright and offered to take Harley home and take care of her. However Harley saw papers sticking out of his pocket and was shocked to see they were annulment papers. Distressed, she asked if Gus knew what an annulment meant, it meant that their marriage never happened. It wasn’t long before Harley was having feelings for Cyrus and she kissed him despite him dating her niece. Harley promised Marina that she’d never hurt her by going after Cyrus. Harley then went to Cyrus and admitted that she wanted to be with him. However, this time Cyrus was determined to do the right thing and stand by Marina. As Cyrus tried to fight his feelings for Harley, the pair’s closeness was not lost on Marina. Finally, Cyrus and Marina decided to move to France. However, the night they were supposed to leave, Cyrus met with Harley and confessed that she was the one he loved. Neither Cyrus nor Harley could resist the pull they had and made love. Afterwards, they decided to keep their affair a secret. Later, Cyrus finally broke down and told Marina that he loved Harley. Marina angrily lashed out just as Frank approached with Harley. While Harley tried to tell Marina that she never meant to hurt her, Marina refused to be pacified and called Harley a whore before warning her that Cyrus would hurt her as well. Later Josh shocked Harley with news that Cassie cheated on him and asked Harley to spy on Cassie in order to learn who she’d had her tryst with. Though Harley was reluctant to spy on her best friend, when she discovered that she had maxed out her credit cards paying for Gus’ funeral, she realized that she needed to take the job. When Gus’s son Rafe shot at Jeffery O’Neill on accident. Horrified at what he’d done, Rafe ran off to the house that Gus bought for Natalia. Daisy found him and, later, brought Harley to him. Desperate to save Gus’s son, Harley decided to flee the country with Rafe. After getting some money from Buzz, Harley shared a hug with Zach and Jude before fleeing the country. Personally speaking I found it especially hard to watch Harley go after her niece’s boyfriend. That was NOT Harley. Harley had her faults but the Cooper family was very family oriented and to go behind Marina’s back was completely out of character. Added to this was the fact that Harley was married to TWO, technically THREE, Spaulding men. She had a son with Phillip Spaulding and one with Rick Bauer who was a doctor. I sure she had quite the child support and alimony coming in. Yet she was broke for the sake of plot. And then despite having two young children she fled the country with Gus’ son in order to protect him. The woman who had basically told Alan Spaulding point-blank he would not destroy her children like he had his own sons just upped and left them behind for a son that wasn’t even hers! Yes, Harley Cooper’s character was decimated in 2008 for no other reason but for plot.
2. Ben Reade. Hard to talk about character assassination without mentioning Ben Reade. A legacy character, Ben Reade grew up with his best friends Bill Lewis and Michelle Bauer close at his side. Young Ben was raised by his stepfather Fletcher Reade, and for the most part he was a fairly ordinary kid. Under Fletcher’s loving care Ben grew into a confident and loving teenager. When Fletcher married Holly in 1995 Ben quickly accepted her and vice versa. He had a loving and supportive family and his two best friends Bill and Michelle. What could possibly go wrong? In 1996 Fletcher and Holly’s daughter was born with Down’s Syndrome. Young Ben suddenly felt he was in the way. Though Fletcher and Holly tried to reassure him this was not the case they finally relented and allowed him to attend boarding school. In 2001 a now adult Ben returned to Springfield a changed man. No longer the loving teenager he ignored his friends and established himself as a Lothario at Springfield University. He set about winning a bet about how quickly he could bed Marah Lewis and take her virginity, working with her roommate Catalina in keeping Marah and her ex Tony apart. In 2002 after years of living beyond his means and a trust fund that had gone belly up, Ben found himself broke and began working for Eden August’s escort service behind the back for his girlfriend Marina Cooper. Ben soon became one of the prime suspects in a series of murders involving people connected to Eden’s Escort service. When the truth of Ben’s extracurricular activities was exposed Marina broke up with him and sent Ben into a tailspin of despair. He became obsessed with Marina even stalking her. Finally in July Ben kidnapped Marina and took her to the Bauer cabin. Ben told Marina about how he went to boarding school and how he was molested by a teacher and how he felt ashamed. When Frank burst in Ben threatened to kill her but instead he turned the needle on himself. Rushed to the hospital Ben gave a deathbed confession. He had murdered a total of four people. After a last visit from his friends Bill and Michelle, ex-stepmother Holly and ex-stepsister Blake the once loving and ambitious Ben passed on into Guiding Light history a tarnished character. As previously stated, Ben Reade was a legacy character. And I can fondly remember watching Fletcher and Ben in their “bachelor pad”, they were such a loving father and son duo. Growing up the son of a reporter young Ben was fascinated by seeing the world, even wanted to follow in Fletcher’s footsteps and be a reporter. Such a drastic turn in the characterization of Ben was hard to watch, particularly when it was clear Ben Reade would not make it out of 2003. Watching this clip featuring a young Bill and Ben drives home how far the Ben Reade character was assassinated by the 2003 Weston regime.
