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Jessica's backstory from a modern day perspective

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by James from London, Jun 27, 2020.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    There's a lot of talk about Jessica being "wild" when she was growing up. This seems to amount to her going to lots of parties and kissing lots of boys. Maybe "wild" isn't so far from "high-spirited". Nevertheless, Clayton speaks gravely of needing to "protect her from herself." He also describes her disapprovingly as "a dreamer. Texas just wasn’t big enough for her. She had her head full of a lot of crazy notions, travelling all over and meeting all kinds of people." What could be more natural than to dream, to want to see the world? It's notable that Garrison Southworth and Jason Ewing also had a desire to travel but, as men, were referred to as natural-born wanderers rather than as "crazy." (Admittedly, both are also perceived as cowards for "running away.")

    Then Jessica gets pregnant. Clayton ungallantly suggests that she didn't know who the father was, but she insists Atticus Ward "wanted to marry me after I told him I was pregnant, but [Clayton] wouldn’t give us the time." As Ray points out, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy would have caused quite a scandal at the time, and avoiding such a scandal seems to have been Clayton's first priority: "We agreed upon a plan. Amy and I took her on a long trip overseas so she could have the baby" after which he and Amy intended to take the kid to raise as their own. At least part of this plan appears to have been against Jessica's will. ("Who banished me to England in the first place? You!")

    "After the birth, Jessica went into an emotional depression that was so bad we had to put her in a rest home, a place to see that she got proper care," says Clayton. This would be in the late 40s, early 50s, when comparatively little was known about depression, including postnatal depression, and "proper care" might have included electroshock therapy. Despite this, Clayton and Amy took Dusty back to America while Jessica was still ill in hospital. So by the time she's released, her baby is already on the other side of the world, she's alone in a foreign country and she doesn't get to see her family again for at least ten years. Nevertheless, Clayton was sure that she had "recovered beautifully." It's curious that he and Amy never adopted Dusty legally - possibly because they never received the natural mother's permission?

    It just makes me wonder, if Jessica's story was told today, whether if she'd be depicted as the same two-dimensional "evil psycho" archetype she was in the '80s (fun as that was).
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2020
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  2. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    Seeing Jessica's story framed this way - the double-standards in views taken on her behaviours compared with male peers; the fears of promiscuity and pregnancy; the dominant, controlling male relative protecting her from herself; the poor mental health; the family abandonment after shutting her away from the world - I couldn't help thinking of Rosemary Kennedy.

    I generally think of Jock and Ellie as semi-analogous characters to Joe and Rose Kennedy, and Clayton as somewhat removed from that world. It's fascinating to see that Clayton, too, has some common ground with Joe.

    It's not something I'd consciously realised before, but this has highlighted that Jessica's story has some similarities to that of Amanda Ewing. In fact her entire arc could (arguably) have played out with Amanda in different circumstances (although I'm kind of glad it didn't).

    I imagine she would be depicted quite differently today. But what I've most enjoyed about your analysis is that - for me at least - it's enhanced my view of how she was depicted then.
     
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  3. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    It seemed to amount to her getting pregnant by one of many guys. That takes more than kissing. Maybe "wild" means being a drunken slut and Clayton was being gallant.

    It might not be gallant, but it serves the purpose of letting the audience know what her story was. I find Clayton a more credible narrator than Jessica so I tend to believe him.

    Thats fine as a vacation plan, but as a life plan it's not practical.

    They travelled for the purpose of productive work.



    Didn't "get to" or didn't choose to? It's notable that when she did choose to return to "help", her help consisted of burning down his home and murdering his wife in the process.

    Clayton specifically said she was not in a hospital. He described it as a place where she could rest. While Jessica needed to be there, the world didn't come to a stop until she was adequately rested. He had a a ranch and oil refineries to run, so what would you reasonably expect him to do? Is he supposed to let his businesses suffer because of her irresponsible actions? Jessica's problems should not become Clayton's problems. He had already provided Jessica with an enormous amount of help, including helping her preserve her reputation.

    It all would depend on the artistic vision of the writer. I would hope that she wouldn't seem so cartoonish if they had it to do again. I don't know hw much of that was the fault of the writer, or the execution of the story. The execution left a lot to be desired.
     
