We're moving! Get our latest gender and identity coverage on washingtonpost.com.

Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences

As the longest-running soap opera on American television, “General Hospital” has been spent the last few years tackling the genre’s status quo.

Recently, we’ve seen storylines including a gay marriage (Lucas and Brad, also an interracial couple) and a character coming out as bisexual (Kristina, played by Lexi Ainsworth). This year, two high school-age characters, Oscar and Josslyn, stood up for a transgender classmate and friend, Dakota, when school administrators decided to implement a rule for the school dance requiring students to dress according to their assigned gender. Oscar and Josslyn organized an alternative dance.

Despite this, the show takes a largely color-blind approach to race and hasn’t addressed systematic racism in any meaningful way lately, if ever. The show’s writers have made a notable effort to highlight the struggles of marginalized communities in the areas of gender and sexuality.

The show is inserting itself into the most important cultural conversation of the past year, the #MeToo movement, with an ongoing storyline that recently came to a head when a related hashtag was introduced: #GHToo. The plotline, which first came up this year, centers on Kiki, a med student, who becomes a victim of sexual harassment at the hands of a superior, Dr. Bensch (James DePaiva).

There are a number of clues early on about where the storyline is going. Bensch takes a surprising interest in Kiki’s career, given that she’s only a nurse’s aide when they meet.

When she gets into med school he offers to help her study (over drinks), gifts her a rare first edition copy of “Gray’s Anatomy,” and nominates her for a highly regarded “shadow program” at the hospital.

Kiki isn’t aware of Bensch’s predatory intentions until he surprises her with a shoulder massage. She’s noticeably uncomfortable, but then glances around his office at the prestigious degrees and awards on his wall. The show is suggesting that she’ll face an uphill battle if she decides to report a distinguished doctor for harassment.

Responding to Kiki’s discomfort, Bensch minimizes her concern, telling her he wants to promote a healthy mind and healthy body and that she shouldn’t carry around so much tension. The next interaction they have is Bensch telling Kiki she was chosen for the shadow program and that he cast the deciding vote. Realizing his vote had nothing to do with her abilities, Kiki is less than enthusiastic. Bensch states, “I think you can do better than that,” and kisses her. She pulls away and runs out of his office, distressed and sobbing.

The storyline has continued to play out gradually (as is always the case for soap operas), but the GH writers are making clear parallels to the many cases of sexual harassment and assault that have come out since the fall. When Kiki tells Bensch she’ll be quitting the shadow program so that there’s no quid pro quo expected from her, he convinces her to continue and feigns apology for misinterpreting her “mixed signals.” However, he arranges for her first rotation to be shadowing him. Tellingly, when friends congratulate Kiki on being chosen for the program, she’s unable to exhibit enthusiasm or pride, knowing that it wasn’t earned on merit (through no fault of her own).

This detail reflects a common feeling for many victims of sexual harassment: it makes women doubt they deserved a recognition, and in turn, their abilities.

Bensch goes into full gaslighting mode. His interactions with Kiki are alternately hostile/berating — expecting her to have knowledge that no early medical student would have — and complimentary. Kiki still hasn’t told anyone what’s going on, but the last straw is when Bensch tells her he’s written a draft of her evaluation painting her as lazy and unable to take criticism, but that he’s willing to change it if she has sex with him. Kiki refuses but is unable to hide her distress and tells Liz, a nurse and rape survivor, who convinces her to come forward to prevent Bensch from hurting other women.

Also like many real harassment cases, GH depicts the ordeal women go through when they finally decide to come forward. Kiki goes to the chief of staff and the human relations department to lodge a formal complaint, but Bensch is quickly cleared of any wrongdoing. He will face no consequences for his actions. Kiki immediately decides to hire a lawyer and pursue criminal charges, and to go public with her story.

As with the Weinstein exposé, female journalists play an important role in exposing sexual predators. Of course the reporter in question on the show (Lulu, a GH regular) became a journalist on a whim last year and has almost no experience with investigative journalism; she’s no Jodi Kantor.

At the end of the day, GH is still a soap opera, and the genre isn’t known for its plausibility in terms of depicting characters’ occupations.

The #GHToo hashtag was introduced in a recent episode (June 13) in Lulu’s profile of Kiki. Bensch is still gaslighting Kiki — feigning ignorance that the story is about him — and intimidating her by saying that no male doctors will ever work with her again, that they will be in constant fear, and that this will kill her burgeoning career. His methods are reminiscent of the backlash to #MeToo, particularly comments made by actors/directors — Liam Neeson, Michael Haneke, and even veteran actress Catherine Deneuve — that the movement is going too far, encouraging a “witch hunt” against men, and making it difficult for men to work alongside women.

We also see Bensch with a picture of Kiki and Griffin (a fellow doctor) hugging; he smiles, undoubtedly signaling that he’ll be using the picture to smear her as a slut with a history of inappropriate behavior with male superiors.

With the #GHToo storyline, and the recent plots involving LGBTQ identities, “General Hospital” is striving to stay relevant and possibly even gain younger audiences by tackling important current social issues. This trend represents a decision on the part of the show’s writers to challenge the stereotype of the soap opera as a genre that reinforces sexist, heteronormative narratives. Of course, there are plenty of sexist tropes that remain, such as pitting female characters against each other and daughters sleeping with their mothers’ husbands/partners and vice-versa.

Making changes could entail a risk for the show, as its audience skews toward older women and it seems to be steadily losing viewers in the all-important 18-49 demographic; these storylines might alienate its core audience.

While many viewers are longtime fans of the show who have been watching for decades and are unlikely to abandon it even if their politics aren’t always a match with the storylines, the more significant takeaway is that GH’s showrunners recognize that although they are constrained by a deeply gendered and formulaic TV genre, they can still push the envelope and capture the zeitgeist.

BBC announced the next star of ‘Doctor Who.’ Is it a sign sci-fi is finally more diverse?

‘Science fiction is definitely not white men’

This ad does something ‘rare’ — it shows a woman proposing to a man

The Booking.com ad drummed up buzz after airing during the Grammys

The ‘Party of Five’ reboot revolves around the trauma of family separation. Is it empathetic, or exploitative?

Freeform’s fresh take on the ’90s hit drama follows five siblings figuring out life after their parents are deported