‘As the World Turns’ Was a Trailblazer In LGTBQ Representation In Soap Operas

One of the longest-running TV shows is As the World Turns. Numerous actors appeared on the show, and it even launched careers for some of them. Of the many storylines in the series, several of them stand out to fans. As the World Turns changed the landscape of soap operas in multiple ways. One of which was the reveal of daytime TV’s first openly gay character. The show paved the way for future representation in the genre. 

(L-R, 2nd row) Actors Austin Peck, Trent Dawson, Van Hansis, (L-R, front row) executive producer Christopher Goutman, actors Don Hastings, Kathy Hays, Eileen Fulton, Colleen Zenk, Terry Colombino, and writer Jean Passanante smiling
(L-R, 2nd row) Actors Austin Peck, Trent Dawson, Van Hansis, (L-R, front row) executive producer Christopher Goutman, actors Don Hastings, Kathy Hays, Eileen Fulton, Colleen Zenk, Terry Colombino, and writer Jean Passanante | Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

‘As the World Turns’ ran for many years and was influential

As the World Turns is a soap opera that aired on CBS for over 50 years. It ran from 1956 to 2010 and contained over 13,800 episodes. A couple of the stars included Helen Wagner and Michael Park. The premise of As the World Turns features less melodrama and more psychological realism. The creator favored character development, so the show has slow-moving psychological character studies. The heads of the families tend to have legal or medical professions. 

The focus is on two upper-class households in Midwest Oakdale. The main characters are from the Hughes and Stewart families. Eventually, the Stewarts leave, and the rural Snyders and wealthy Lucinda Walsh enter the picture. During its run, the show made a few notable achievements. One of them changed the way soap operas would operate. As the World Turns was the first daytime drama to have a 30-minute runtime. Other shows, like Days of Our Lives, ran for 15 minutes before switching to the new format. 

Soap opera’s first gay character and same-sex kiss in ‘As the World Turns’

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Another landmark on As the World Turns, and in television history, is an openly LGBTQ character. According to TV Insider, the show contained the soap opera genre’s first gay male character, Brian Starcher’s Hank Elliot. Hank revealed his sexuality in the episode “Hank Comes Out.” The episode’s IMDb page reports that it is an hour-long and aired in 1988. In the episode, Hank shares his secret to Iva Snyder that he is gay.

As his story unfolds, he explains his sexuality to others. Later, he told a teenage Paul Ryan, and Paul became upset but soon realized Hank was still a good friend. As the World Turns also featured its first kiss between two men. Luke Snyder and Noah Mayer, played by Van Hansis and Jake Silbermann respectively, made daytime television history in 2007 when they shared their first kiss on screen. Their storyline ended when Noah departs with the hope to reunite in the future. 

The future of LGBTQ representation in soap operas

Nowadays, more and more shows are adding LGBTQ characters to their stories. When As the World Turns revealed their first gay male character, it was a big deal. Audiences were no doubt shock upon watching Hank’s confession to Iva. “Hank Comes Out” was released in the late-’80s when LGBTQ representation was almost nonexistent on TV. Not to mention, homophobic views were more openly accepted back then compared to today. The series helped paved the way for other soap operas to establish similar characters and relationships. 

One Life to Live wrote in TV’s first teenage gay character in the ’90s. However, it was risky for them to do. Ryan Phillippe got warned not to portray Billy Douglas since the AIDS crisis was at its peak. However, the actor did so despite the climate at the time, inspiring other young people to come out. The Young and the Restless have Mariah and Tessa, who have been together for a couple of years. Many Y&R fans love the women and want them to get married, showing just how far the soap opera genre has come since As the World Turns.