Go on Pretending

Go On Pretending: Convincing Procter & Gamble

Chapter #21: Executives had a hard time visualizing concepts.

collage of early soap operas for go on pretending serial

“It’s so obvious,” Rose announced upon her eighth straight reading of Othello in three days. “The entire play is a Marxist critique of a capitalist view of the world! Iago’s hatred for Othello is symbolic of the class struggle. Iago is passed over for a promotion because he is of a lower social class than Cassio. Iago’s revenge is class consciousness. It’s an attack on the cult of individualism. Othello is an individualist, and we are meant to think that he is the hero of the play. But if he is the hero, then why does he have fewer lines than Iago? I counted! Obviously, Othello represents capitalism and feudalism, and Iago is the new, socialist man.”

“Obviously,” Jonas deadpanned, accustomed by now to Rose’s enthusiasm and aware nothing could derail it.

“Class and race bring about the tragedy of Othello. He’s as much a victim as a villain. His suicide proves it. Shakespeare is calling for a classless society where racial prejudice doesn’t lead to murder. What else could he have meant when he has Othello say of Desdemona: When I stop loving you, the universe will fall back into the chaos that was there when time began?”

“You’ve convinced me,” Jonas reassured. “Now, what about Procter & Gamble?”

***

Rose fully intended to convince Procter & Gamble. But only after she’d written her scripts. In Rose’s experience, executives had a hard time visualizing concepts. It made them want to pitch their own two cents in, whether they understood them or not. Especially if they didn’t. Executives responded better when they had the finished product in front of them. It made for more work for Rose up front, but less problems at the end and certainly fewer games of “read my mind” and claims of, “Oh, that’s not what we were expecting. Rewrite it till it is what we were expecting.”

Rose claimed an office for herself at WEVD. Though the romantic image of a writer was scribbling in a lonely garret, rarely seeing daylight, only the muse for company, a decade of commercial production made it, so Rose worked better surrounded by the hustle and bustle of others. She preferred feeling connected to the world, and she enjoyed having a place to go in the mornings. How could you write about life if you didn’t wade out in the midst of it?

Which was why Rose was at the studio when she heard two of the news writers arguing over whether to broadcast whispered reports coming in of USSR Premier Khrushchev’s speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, where in a private session closed to foreign delegations, he denounced his predecessor, Josef Stalin, exposed his brutal purges of party loyalists, as well as the torture, deportation to Siberia, and execution of millions of innocent citizens.

“We put this on the air,” one of the writers contended, “we’re giving every Red-basher out there ammunition to get us shut down.”

“No. Khrushchev made it clear it wasn’t the system that was at fault for what happened. It was one man perverting everything that Marxist-Leninism stood for. Stalin misinterpreted and misrepresented faultless political thought in order to hold onto his own power.”

“You think your average uneducated bozo off the street can make that distinction?”

“It’s our duty to report the news.”

“Not if it doesn’t serve our stated goals. WEVD’s mandate is to promote socialist thought and action. How does it serve our objective to report on criticism of how it went wrong in another country? You think the other stations report every time capitalism goes wrong?”

It was a familiar argument, though one Rose hadn’t felt compelled to join since she’d left Workmen’s Circle. Back then, the reasoning had gone that, sure, Hitler was bad for the Jews, but the international struggle to liberate all workers was greater than some tiny ethnic group’s temporary discomfort and breaking ranks with the USSR over their non-aggression pact with Germany, and the subsequent division of Poland would hurt the movement as a whole, as any schism would be instantly exploited by fascists and capitalists eager to discredit them.

Rose had no opinion on what the two writers were debating, but it did prompt her to tell Jonas, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the United States were to follow the Soviet Union’s lead and admit all their past mistakes, then promptly rectify them all?”

“Is that what the USSR is doing?”

“Yes! They’re freeing wrongly convicted prisoners, allowing censored artists to work again. They’re building millions of new homes for those displaced during the war, and they’re covering the entire country in corn fields so they can feed it to their livestock and increase both meat and dairy production. Their country is less than 40 years old, and they’re making strides we haven’t managed to in almost 200!”

Accustomed by now to Rose’s enthusiasm and aware nothing could derail it, Jonas simply offered, “Forty acres and a mule.”

“You don’t believe in government promises.”

“I’ll believe them when I see them,” he swore.

***

Rose’s completed scripts did exactly what she’d promised both P&G and WEVD. She broke down Shakespeare’s Othello into 36 half-hour radio plays, simplifying the language where necessary, ending each section on a cliffhanger to make listeners eager to tune in again, and making it clear how the Bard’s words applied to modern times.

P&G didn’t like it. “Too political,” they said and handed Rose three, typewritten, single-spaced pages of changes.

WEVD, which previously had dubbed Rose’s scripts, “Too egg-head,” suddenly did an about-face and announced that they wouldn’t endorse a single change P&G proposed — even those Rose was willing to make.

Both sides dug in their heels.

And, at the end, it was Rose who ended up with nothing.

***

Click here for Chapter #22!

***

To start Go On Pretending at the beginning, click here.

***

Alina Adams is the New York Times best-selling author of the As the World Turns tie-ins, Oakdale Confidential and The Man From Oakdale, and Guiding Light’s Jonathan’s Story. Check out her new historical fiction, My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region, out now! Only $.99 cents in January 2023!

Subscribe Now

Get spoilers, news and recaps in your inbox daily.

Subscribe Now

Get spoilers, news and recaps in your inbox daily.