1. Holly Norris. I have to start off saying that I have always enjoyed the Holly character. She is neither a hero nor a vixen, she falls somewhere in the grey area in between. Holly Norris was simply a complex character. She was ambitious, strong, and yet slightly neurotic. Whereas characters like Reva wore their feelings openly Holly kept her feelings closely guarded, a pool of deep still waters. The scene from 1979 where her husband Roger Thorpe rapes Holly has become a memorable piece of Guiding Light history. One of those iconic timepieces that even if it was before your time (like me) you know about it and have watched the amazing acting between Maureen Garrett and Michael Zaslow. But it was the late 90s when the character of Holly really took a beating, a beating she never fully recovered from. It all began with the sudden romance between Holly and Fletcher Reade that would lead to their marriage in 1995. Months after they married Holly learned she was pregnant which left them both shocked, yet happy. They also learned that their unborn child would be born with Downs Syndrome. Though Holly thought of having an abortion she decided against it and later gave birth to daughter Meg. Later they learned that Meg was born with a hole in heart and needed surgery. Holly and Fletcher remained happily married until 1997 when Holly decided to let Roger back in her life. Roger and Holly’s closeness didn’t go unnoticed by Fletcher either, who after seeing Roger give Holly a “grandmother’s” ring, asked Holly point-blank if something was going on between them. After Fletcher caught Holly and Roger in an embrace a devastated Fletcher left town with Meg in tow. Holly fell into a deep depression and turned to alcohol for comfort. Holly’s brother Ken, who’d been in an institution for decades, noticed she had a drinking problem and didn’t want to watch his sister destroy herself. Sadly, Holly let it slip that Jeffery Morgan, not Buzz Cooper, was Rocky’s father which ultimately led to the death of Jenna Bradshaw. Though it appeared as if Holly was appearing to get her life together, several strange occurrences were happening in Springfield. Harley Cooper was given a gift basket that contained a poisoned apple and Vanessa Reardon found herself bit by a poisonous spider. When each instance came
with a nursery rhyme, it became clear that Springfield had a “Nursery Rhyme Stalker” who was targeting Springfield mothers….Soon it would be revealed that Holly was none other than the Nursery Rhyme Stalker. But this was not before she had kidnapped most of the children in Springfield including: Kevin and Jason Marler (Her grandchildren), Susan LeMay, Rocky, Marina, and Henry “Coop” Cooper, Shayne Lewis, Lizzie Spaulding, Tammy Layne and Roger Joshua Jessup and held them against their will. Thankfully when Fletcher heard Holly was the Nursery Rhyme Stalker he returned to Springfield and he convinced the judge that it was his actions that caused Holly to go off the deep end. FLASHFORWARD to 2004 and Holly learned of Rodger’s death from a man named Sebastian Hulce who claimed he was Rodger’s son. Sebastian asked Holly to take a trip to Santo Domingo to celebrate Roger’s life. They stopped in the same hotel Rodger kidnapped her years ago and even saw a waiter that resembled Rodger. But Sebastian
then held Holly captive, he was dying and needed Holly to contract Ed for the cure. After a long (and awful) storyline Sebastian freed his hostages, yet Holly stayed behind to bid farewell to Sebastian. Alone, Sebastian made a convincing plea for why he and Holly should be together but Holly reluctantly resisted.
The 90s were a bit of hit and miss for Guiding Light history. On one hand there was the addition of Buzz and Lucy Cooper (the later who would be a part of the great LAM pairing), and in the later 90s was the addition of the Santos family. But on the other hand this was also the era that brought such stories as Ghost Reva (though I liked that one for some odd reason) and the Reva Clone fiasco was nothing compared to the character destruction that occurred with Nursery Rhyme Stalker storyline. From that moment on the character of Holly Norris floated around in the background because many of the subsequent writers felt she was too “tarnished” to give any real storyline to. Viewers had watched Holly’s decent into depression so her actions were logical on the surface, most viewers just hated it. But the hate was magnified when the character was never given the chance to rebound When Reva was being stalked in 2002 the immediate suspect was of course, Holly Norris. Reva was convinced of her innocence but that didn’t stop the rest of Springfield. Like Ed said, “Holly was the victim of more than a stalker. The whole town turned against her.”
Holly was a classic example of a character where still waters run deep. She was constantly conflicted by her emotions regarding Rodger, torn between love and hate. They were at their core toxic, but so very beautiful to watch. When asked if there were any storylines she didn’t like, it isn’t any wonder Maureen Garrett answers with the “Nursery Rhyme Stalker” and falling in a Stockholm syndrome type of love with her kidnapper Sebastian Hulce. They were both awful storylines. One “tarnished” Holly Norris and the other was so out of character for Holly it was hard to watch.