"General Hospital" Star Genie Francis "Won't Justify" Luke and Laura Assault Scene: "It's Awful"
THE ACTOR OPENED UP ABOUT THE INFAMOUS 1979 EPISODE OF THE SOAP OPERA IN A RECENT PANEL.
General Hospital's Luke and Laura Spencer are one of the most iconic soap opera power couples in history, but their relationship first began with an upsetting storyline that would not fly on television today. In a 1979 episode, Luke (Anthony Geary) rapes Laura. And instead of the assault leading to Laura recovering and getting justice, it leads to the two characters falling in love and eventually getting married. Genie Francis, who still plays Laura on General Hospital, spoke out about the scene at a recent event and said that she is done trying to justify it. Read on to find out what she had to say about the way producers framed Laura's assault and how she's personally dealt with it over the past 44 years.
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At the time, a producer called the rape "a seduction."
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Luke and Laura's story begins with him forcing himself on her at an empty nightclub, even though she says no. Gloria Monty, a producer for General Hospital, told Us Weekly in 1987 (via the Los Angeles Times), "Some people call it a rape. We call it a seduction."
Two years after the scene played out, Luke and Laura Spencer were the hottest couple in soaps. Their 1981 wedding was watched by a record-setting 30 million viewers.
Francis says the episode has been "a burden" for her.
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As reported by People, during ABC's Television Critics Association presentation on Jan. 10, Francis said of the scene, "I don't defend it anymore."
She explained, "You know, as a young kid, at 17, I was told to play rape, and I played it. I didn't even know what it was. But, at 17, you follow the rules, and you do as you are told, and you aim to please. At 60, I don't feel the need to defend that anymore."
Francis also called being part of the storyline "a burden."
"I think that the story was inappropriate, I don't condone it, and it's been a burden that I've had to carry to try to justify that story, and so I'm not doing that anymore," the longtime soap star said. "I think, when a woman says 'No,' that she should be listened to, and if you replay that scene, you don't have Laura just saying 'No.' You have her screaming 'No.'"
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She's also said it "feels good" to speak her truth about it.
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This isn't the first time that Francis has said she's done defending the scene. When she appeared on The Story of Soaps in 2020, she explained, "It was such a big deal in the media and it took the country by storm. I've had to justify it for so many years and I have to say, it feels good to sit here and say I won't justify it. It's awful. They shouldn't have done it."
She also talked about General Hospital's attempt to make the storyline something it wasn't.
"Gloria Monty tried to deal with it by calling it rape-seduction," Francis said. "The term now would be date rape. The night of the rape, Luke's last request was to dance with him, and the dance became very seductive. He took her down to the floor and that is the rape."
Geary has talked about the scene's "upsetting" consequences.
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Geary has also spoken out about being a part of this dark moment in soap opera history.
"I had a very upsetting appearance in Chicago early on when a group of women started chanting 'Luke, rape me' and it was so bizarre, so upsetting," Geary told Nightline in 2015, the same year he left the soap. "We came under a lot of fire from feminist groups and rightfully so from victim groups."
The assault was addressed on the show years later.
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In 1998, Luke's rape of Laura became part of a new storyline in which their child found out that their father had assaulted their mother. Through this, the show was able to address the problem that was overlooked the first time around.
Wendy Riche, an executive producer of the show, told the Associated Press in 1998, "The times are different. What the audience perceives and what they expect is very different from what it was 20 years ago. They are more conscious date rape is unacceptable." Riche added, "It was not acceptable then, no matter what the town said or the press said. It is not acceptable to take control over another person's body under any circumstance."