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    I meant to include Curly Morrison's description of the young Clayton as "the scourge of San Angelo. There wasn’t a girl in town didn’t have her bonnet set for him." "I did kick up my heels a little bit in the old wildcatting days," concurs a self-satisfied Clayton. Needless to say, there's none of the shame and disapproval that surrounds Jessica's equivalent heel-kicking.

    Interesting!

    Also interesting!

    I hadn't considered that. It kind of begs the question, "Was Amanda placed in the sanatarium because she was nuts, or was she nuts as a result of all those years spent in a sanatarium?"
     
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  5. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle EXP: 19 Years

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    Maybe Jessica was an evil psycho innately, and the "wild girl"/"slut" brand helped excuse it?
     
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  6. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    This is starting to make Southern Cross: The Early Years seem like a juicy missed opportunity.


    To be more specific, it's the other way round: I think of Joe and Rose Kennedy as analogous to Jock and Ellie, despite the Kennedys existing first (and in the real world). That's because I've only recently read up on some of the darker aspects of the Kennedys, whereas Jock and Ellie have been in my world for four decades. When I was reading about some of the Kennedy dynamics, I found myself kind of projecting the Ewings onto them. It's only in the last couple of months that I read with horror what had happened to Rosemary. At the time I saw parallels with Gary.


    Absolutely. Give a dog a bad name and all that. That kind of environment - surrounded by that level of poor mental health day in day out, and presumably being analysed and patronised by staff - would probably create psychiatric difficulties in even the most sane of people. Like the Big Brother house with ECT.
     
  7. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    That's because that's not applicable to men. Are you suggesting he'd be ashamed of being a stud? That's the male persona - it attracts women to men. Always has, always will. That's reality. Political correctness is the denial of reality. What attracts women to men is not the same thing that attracts men to women, thank God! Opposites attract. It's the way of the world. If it weren't, human beings would have gone extinct a long time ago. Male and female behavior each ensure the survival of the human race in their own distinct ways.
     
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  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Ha!

    Oh, the Kennedy/Ewing parallels are endlessly fascinating. And they spill over onto Knots with Greg's backstory. (Of course, William Devane has played JFK at least twice, on stage and on film, as well as Robert Kennedy on stage.)

    Yeah, looking back over Jessica's story, I was reminded of Jack Nicholson's fate in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Jessica Lange's in Frances.
     
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  9. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    I'm sure there are many that would have gone over my head over the years.

    Oh yes indeed. Greg was the most Kennedy-esque character in all soapdom, and I seem to remember it being said somewhere that this was deliberate.

    I knew he'd played JFK, but hadn't realised he'd played Robert Kennedy as well. And I haven't seen him on 24 or The West Wing, but I'm sure that may have drawn from the same well.


    The more I think about it from this angle, the more Jessica interests me. Obviously I knew there were more tragic elements, but I suppose I'd tended to focus more on the broader, more "out there" stuff.
     
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  10. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Hero EXP: 12 Years

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    Why should Jessica be punished and mistreated for behaving in the apparent same way as her brother? Why should a woman be shamed and scolded while a man should be revered and deemed more desirable?
    That's your reality. Likely not a reality for many, many women.
    In regards to physicality yes, however people of different sexes can have traits and aspects of personality that both men and women can equally be attracted to.
    Male and female behaviour continue to evolve all the time. Outdated power dynamics shift, however men and women will undoubtedly continue to have sex and populate the world. Lady Jessica did her bit to ensure the survival of the human race.
     
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  11. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    There are certain fixed aspects of reality. You can complain about human biology, the laws of physics, or any other aspect of reality, but it won't change anything.

    What is desirable behavior for one sex can be, and in this case is, highly undesirable behavior for the other sex. Clayton knew this fact and wanted to protect her reputation. I suspect you also know this fact but wish to pretend it were not so. Facts cannot be altered by wishes but they can destroy the wisher.
     
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  12. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    I don't think it has to be a question of either/or. Sometimes it's nice to keep one's narrative balls in the air, so to speak, and explore possibilities.

