Jenna rejecting Jack - A vile metaphor for 80's AIDS homophobia?

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by Julia's Gun, Oct 26, 2017.

  1. Julia's Gun

    Julia's Gun Soap Chat Member

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    Watching the Dream Season again, we have that strange non-relationship between Jenna and Jack. It looks like it is slowly building into a new love story, but Jenna/Priscilla goes cold, cold, turkey and it just gets worse with every episode.

    Taking 'The Deadly Game' episode as an example, it looks like because the actor Dack Rambo was HIV, Priscilla had decided she wanted nothing to do with him and refused any on-screen kissing. The writers were struggling with this storyline but seemed to accommodate Prisiclla's refusal to comply and instead turns it into her mourning Bobby instead. Dack was a lovely guy, yet maybe we should view the cruel way she gives him the cold shoulder in this episode as a metaphor for the way America (and Europe) turned its back on the gay community in the late 1980s out of paranoia that even touching a man with HIV would somehow infect them all with instantly with Aids.

    The writers clearly wanted this story to develop further, but I'm guessing Prisiclla's refusal to kiss Dack onscreen led to the plotline being slowly dropped, and then there was nothing else for Jenna to do that season other than mourn Bobby. I hate the way he offers her a respectful truce and apologises for anything that may have offended her, and yet she can't even look him in the face.

    There is a reference to this in an interview Dack gave in 1992 about Larry and Priscilla isolating him in the show: http://people.com/archive/dack-rambos-brave-new-world-vol-37-no-18/

    Particularly disturbing is this parapraph: "Rambo also believes his character’s romance with Bobby’s girlfriend, Jenna Wade (Priscilla Presley), was shelved so that Presley wouldn’t have to do love scenes with him. (Presley had no comment.)"

    What exactly had Jack done wrong? Why does Jenna suddenly decide months into the dream season that this relationship is going nowhere and she is still mourning Bobby? That wasn't how her character was written in the first few episodes. It looked as if her and Jack were being set up as the next big Ewing couple. So what went wrong? Does anyone have more light to shed on how much Priscilla was involved in changing this storyline and was it down to blatant selfish 80's homophobia, given Dack Rambo's private life? The actress should be questioned on this next time she is interviewed. The least she could do is apologise if the suggestions in that article are true.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
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  2. Snarky's Ghost
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    I'm not real into public people being encouraged to "apologize".

    If Priscilla refused to kiss Rambo because she was afraid of AIDS and knew he was gay -- or to not replicate a Rock Hudson-Linda Evans front page moment -- that seems ugly now. But the mid-'80s hysteria was real. And while I'd already heard the stories about the "best" medical data confirming that casual contact doesn't spread the disease, a lot of doctors were still going around saying otherwise.

    If Priscilla was terrified that Dack's lips meant instant death -- and she very well might have in 1985 -- how else was she supposed to handle it?

    Then. In 1985.
     
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  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Jenna’s rejection of Jack makes sense in the wider scheme of things. It allows Jack to have it off with Grace, which leads Grace to betray Angelica and for that whole storyline to develop the way it does, and Jenna to regress and go nuts and cause Pam to blurt out the truth about her and Bobby, which allows that storyline to resolve itself.
     
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  4. Julia's Gun

    Julia's Gun Soap Chat Member

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    Yeah, I take your point, but it reminds me how nasty it all was when fear overran compassion in the 80s and early 90s, and the 'gay plague' tag set back equal rights by some years as a result. As well as Linda Evans/Rock Hudson I remember something about William Devane and obsessive 'cleanliness' on set in Knots around the time of Larry Riley's illness and death on that show.

    Also 20 yrs after Diana's death it's a reminder how brave and controversial she was to shake hands with an Aids patient to bring this issue to the fore as early as 1987, when so many (here in the UK, Thatcher's government (Section 28) and Dot Cotton on Eastenders for example) were just shoving the blame back onto the victims who were dying in agony at the time.

    But given James observation above, may be it wasn't just down to Priscilla's objections, but the writer's intentions to kill of the Jack/Jenna relationship all along. I'm still watching the tail end of the dream season, so will see how this pans out in the next few episodes. It just annoyed me reading that article and seeing how some fellow actors were ready to succumb to the fear and prejudice that was being pumped out by the media and some hate preachers at the time.
     
  5. Mustard
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    Dack Rambo was only diagnosed with HIV in 1991, if I remember rightly, and he was in Dallas from 1985-1987, so some years before he was diagnosed with HIV. It is very possible, and even likely in my opinion, that the cast on Dallas knew about Dack's promiscuous bisexual bachelor lifestyle, at a time when the AIDS scare was widespread. What I find very noticeable is how Jack never kissed anyone on the lips onscreen on Dallas during his 51 episodes, which is incredible from a looks and personality standpoint and the fact that Jack was supposed to be Bobby's replacement as the male protagonist figure. Even though Grace was having a passionate relationship with Jack behind Angelica Nero's back in the storyline, we never see them kiss on the lips.

    Regarding Jack and Jenna's relationship, I guess we'll never really know if it was always the intention that Jenna have a nervous breakdown and reject Jack, or whether it was because of Dack Rambo's promiscuous bisexuality leading to Priscilla Presley rejecting any romantic scenes with Dack.

