When General Hospital cast and writers appeared at the Television Critics Association winter press tour to celebrate the ABC serial’s 60th anniversary, it was inevitable that one of the drama’s most controversial storylines would get revisited.
Genie Francis was among the show’s TCA panelists (along with Maurice Benard, Kristina Wagner, Rebecca Herbst, Donnell Turner, Nicholas Chavez and Tabyana Ali, EP Frank Valentini and co-head writers Chris Van Etten and Dan O’Connor). And shortly after Francis fielded a question about Luke and Laura’s 1981 wedding (which drew 30 million viewers), she and others were asked to comment on how GH has handled issues such as date rape over the decades.
And of course, Francis’ Laura was a victim of one of TV’s most notorious rape scenes….
To recap GH‘s infamous campus disco rape from October 1979: Luke Spencer (played by Anthony Geary) loved Laura Baldwin. But Laura was married to Scotty (Kin Shriner). Luke feared his mob ties were catching up to him, and he’d be dead inside of a month. And one night, as Laura waited for a ride home from her job at the campus disco, a despondent Luke lured Laura into a dance… and then he raped her (as Herb Alpert’s “Rise” blared through the room). The problematic storyline steered Luke and Laura into supercouple status (and in doing so reversed the lagging ABC sudser’s fortunes), and would not be revisited/retconned on-screen until 1998.
“You know, as a young kid at 17, I was told to play rape, and I played it,” Francis explained during the TCA panel. “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.”
Now, decades later, “At 60, I don’t feel the need to defend that anymore,” the Daytime Emmy winner very firmly stated. “I think that the story was inappropriate, and 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.
“I think, when a woman says ‘No,’ that she should be listened to,” she added, “and if you replay that scene, you don’t have Laura just saying ‘No.’ You have her screaming ‘No.'”
Earlier in the TCA Q&A, Francis had effused, “I feel very, very fortunate to have this new reinvented Laura” as exists on GH in 2023. “I love who she is in the present day. She was such a victim as a young woman, and to see it flip around and have her be… this powerful woman who is the mayor of the town. She doesn’t take crap from anyone. She’s a strong woman. She’s a good role model for other women.
“I love my Laura today,” she added. “I loved my Laura then too, but this is where it needed to go.”