It is one of the rarest pairings in the
history of a daytime: A rape victim falls in love with the man who raped
her on the floor of a disco and later marries him. Still, despite
their unsavory beginnings, Luke and Laura went on to become the epitome
of a supercouple, causing other soaps to duplicate the formula General
Hospital used to propel Luke and Laura into a pop culture phenomenon.
To this day, the wedding of Luke and Laura is the most watched moment
in American daytime history, garnering 30 million viewers. But
albeit the love shared by Luke and Laura has overcome one obstacle after
the next and they are embraced by fans all around the world, the controversial
rape that initially set the couple’s unlikely relationship into play
has always been a focal point—first, by viewers and critics alike,
and then by family members.
The Unlikely Pair
The pairing of Luke Spencer and Laura
Webber was anything but planned. The rape itself was a risk that
the writers decided to take in lieu of fledging ratings and pending
cancellation. Prior to being linked to Luke Spencer, Laura Webber
was a teenager who killed her stepfather's friend, a man who had seduced
her in an attempt to get revenge on her mother. Sensing the viewers’
fondness for Laura, she was then paired with Scotty Baldwin, who became
an obsession of Nurse Bobbie Spencer. In an attempt to lure Laura
from Scotty, Bobbie enlisted the help of her brother, troubled bad guy,
Luke Spencer. Bored with typical household affairs, Laura sought
a job at Luke’s night club. It was there that the two built
a rapport and on one fateful evening, Luke, realizing that he had fallen
in love with Laura and sensing that he would never get an opportunity
to show her, raped her on the floor of his disco.
Raping a woman in a drunken rage is the
last thing anyone expected to view on a soap opera in the late seventies—even
today, maybe—but it’s exactly what Luke did to Laura. It was
a risky move, one that paid off big for General Hospital, who
was just recovering from a monumental ratings slump. The show
quickly found its way back to the top of the list because of the rape
controversy. Critics everywhere had hailed the rape of Laura Baldwin
as the end of General Hospital, but instead it was the beginning
of a soap opera dynasty.
From rape to seduction
Considering Laura’s behavior following
her rape, one could almost say that her affection towards Luke was apparent
from the beginning, as she did not identify him as the man who raped
her when questioned. In fact, she concealed the secret, never
admitting that Luke raped her, even to her own husband. Luke and Laura would spend two years playing
a game of cat-and-mouse before Laura finally admitted that she had fallen
in love with her assailant, and left her husband, Scotty Baldwin, to
be with him.
As the popularity of Luke and Laura continued
to grow, the rape was downplayed. In an attempt to erase the unspeakable
crime, General Hospital fervently reshot the scenes of Laura’s
rape for flashback purposes. While these scenes played in the
backdrop, Laura spoke of her first time with Luke. In fact, the
following words Laura used to describe her first intimate encounter
with Luke, shocked, horrified, and deeply offended some viewers: “The
first time Luke and I made love.”
Critics, viewers, and eventually their
own son, did not embrace Laura’s definition of seduction. Around
the world, some people were appalled that Laura could find equivalence
between such a vile act and brutal demonstration of control and something
consensual, an act of love between two consenting adults.
The way they were
Years later, in response to underlying
and unresolved feelings about the rape of Laura not being properly addressed,
the writers decided to correct their non-politically correct definition
of rape by making it a center of discord between Luke and Laura’s
son, Lucky Spencer. Upon finding a distraught rape victim named Elizabeth
Webber, Lucky befriended and romanced the young rape survivor.
During their relationship, Lucky’s half-brother told Lucky that his
parents had not been reunited under romantic pretensions, but by an
act of rape, much like the one Lucky’s love-interest had encountered.
When Lucky confronted his father about
this act of violence against his mother, Luke recounted, via a nine-minute
uninterrupted monologue, exactly what he was feeling and why he had
come to rape the woman who would eventually become his wife. During
the entanglement of Lucky and his father, Laura was placed into counseling,
where she was finally forced to admit that her husband, Luke Spencer,
had indeed committed an act of rape against her—not seduced her, as
she had previously alleged. The footage of this horrible act was
also returned to its original form.
Many are still befuddled by the fact
that a rape survivor and her rapist went on to become daytime’s most
beloved supercouple of all time, as it’s not a storyline to be taken
lightly and certainly not a trend any soap opera is encouraged to repeat.
Regardless of how unconventional the love story that Luke and Laura
Spencer share, three things are for certain: The rape of Laura Baldwin
brought General Hospital back to the top; Luke and Laura are
America’s longest-running sweethearts in the history of daytime and
they are pop culture royalty.