General Hospital’s new bipolar plot line: like father, like son?

Maurice Benard as Sonny Corinthos

Maurice Benard as Sonny Corinthos

On Friday’s General Hospital, Sonny Corinthos, played by the actor Maurice Benard, gave an eloquent description of his struggle to come to terms with bipolar disorder. I’m still furious with the former head writer, Ron Carlivati, for killing off Silas Clay, a plot twist that enraged thousands of fans and may well have played a part in Carlivati’s firing, but I have to commend him for addressing the topic of bipolar disorder in a major new story line.

Loyal viewers have known for years that Sonny, the moody mob boss of Port Charles, is bipolar. (So am I, by the way; I’ve blogged about it elsewhere.) I never watched General Hospital until my favorite soap star Michael Easton came on board after ABC cancelled One Life to Live. Now that they’ve murdered Michael’s character, I’ve been tempted to stop watching, but this new development may keep me hooked. In the few years I’ve been watching, there have been references to Sonny’s mental illness, and the fact that he generally keeps it under control by faithfully taking his meds. But I’ve never seen him markedly manic or depressed.

Maurice Benard, who’s been playing Sonny Corinthos since 1993, has been outspoken about his own bipolar disorder. He

Me and Michael Easton at Fan Fantasy day, April 2014

Me and Michael Easton at Fan Fantasy day, April 2014

was diagnosed at age 22 and has been on lithium nearly nonstop ever since. He’s spoken openly about his illness in interviews and on many talk shows, has worked with nonprofit organizations that focus on the disorder and won awards for his advocacy work. His heartfelt soliloquy about his bipolar disorder in today’s episode had the authenticity of real-life experience.

GH Fan event in 2014. From left: Laura Wright, Michael Easton, Bryan Craig, Maura West. Bryan plays Morgan, who's now possibly bipolar.

GH Fan event in 2014. From left: Laura Wright, Michael Easton, Bryan Craig, Maura West. Bryan plays Morgan, who’s now possibly bipolar.

Sonny and his ex-wife/bride-to-be Carly were speaking to their son Morgan, trying to convince him to see a doctor for evaluation. For weeks they’d been expressing concern that he might be bipolar, especially since the disorder can run in families, but I couldn’t see it. Morgan’s been one of my least favorite characters, a dim bulb with such flat affect that he’s the last person I’d peg as bipolar. He and Bryan Craig, the actor who plays him, have a huge fan base, and I know they’ll hate me for saying this. But today Morgan was brimming with energy, grinning and telling them how great he feels, so clearly he’s at the start of a manic upswing. In the near future, maybe we’ll get to see if Bryan Craig can actually act. He must have something going for him, since he’s engaged to Kelly Thiebaut, a gifted actress who played an evil doctor and left the show of her own volition. She can always come back, though, since the writers didn’t kill her off; she merely left town—unlike Silas, who was shown lying dead on the floor with a knife in his back.

As Sonny and Carly point out, Morgan’s been acting erratically for months—poisoning his brother, screwing his girlfriend’s

Nina saying her final farewell to Silas, while Franco looks on. They're both suspects in his murder, along with several others.

Nina saying her final farewell to Silas, while Franco looks on. They’re both suspects in his murder, along with several others.

mother Ava, then screwing her again when she’s pretending to be his aunt Denise—but that kind of behavior is run-of-the-mill for soaps, nothing that would suggest bona fide mental illness. Still, those kinds of off-the-wall escapades can be symptoms of bipolar disorder, so I’m guessing Sonny and Carly are right. And who am I to question their judgment? They’ve been married and divorced five times, and they’re about to put a ring on it for the sixth time. Perfectly normal, right?

Coincidentally, one of the main characters in my novel Hope Dawns Eternal is a temperamental mobster named Tony Giordano. But he’s not into marriage or preoccupied with multiple children and babies, and he’s not bipolar. A sociopath, perhaps, who’s obsessed with becoming a vampire, but nothing like Sonny Corinthos.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00069]When I began writing Hope Dawns Eternal three years ago, I took care to create original characters with minimal resemblance to soap stars or actors who might have inspired them, however distantly. But so much has changed on General Hospital—in terms of both fictional characters and real-life behind-the-scenes drama—that I can now genuinely state that any resemblances are purely coincidental.

You believe that, right? Whether or not you do, I’ve got a wonderful book to sell you. And by the way, like Maurice Benard, I religiously take my meds. But that may not be enough to save me if my books don’t sell.

Attention GH fans: I’d love to hear your comments. What do you think of the current plot lines? Were you watching GH when Sonny had genuinely manic or depressed episodes? Do you think they should bring back Silas?

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. M. E. Kemp
    Aug 31, 2015 @ 09:47:59

    Sounds like a winner to me, Julie.

    Reply

  2. www.julielomoe.wordpress.com
    Aug 31, 2015 @ 13:45:58

    Thanks, Marilyn. Do you have a copy yet? I’d love a review on Amazon. I’m going to use your quote on the back cover of the new edition of MOOD SWING: THE BIPOLAR MURDERS. (Note to other readers: Mood Swing is still available on Amazon, as is Eldercide, but please don’t buy them there – I haven’t been getting proper royalties. New editions will be out soon.

    Reply

    • M. E. Kemp
      Aug 31, 2015 @ 19:50:16

      No, I don’t have a copy – send/give me one and I’ll do a review. I’d like you to appear on a panel Oct. 18th – place to be announced – and to talk about two things; crossing over to a new genre (you can talk about your book) and also your ‘gofundme’ campaign, successful or not. O.K.???

      Reply

  3. www.julielomoe.wordpress.com
    Aug 31, 2015 @ 22:21:38

    Marilyn, that sounds good. We’re driving down to the Bouchercon mystery convention in Raleigh NC but should be back by then. As for Gofundme, I can’t say it’s been successful but I haven’t promoted it much. Glad to talk about the pros and cons if you want.

    Reply

  4. All My Guts and Soul
    Sep 13, 2015 @ 22:38:23

    Now I remember Robert Eastman! I had a crush on Kelly Monaco. :p I watched when Sonny was having the highs and lows of bi-polar. Don’t get me sucked back into the show. :p I meant to ask you if you’d ever seen Passions before it was pulled. There was a lot of paranormal in that one! Was bummed when it cancelled. 😦

    Reply

  5. www.julielomoe.wordpress.com
    Sep 20, 2015 @ 18:01:53

    It’s over three weeks since GH introduced the story line about Morgan’s possible bipolar disorder, and they’ve alluded to it frequently since, but the shooting of his father Sonny has overshadowed the issue ever since. Since then, Morgan’s been intensely angry and almost uncontrollable, but not to a degree that suggests a bipolar diagnosis, IMHO. Still, I hope he sees a doctor soon – but it looks as if he’s about to shoot somebody first!

    Reply

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