It’s (Past) Time That General Hospital Got Woke: Why Esme’s Vicious Plot Against Trina Is About Way More Than a Villainess Being Villainous
This is more than a simple case of good vs. evil.
It’s no wonder that Trina Robinson is a fan favorite when it comes to General Hospital‘s teen scene. She’s thoughtful, loyal, honest, kind, sensitive and sweet. She’s also a Black woman, which requires some extra care when writing for the character. Even in a soap world, Trina’s body and dignity are more at risk than those of her white friends, and — as far too often happens in the real world — those who violate her body and dignity are less likely to face consequences for their actions. Need proof? Look no further than the actions of Esme Prince.
When Spencer’s manipulative girlfriend drugged her rival during the group’s recent getaway, not only did Trina’s friends do very little to ensure her safety in the moment but they also failed to follow up on her after they came home. There was no investigation into why she got drunk so easily or how badly she was feeling. Esme has so far gotten away with it. And next week, Trina will be violated again when she’s arrested for allegedly recording and releasing a sex tape of Joss and Cam’s first time making love. The audience, of course, knows that Esme is actually responsible.
“But this is a soap! Why bring race into it?” is the first reaction from fans who most likely haven’t experienced daily racial micro and macro aggressions. One answer to this question is scientific: There is a racial empathy gap, in which people care less about harm inflicted on a Black victim and their resulting pain. Another answer is that race is already a factor in soap storytelling, consciously or not. Esme, who is white, set fire to a car and suffered zero consequences. Not only was she not arrested, but she wound up living in Mayor’s house! When Joss and Cam, who are white, had their privacy violated by the sex tape, they were comforted by friends and family and an investigation into the incident was launched immediately. Esme was also directly confronted by Joss’ mother on the mere suspicion that she was involved in making the tape. Swift consequences for maybe violating a young white woman’s dignity, unlike what we saw unfold with Trina. What does the audience take away from that? That Trina’s dignity is worth less than Joss’.
More: Is Esme really pregnant?
Not only that, but Esme gets to keep the guy. Spencer might be pining for Trina, but he stays with Esme. Actions speak louder than words. Trina is a wonderful young woman who hasn’t had an on-screen romantic partner in three years. Yet, Esme, who has no redeeming qualities, entered the scene with a boyfriend from one of the most significant families in Port Charles.
All of this is not to say that Trina should be put in a glass box or that typically soapy things can’t happen to her. If she were arrested for protesting climate change or something else that she truly believed in, the situation would be different. That would be Trina facing the consequences of her own actions, fighting for something she believed in. Her dignity would be in tact.
The reality of Trina’s experience as a Black woman needs to be acknowledged and carefully considered by the writers room at General Hospital. A report on diversity in Hollywood from UCLA found that audiences prefer TV shows that embrace racial and ethnic diversity. Soap storytelling has to expand to include and address diverse experiences to not only survive but thrive in the years to come.
Check out our picks for the best and worst of daytime so far in 2022.