‘Days of Our Lives’: Making gays look good by letting us be bad… and horny

Online dating apps can be perfect post-break-up pick-me-ups, but beware of evil old ladies lurking on the other side of your next chat. That’s one message NBC’s daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives–which is set in the fictional Midwestern town of Salem, Illinois–seems to be sending with its current LGBTQ storyline.

The catfishing angle may not enthusiastically endorse online dating, which has become so essential to gay culture in the 2010s, but then, the story did kick off by accentuating the positive. The hunky manbunned bartender who introduced Sonny Kiriakis to the Tinder-for-gays app claimed he met his boyfriend on it. Encouraged, Sonny swiped left for the first guy who popped up, and minutes later, he had a match.

Unfortunately for the Kiriakis heir, his business rival Vivian Alamain was playing Cupid behind the scenes. (Fun fact: The villainous diva is portrayed by 77-year-old soap vet Louise Sorel, who used to be married to the late Herb Edelman, aka Stanley Zbornak on The Golden Girls.) Leo, Sonny’s potential love connection, is on her payroll!

The manbunned bartender must be, too, or Vivian has the best timing in soap history.

Gay subterfuge aside, Days is making us look better than we ever have in daytime. We no longer exist just to be sassy and sexless or tortured and tormented. Four years after becoming the first soap to feature a legal gay wedding when Sonny and Will Horton tied the knot (with Will’s grandmother officiating and his great-grandma delivering a tear-jerking speech!), Days hasn’t caved to pressure from conservative viewers to send its gay characters back into the closet.

Meanwhile, CBS’s The Young and the Restless recently paused its budding lesbian romance between Mariah and Tess (played, respectively, by Camryn Grimes and Cait Fairbanks, both up for Daytime Emmys on April 29) following massive social media backlash. The story reversal was especially disappointing, considering that the show’s executive producer and head writer Mal Young has won numerous LGBTQ accolades in his native UK for his work on the British soap EastEnders.

Over on ABC, General Hospital has given its LGBTQ characters only a little more love. They’re diverse (black, white, and Asian, male and female), but they’re mostly MIA. Its recent teen transgender story happened mostly off-screen, which is where The Bold and the Beautiful’s groundbreaking transgender character, Maya Avant, spends most of her time these days.

But the conservative firing squad hasn’t daunted Days’ top scribe Ron Carlivati – this time. Openly gay, he came on board last July following head-writer stints at General Hospital and the now-defunct One Life to Live, where backlash over the gay couple Kyle and Fish (nicknamed “Kish” by fans) led to him writing them off the show.

Things are a lot different for the gays on Days. Not only do they get significant airtime, but it doesn’t all involve hand-wringing over their sexual orientation. Their stories could play out with straight characters. And when it comes to romance, they get to do a lot more than hug.

For those who haven’t been watching, here’s the Cliff Notes history of Days’ gays. Will comes out, falls in love with Sonny, marries him, and cheats on him with Paul Narita, a Japanese-American ex-baseball star who, unbeknownst to Will at the time, was Sonny’s first love.

He becomes Sonny’s next love after a serial killer strangles Will with a necktie. During Sonny and Paul’s wedding, Will’s killer breaks out of the psych ward and interrupts the nuptials to reveal that Will is alive. ??When his family tracks him down in Nashville, Will doesn’t remember them. He briefly reunites with Sonny anyway, but divorces him when he realizes hot for Paul. After walking in on his exes about to have sex, Sonny tries the gay app. Enter scheming Vivian and Leo.

Real-life gays don’t get this much action on Grindr, Scruff, and Saturday night combined. Days lets us do all the things its straight characters do, including come back from the dead, make out and make love in the afternoon. In some ways, it’s more progressive than Will & Grace.

Greg Rikaart debuted on March 27 as Leo, the gay villain in the catfishing story, making the threesome a quad. The Daytime Emmy winner, who is in the Emmy running this year for his portrayal of straight Kevin Fisher on Y&R, previously played a gay character on Dawson’s Creek.

Rikaart publicly came out in 2013 and campaigned to make his Y&R character gay, telling Gay Star News, “I want him to come out… I think it would be a super interesting story to tell. I think it would be more socially responsible than just bringing on a gay character – to have someone on the canvas that the audience knows and thinks of as family and takes that journey.”

He never got his way at Y&R, where the 41-year-old actor played Kevin for 14 years before being taken off contract in 2017. Now Days has given him a chance to play someone he was literally born to play.

Considering the soap’s penchant for the outrageous–doppelgängers, mind control, and, yes, Dr. Marlena Evans (Deirdre Hall) being possessed by the devil–who knows what trouble Leo will bring to Days? Maybe he’ll become a Salem power gay, change his evil ways, duck into a phone booth in the town square, and emerge as Superman.

Daytime’s first gay superhero? This viewer would be so there for that.

h/t: Queerty