‘General Hospital’s’ Genie Francis on Luke & Laura’s Rape & Wedding: ‘They Shouldn’t Have Done It’

Actor Anthony Geary (L) and actress Genie Francis attend The Paley Center for Media Presents "General Hospital: Celebrating 50 years and Looking Forward"

Getty Actor Anthony Geary (L) and actress Genie Francis attend The Paley Center for Media Presents "General Hospital: Celebrating 50 years and Looking Forward"

On Tuesday, May 19, ABC aired a retrospective on soap operas called The Story of Soaps, which takes a look back at the early days of soap operas, the heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, and all of the current stars who got their start on a soap opera, plus how the rise of reality TV led to the downturn in soap operas’ popularity.

One of the segments heavily featured in the special is about the infamous relationship between Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis) on General Hospital. Here is what Francis has to say on the subject, which is no less controversial today than when it first aired in 1979-1981.

General Hospital Called It ‘Rape-Seduction’

For a little background, Luke raped Laura in October 1979, which was immediately controversial with viewers because they had been rooting for Luke and Laura as a couple. So the show had to backtrack and started calling it a “seduction.”

“Gloria Monty, the executive producer of General Hospital, essentially was told she had two weeks to save the show and ABC was gonna cancel it if she couldn’t bring the ratings up in that time. In Luke and Laura, she saw potential there to maybe make things happen that shouldn’t happen and that was electric,” said Abigail De Kosnik, author of The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era, in the ABC special.

“Gloria Monty tried to deal with it by calling it rape-seduction. The term now would be date-rape,” De Kosnik continued. “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 … Then the question became why did Luke do that? And the answer the show’s writers gave was that Luke did it from love. They became popular not despite the rape, but partly because of it.”

Two years after the rape, Luke and Laura got married on the show, which was the highest-rated show in the history of daytime TV at that point.

Francis Can Finally Say They Shouldn’t Have Done It

Having Laura marry her rapist and eventually have a child with him — Lucky (Jonathan Jackson) — is something Francis said she has had to defend for years because Luke and Laura were such a beloved daytime couple, but she won’t defend it anymore.

“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 say I won’t justify it. They shouldn’t have done it,” said Francis.

General Hospital eventually realized its mistake and, nearly 20 years later, spent a great deal of storyline on having the characters acknowledge that it was a rape.

“Almost 20 years after the rape happened, General Hospital, for almost the whole year, addressed rape head-on in a whole new way. And for the first time, Laura confronted him about having assaulted her,” recalled De Kosnik. “That was remarkable, to say to Americans ‘we were wrong.’ And to, in essence, allow Luke and Laura to finally confront head on something that had been repressed, not just in their relationship but in a lot of fans’ memories. And that is the power of soap operas.”

Part of the storyline dealing with the rape involved Lucky finding out about his parents’ past and confronting his father about it, and Laura entering counseling.

General Hospital still aired on ABC until it ran out of new episodes due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down TV production. It will return to the airwaves when production resumes.

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