    Dack Rambo said in the early 1990s that he and Larry Hagman had never got on and were very different people. They had previously worked together in the late 1970s on Sword of Justice where Dack was the star, as well as on Dallas. Yet onscreen, I think they seem to get on well in the Dream Season and had good chemistry, with no hint of personal dislike. In Season 10 DVD, after Pam wakes up in the storyline, it's a very different matter as it's like they are channeling their real life dislike through J.R. and Jack. Dack also mentioned how he felt totally unwanted on Dallas in his last season.
     
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  6. TJames03

    TJames03 Soap Chat Active Member

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    There may have been some unfortunate backstage furor by certain people RE: the HIV/AIDS scare (*cough,* Hagman....), but Jack never worked on the show, dream season or not. Rambo just never "fit in" with the show and, as far as I'm concerned, it has ZERO to do with with anything other than purely professional.
     
  7. Mustard
    Devilish

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    I thought Jack worked well in the dream season, but he should have been more involved with Ewing Oil. Jack was different from Bobby in having less obvious morals and a certain air of mysteriousness about his past and motives.
     
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  8. Via The Void

    Via The Void Soap Chat Active Member

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    I liked Jack.

    It's just a shame the way Dack was treated because he was bisexual. :(
     
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  9. AndyLaird

    AndyLaird Soap Chat Member

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    I agree. I had hoped Dack would step into Bobby's role as the "good" rival to JR. Shame about the backstage problems - if that had worked the whole dream debacle could have been avoided.
     
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  10. Snarky's Ghost
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    But what Larry wanted to avoid was Dack stepping into Bobby's role as the "good" rival to JR.
     
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  11. garry

    garry Soap Chat Member

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    A former cast member told me one time that Dack took a lot of flack on the Dallas set. There was quite a lot of homopfobia going on back then, not just from other cast members but from the crew too. Makes me understand Dack's post-Dallas bitterness a little more.
     
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  12. Canon

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    Yes, two people close to Dack told me how unpleasant the whole experience was for him. When he was diagnosed he immediately left the show he was appearing in at the time because he feared he'd be treated the same way as he was on Dallas.
     
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  13. TJames03

    TJames03 Soap Chat Active Member

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    Well, as I said, I am sure that he did receive quite a a lot of bigoted hatred, but professionally, I genuinely don't see how Jack could have stayed on the show post-Dream. Even with Duffy gone, Rambo simply didn't fit in.
     
  14. Mustard
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    Yet I do remember reading an interview with Dack from the early 1990s where he was talking about him and Larry Hagman not getting on, with them having known each other since 1978 or thereabouts on Sword of Justice. Despite this, I seem to remember Dack talking like he wasn't sure if Larry was homophobic or not. If there was homophobia to Dack's face on the Dallas set, it didn't come from Larry by the looks of it.

    Years later, sometime in the noughties, Larry Hagman said in an interview when asked that he didn't know about Dack being gay (he was actually bisexual). Then again, Larry also said that Donna Reed was a sweet lady in the same interview, yet back in 1984 Larry was obviously annoyed at Barbara Bel Geddes' removal and attempted to get his own mother, Mary Martin, into the role, before Reed was cast.

    Post-dream, I agree, because Bobby was back, and Dack had fallen foul of backstage politics. Jack was supposed to be Bobby's replacement on Dallas and a more mysterious amoral character, yet even in the dream season Jack didn't really get involved with Ewing Oil apart from the whole Martinique business with Angelica Nero, and that was done behind Jack's back in the storyline. Jack did have good chemistry with Jamie and Cliff, and the cliffhanger is really good. With Bobby's return and storylines being reset, along with the changed political situation backstage, Jack didn't really have much left to be there for in terms of plot, so was written out.

    I disagree with that. I think Jack was one of the standout characters of the dream season, even with him not being involved in Ewing Oil like he should have been.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
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  15. TJames03

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    I have to disagree. I know that Rambo was pretty popular during the '80's, but......he just didn't "click" (at least for me). It had absolutely nothing to do with anything RE: his sexuality. Back then nothing like that was common knowledge like it is now. Jack was just a very poor replacement for Bobby, as far as I'm concerned. Maybe another actor could have pulled it off, but Rambo didn't.
     
  16. TJames03

    TJames03 Soap Chat Active Member

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    I must say that it seems as though the set was a living hell in the latter part of '85 with Duffy leaving, Tilton getting let go, Reed having all of her problems (and BBG being gone) and Rambo getting shunned!
     
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  17. Canon

    Canon Soap Chat Fan

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    Well, Dack made some very cutting and personal remarks about Hagman's mother and step-father and why he thought Hagman may have had issues with gay people. So despite the overall atmosphere at Dallas, he very much did direct his bitterness back at Hagman.
     
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  18. TJames03

    TJames03 Soap Chat Active Member

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    One doesn't need to do too much research to find out that Richard Halliday and Mary Martin were both gay. Evidentally, Halliday was a screaming queen while Martin was a butch.
     
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  19. Seaviewer

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    I didn't know anything about any of this at the time. I watched Sword of Justice and remember him also from Paper Dolls and an episode of Wonder Woman. He was never a great favourite of mine but someone I was always happy to see if he happened to show up.

    I would have been happy to see more done with the character of Jack Ewing if Duffy had not returned.
     
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  20. TJames03

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    Didn't somebody once says that Mary Martin was the only man to play Peter Pan?

    ;-)
     

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