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"One Life to Live": Why All the Love for a Rapist?


Trevor St. John followed Roger Howarth into the role of not-quite-reformed rapist Todd Manning on "OLTL."

Published: March 12, 2008 at 10:52 AM GMT
Last Updated: March 13, 2008 at 10:52 AM GMT

By Marlena De Lacroix

 
I never liked the character of Todd Manning on One Life to Live. Never understood him. After he was introduced in 1992 as one of three gang rapists of college coed character Marty Saybrooke, the Todd character skyrocketed to become one of most popular characters on OLTL, if not in all of soaps. He has stayed that way until today.
 
Why have millions of soap viewers been obsessed with (or enamored of) this rapist for the last 17 years? (There were hiatuses when the character left town and returned.) Why has the show devoted years of storyline time to him and all but made a hero out of a criminal? Several years ago, the ABC online “store” even offered a Todd Manning doll! That story was broken by our own Ed Martin in the JackMyers Media Business Report. The doll was subsequently pulled off the virtual shelf.
 
Perhaps now the mystery of Todd (played first by actor Roger Howarth and now by Trevor St. John) will be fully unraveled. After years of endless storylines meant to redeem him, which I will recount below, OLTL looks like it may finally explore and perhaps unlock the psyche of this man.
 
Last week, Todd became violent for the first time since that long ago rape, seriously beating young Cole (son of his rape victim Marty) after he caught him in bed (possibly) deflowering his (Todd’s) daughter Starr. Earlier he had slapped Starr's friends Markko and Langston when he thought they were hiding Cole and Starr's whereabouts.
 
Finally, finally, a watershed moment for me and other Todd haters! He is a brute after all! Is this the beginning of a storyline that will delve into Todd's mind and enlighten viewers as to the complexities of a character who is mentally ill? A man who is suffering perhaps from psychosis? Or will it just be another springboard to build sympathy for Todd, daytime's favorite rapist?
 
Of course, that's up to the current head writer of OLTL. Just by insightfully making Todd violent again, writer Ron Carlivati has kicked off what could be the most memorable OLTL story of all (if done with intelligence, compassion and logic).
 
As OLTL viewers know, much of the credit for Todd's early popularity went to Howarth, the Emmy-winning actor who played him. Brooding, bitter and downright nasty, this character was an odd pick for audience favorite. Eventually, Howarth disagreed with the direction the character was going and left the show. (Howarth now plays Paul Ryan on OLTL timeslot competitor As the World Turns.) Trevor St. John, who has played the role of Todd Manning since 2003, has made him a mix of arrogance, belligerence and dark-blonde good looks.
 
The show has given Todd endless stories to redeem himself after the rape. On the way back from a very short jail term, he saved the lives of two adorable children in a train accident. Then he was given two beautiful women, Blair and Tea, to marry and love. He had a rich family life with Blair that resulted in two children, including Starr, the daughter who worshipped him. Recently Todd was raped by a woman (!) who secretly gave birth to his son. That son was given up for adoption without his knowledge and he recently got the son back.
 
All the while, Todd has lived on the $27 million he inherited right after the rape (around the time his character grew popular with the audience) from his biological father, Victor Lord. He’s become a newspaper publisher and enjoyed the unquestioning love of his half-sister, Viki, the show's main heroine and symbol for good.
 
Now that Todd has become violent again by attacking his daughter's friends, will One Life to Live adequately explain why a rapist has deserved to be so loved for so long? And will Todd's legions of fans continue the love affair?
 
Read more Marlena and friends at http://www.marlenadelacroix.com
 

To communicate with or to be contacted by the executives and/or companies mentioned in this column, link to JackMyers Connection Hotline.

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