Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dangerous Minds: Ameera Joins the Dark Side

The writers of As the World Turns are getting tired of calm, obedient Ameera. The plot has taken a dramatic turn — Ameera is now plotting and untrustworthy, in addition to being calm and obedient.

Since we last left off (here, here), the show has added a tone of creepiness, evident in the ever-present ominous background music. Col. Winston Mayer — known to Noah as the monster of a father who killed his own wife and tried to kill his son’s boyfriend; known to Ameera as a kind American soldier who generously did all he could to help her and her mother in Iraq — is back. Although locked in prison, he’s been calling, trying to get in contact with Ameera. Ameera is curious, Luke is suspicious, and Noah is worried. On his own, Noah visits the prison, but doesn’t tell Ameera anything useful. She calls up Col. Mayer on her own. He asks if he can trust her — “Are you still my girl?” — and after she assures him he can, there’s a shot of her looking through the blinds at Noah and Luke, who are laughing — as potential victims of untrustworthy Iraqi women do. And do I even need to mention the ominous music?

In other news, Ameera has settled into leaving her scarf off. She doesn’t wear it in the house with her husband — or when his boyfriend or father is there. Her voice hasn’t changed: it’s the same obsequious monotone as always, and it’s starting to irritate me — a lot. The Noah/Luke storyline is getting way too sappy, even for a soap opera, and their consideration of Ameera is more of the same. She’s thought of as an afterthought, her needs thrown behind theirs, as though she’s not a real person. And the patronizing dialogue has no end:

NOAH: I don't want you going up there.
AMEERA: Was he angry with you?
NOAH: It's nothing for you to worry about.

And then they’re shocked to see Ameera try to get information on her own!

Doors are never locked in Oakdale, Illinois. Not when Ameera calls up the prison and Luke walks in on her and listens without announcing his presence (no need to give her the common courtesy of not eavesdropping). Not when Col. Mayer surprises Ameera by showing up when she’s home alone and he’s supposed to be safely in prison.

The next thing we know, Ameera is gone, but her cell phone and a note are left behind. Luke thinks she’s cooperating with Col. Mayer in an evil plot; Noah thinks she was kidnapped and worries for her safety.

When a police officer shows up to question Noah about his father’s escape, Noah and Luke let it slip that Ameera too is gone.

OFFICER: How long has your wife been missing?
NOAH: Just since this morning
OFFICER: That's hardly missing. She could be anywhere... out shopping, taking a walk...
NOAH: She would have let me know, Officer. She’s very traditional. [pause for effect] She's Iraqi.

Oh yeah, blame it on Iraq. Don’t think about the way you treat her, preventing her from doing or knowing what she wants. That’s only because she’s Iraqi. To add to it, Noah makes comments like this: “‘Annul’ isn’t a word Ameera knows.” As though he’s the master of her vocabulary (which seems fine for expressing everything else).

We next see Ameera with Col. Mayer in a room. He speaks to her condescendingly, urging her to drink (drugged) tea and not worry herself with his concerns, but at least it’s understandable, considering his role as a father-figure — and as the bad guy. After being tricked once, Ameera catches on and pours the drugged tea in the trash the second Col. Mayer turns away. She pretends to sleep, he leaves, and she follows.

In the meantime, Noah, worried, has gone to New York, where Luke has followed him. Noah and Luke split up. As it happens, Noah runs into his father; Luke runs into Ameera standing by a building. (It’s not clear why Ameera wouldn’t be in the same place as the man she was following, but no matter.)

AMEERA: I don’t know where I am.
LUKE: You’re in New York.

Seriously. How does a grown woman, capable of traveling to an obscure Illinois city on her own, not realize that she’s in New York City? Come on.

While Col. Mayer is beating his son up, Luke gets worried — Noah’s not texting him. Despite Ameera’s protests, he turns to a police officer, who takes Ameera into custody for her connection with Col. Mayer. Remember, women and foreigners should never be listened to, even when it’s their lives in jeopardy. They’re incapable of making their decisions and need the guidance of kind American man.

LUKE: I thought she needed protection.
NOAH: You shouldn’t have let her out of your sight.

Luke defends his decision thus:

“Who knows what [Col. Mayer] could have done! He could have killed her, or used her as some kind of bargaining chip.”

The irony of this is clear later, after Noah and Luke have run into each other and Col. Mayer, realizing Ameera’s absence, calls his son.

“Either you get her out of there, and get her to Pier 17 by noon, or you and your ‘friend’ will die.”

So she’s not an evil plotter, as it turns out. Ameera is a bargaining chip, as she always has been. Her presence is designed as a plot device is to get in the way of the main characters, reflecting the misogyny and xenophobia of the writers.

This review starts here and continue until part 171.