We Weigh In: Should Days Of Our Lives Quit Hiding Behind Masks?Published on May 26, 2021.
True to its outlandish reputation, Days of Our Lives kept the drama rolling at a feverish pace throughout May sweeps. In particular, the storyline of Kristen DiMera (played by Stacy Haiduk) involved a kidnapping, a desperate hostage escape, a car accident, another kidnapping, a critical hospitalization, a hired assassin and yes, another kidnapping. Oh, and did we mention masks? Much to the surprise of absolutely no one, there have been plenty of masks.
Although DOOL has a long history of using twins, doppelgängers and wigs to similar effect, masks have become the plot device of choice. In recent memory, Kristen has taken on a disguise to impersonate Nicole Walker (played by Arianne Zucker), Sarah Horton (Linsey Godfrey), Kate Roberts (Lauren Koslow) and Susan Banks (also played by Haiduk).
Want DOOL spoilers? Check out Days Of Our Lives Spoilers For The Week (May 31, 2021)
However, as the month wore on — and Kristen’s antics absorbed more and more screen-time — DOOL risked putting all of its eggs in one basket. And unfortunately, this basket was mostly for viewers who could stomach a silly, and seemingly endless, masquerade.
So now that Kristen’s crime-spree is coming to a close, can we please put a moratorium on these unbelievable mask storylines?
Granted, we need to suspend our disbelief in order for soap operas to entertain and thrill us. Without accepting that, say, children can rapidly age a decade after spending a few semesters at boarding school, we couldn’t welcome new, exciting characters who are already entwined to the show’s main families. But even in daytime television, that suspension of disbelief has limits.
The longer Kristen’s masquerade went on, the more I felt nagged by questions I once deemed frivolous. Like, how does Kristen design these incredible masks? How does she adopt her subject’s vocal patterns so precisely? Although it was fun to see Zucker and Koslow branch out while playing a disguised Kristen, I also grew weary of overlooking how a “mask” can modify Kristen’s body measurements to match those of the victims she was impersonating.
These are inconvenient questions that soaps fans are willing to discard when the stories are fresh. The problem is, this story isn’t fresh anymore.
We can credit the over-reliance on masks to head-writer Ron Carlivati, who has a divisive reputation amongst soaps fans. While his contributions to General Hospital and One Life To Live involved bringing back legacy characters and introducing strong storylines, Carlivati’s zest for the campy side of soaps often steered his narratives into the realm of science fiction. (For those unfamiliar, Carlivati was responsible for the time-travel storyline in OLTL that, in the eyes of many fans, provided the final nail in the sudser’s coffin.)
Want more DOOL spoilers? Check out Days Of Our Lives: Spoilers For June 2021
Beyond wearing fans out with the same unrealistic gag, the disguise issue has repeatedly been exploited for love scenes that blur the boundaries of consent. In decades past, a scenario in which one character tricks another into sleeping with them was seen as a salacious hook in daytime television. Now, it is justifiably seen for what it is: a crime. Soaps fans are always down for a good crime saga, so long as the soap recognizes when a crime has been committed.
Maybe show-writers can’t see through the eyeholes, but these masks seem to condone a lot of trauma! Increasingly, audiences are sharing their frustrations that these sex crime storylines are outdated and triggering. It isn’t problematic that Stefan DiMera or Bonnie Lockhart committed such heinous acts; it’s that writers use the ambiguity of identity (in many cases, via masks) to frame these acts as permissible. Given the relative frequency of these crimes in Salem, it’s telling that offenders rarely get ostracized from their peers or suitably punished by law.
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Yes, these characters are fictional. Yes, this soap flirts with elements of fantasy and should not be taken too seriously. But beneath the novelty (if we can still call it that) of Kristen impersonating different women, is a character who has repeatedly used that ruse to drug men with a memory-erasing serum and sleep with them. Perhaps the real disguise is the one DOOL constructs to make viewers overlook the fact that she’s a repeat sex offender!
Some of the online criticism about Carlivati’s mask obsession is laced with a feeling that DOOL just isn’t the same show anymore. (Curiously, this is the same feeling many GH fans had during Carlivati’s tenure.) Truthfully, DOOL shouldn’t be the same show! No program with 56 seasons under its belt should feel a pressure to adhere to the expectations of its distant heyday. Rather, fans would hope that DOOL will continue to evolve its subject matter, tone and outlook, while honoring its terrific past. So it’s in that spirit that we say: enough with the masks, already. Let’s move forward.
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