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Hannah Cooke



What do you see beneath the slinky slip?
This week’s article is dedicated to what is probably the best thing we have seen all year, and yes, we saw it online. But despite this, it is actually from a TV show – All My Children, to be exact – and it is a crime that we don’t get it in New Zealand.
Why? One word: Zarf.
Zarf is the first transgender character to appear on a soap at the beginning of a male to female gender transition (apparently, anyway – you can go read the news article about it online at usatoday.com).
He (we will just stick mostly with ‘he’ to avoid excessive use of brackets [i.e. (s)he] for this article) is a rock star who falls in love with a lesbian called Bianca, which gives him the courage to come out as a transgender lesbian called Zoe and have what might be the best ever break-down scene in television history. For serious. Then Zoe gets accused of being the “Satin Slayer”, a murderer who is terrorising the people of All My Children. It is twist after twist of pure soap opera genius.
You will probably have to watch the clip to know what we mean. It is AMAZING. If there was ever a worthy cause for typing out a ridiculously nonsensical URL, this is most definitely it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9eUbDgjULk).
Incredible. We can’t tell you why yet. But when Zarf/Zoe starts talking about her “big masculine hands” we basically got a whole lot happier than we have been all year. And Zarf/Zoe’s final line in the scene is an example of scriptwriting at its most brilliant, and the delivery? Two words: Oscar material. The tears are real, you just know it.
But we do feel a little sorry for him – Zarf was originally a cameo part – he was a millionaire rock star with lots of hot groupies and got to talk in a weird European accent. Then, they called him back. Zarf got resurrected on All My Children, and in the great tradition of soap opera story-lines, they completely changed his character. So this actor, probably struggling a bit (we assume this was the case, based on what happened to Joey when he was in-between jobs on Friends), went back on the show, and suddenly Zarf wasn’t a millionaire rock star with heaps of groupies anymore, but a transgender person, struggling with the issues that transgender people struggle with… at least the issues that the ones on All My Children have: being accused of murder and having to deal with and restarting your successful music career as a woman.
The Zarf storyline won All My Children a GLAAD award. And it seems like a good thing that even soap operas are beginning to include people who do not fit easily into traditional gender categories. Imagine all the daytime TV viewers of America watching as Zarf/Zoe joins a transgender support group and meets with an endocrinologist. Despite the hilarity of the way the storyline was presented – in pure soap-style, with lots of breakdowns and tears and questions like “What am I? … Who am I?” – It’s arguably a good thing that it’s on TV, overall. Most characters on soap operas are presented in totally ridiculous ways, no matter what their gender, anyway. Apart from Stefano from Days of Our Lives, perhaps.
Oh Zarf/Zoe, we salute you, and think that you’re the best. No matter what is under that slinky slip and sexy bra.