Soaps tend to try to have it both ways on the Nature vs. Nurture question, depending on what may make the best story. When it comes to an issue like paternity, soaps tend to downplay genetics and play up the idea that a “father” is the person who raised a child — biological or not. In that case, nurture is praised as more important. But if a character is worried about growing up to be just like his/her villainous father/mother, then genetics are presented as a practically inevitable destiny.
I was mulling this after watching the sequence in which GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Dante (Dominic Zamprogna) asked his mother Olivia (Lisa LoCicero) if she thought he could ever abuse a woman. He was tortured by the idea that he might have inherited an “abuse gene” from bad dad Sonny. To me, the mere fact that he was concerned about the question proves he is not that kind of man. Even if there was an abusive chromosome in his body, Olivia raised him the right way — to always respect women — and that’s the kind of training one doesn’t abruptly shrug off one day. Even if he somehow felt an urge deep in his bones to strike out violently, his moral code would quash it. C’mon, Dante is a police officer who is so dedicated to the straight-and-narrow that he is determined to put his own father behind bars. That is the mark of a man with scruples.
I guess I’m saying such hand-wringing smacks of story manipulation. I’m pretty sure a theoretical genetic proclivity can be tamed by a nurturing environment. Likewise, I believe a basically decent human being can be turned into an uncaring, violent boor by the wrong upbringing.
So AS THE WORLD TURNS’ Henry need not fear suddenly turning into a villain now that he knows James Stenbeck donated genetic material back in the day. To borrow a phrase from The Terminator’s Sarah Connor, there is “No fate but what we make.”