    That hadn't occurred to me, but if there's a way they could have made it dramatically interesting, sure, why not?

    And just to complicate matters, John Pleshette played the title role in The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald!
     
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  13. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Hero EXP: 12 Years

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    But you are a man, with very black and white opinions on male and female behaviours speaking on behalf of women in regards to what attracts them to men. So I cant really buy your reasoning. I have three sister's in law and a lot of close female friends. Believe me, being a "stud" is not and has never been that high on the list of things a woman looks for in a partner. That's more a certain type of male's idea of what a woman looks for in a man.
    But you are saying a promiscuous man is desirable to women and yet a promiscuous woman isn't or cant be desirable to a man which is not fact. It's your opinion.
    Facts are hard to establish on a show like Dallas which is a work of fiction told often from points of view of people who have an agenda, a point to prove or something to gain from what they are saying.
     
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  14. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    And further back in the presidential chain, Julie Harris played Mary Todd Lincoln (another woman who was institutionalised for psychiatric issues during a less enlightened time). This is reminding me of all those things that have come onto my radar over the years which I need to track down on DVD.
     
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  15. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    I'm speaking based on my own observations. It's not that being promiscuous makes a man desirable to a woman; I'm saying it doesn't destroy his reputation like it destroys a woman's reputation. She won't be taken seriously as potential marriage material. There's a reason why rock bands bang the groupies but never marry them!

    What is desirable in a man is not what is desirable in a woman. That's the way of the world. Don't blame me; I didn't invent it. Masculine women and feminine men aren't in demand, obviously. They would be seen as highly undesirable to each sex. Opposites attract.

    A 25 year old male virgin has destroyed his reputation, if that fact becomes publicized. A 25 year old woman remaining a virgin (while unnecessary) may still help her attractiveness to men, but it will make the man a joke. I didn't make the rules. We are how we are because men and women are biologically wired differently. If that angers you, be angry at nature.
     
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  16. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator EXP: 18 Years

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    Probably, but that has nothing to do with the way one's reputation is being perceived in our society. People aren't born with rules, they make them.
     
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  17. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Hero EXP: 12 Years

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    Might I suggest that your own observations reflect an outdated way of thinking. A single woman's sexual habits are her business and her business alone. It's not 1940 or 1950, a woman's reputation isn't something that can be destroyed like that. Most young singles, male and female, sleep around and date a lot of people before they settle down now. People don't meet at 18 or 19 and fall in love and marry. I don't think one sex is having it's reputation destroyed and the other not.
    Heaven forfend.
    Because those men hold double standards?
    What's desirable to a person is a deeply personal thing. It's not a one size fits all thing. It doesn't boil down to masculine and feminine, not by a long shot. Men can be and are attracted to all kinds of women. Even women with masculine traits. The same goes for women and men. You are implying that sleeping around is deemed acceptable and attractive in men generally and that this is the way of the world. While it is highly unacceptable and unattractive in a women. Which is utter nonsense. You are also asserting basic stereotypical ideas of male and female. That men are dominant, studs that women desire for these reasons, and that women are subservient and pure and only desirable as such. Incidentally oftentimes similar attract.
    You didn't make the rules. The rules don't exist. What you are saying doesn't anger me, it's just your opinion and not true at all.
     
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  18. southfork88

    southfork88 Soap Chat Addict

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    To change this incandescent climate ... when Dusty meets Sue Ellen at the Ewing Rodeo, he says that his mother's name is Farlow and the Southern Cross of San Angelo belongs to the Wayne. In my opinion these details change a lot the dynamics of Dallas. Dusty is already aware that Jessica is his mother, while the owner of the ranch is Amy Wayne, Clayton's wife killed in the fire caused by Jessica. It all seems right to me ...
     
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  19. southfork88

    southfork88 Soap Chat Addict

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    I guess Kenny was referring to the stereotypes of a 40-year-old program, not biological or social evidence. It wouldn't be nice to talk about these things in 2020 and after so many unpleasant recent events ... Stop :)
     
  20. southfork88

    southfork88 Soap Chat Addict

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    Not everything can be cataloged as collectibles ;)
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2020
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