Doris Wolfe: An Anaylsis

Today’s post is by a guest writer. I got to know her on Twitter and I think she must be one of Doris Wolfe and Blake Marler’s biggest fans. I asked her to provide some insights on Doris’s character. I think it’s of special interest to Manny fans because Doris prosecuted both Danny and Michelle for murder very aggressively on very little evidence (Michelle was framed by a story with gaping holes, Danny was accused of killing Carmen who was actually alive). I think the following essay helps to explain why. It also mentions in passing the pairing, never really given screen time, but with a devoted online following, of the Blake-Doris pairing known as Bliss.

Who is Doris Wolfe: The Woman Behind the Mask

by Gift of Amber

Manipulative, power-hungry, hypercritical, overbearing, coffee-addicted, sharp-tongued are all words that would describe Mayor Doris Wolfe to the average citizen of Springfield, however, they provide only a superficial understanding because Doris always kept her true self hidden behind a mask.  Careful analysis shows that Doris was motivated by a desire for love and acceptance, which she truly believed she wouldn’t get from the town of Springfield if she showed them her true self and on some level believed she didn’t deserve.

Was her character always a lesbian or was it a spontaneous decision by the writers to re-write history?  The answer is probably a mix of both.  Doris, despite having been a character on the show for 10 years and of nubile age, had never had a love scene.  She showed mild flirtation with men, and kissed and married Alan Spaulding (because she thought she would get more acceptance from the town if she had the Spaulding name to back her up), but she never actually slept with him.  Sure, this was due to circumstances beyond her control (Alan being shot and divorcing her after finding out Ashlee was the one who shot him), but it was abundantly clear that the match was purely business related and not for love.  Also, Doris had her daughter via an anonymous sperm donor at a sperm bank.  While relatively common in real life for straight women to use a sperm bank, in soap opera land, it is very rare.

Doris had a very complicated relationship with her daughter.  She loved her daughter and admitted she’d had a daughter because she wanted someone who would love her unconditionally, but sometimes she went a little overboard.  She was incredibly critical of her daughter, expecting her to live up to standards no one could, while at the same time, using her political clout to keep her daughter emotionally dependent solely on her.  She did everything in her power to keep Ashlee away from the Coopers because she was petrified of losing her.  In a very telling scene, Doris cries to Ashlee that she was always picked last on sports teams (the manipulative part) and what she wanted more than anything was to be *chosen* first (the truth).  She wanted Ashlee to choose her above all other people, and she was willing to do anything and say anything to make that happen, including “trumping up charges” against them (her specialty), all because she didn’t believe she deserved Ashlee’s love all on her own, which could easily be construed as internalized homophobia.

Doris first appeared as an attorney during the trial where Blake Marler falsely accused Ben Warren of raping her.  As time went on, she argued some very high profile cases, including the Annie Dutton trial,the Michelle Bauer trial, and the Danny Santos trial, and seemed very willing to bend the law to win those cases while holding everyone else to an unbelievably high moral standard.  In fact, Doris seemed to cling to the moral high ground so much it was as though she were trying to make up for something really terrible (internalized homophobia).  Doris justified leaving her own daughter in juvenile detention after she was arrested for shooting Alan when she could have gotten Alan to testify on Ashlee’s behalf by saying that Ashlee needed to pay for what she had done.  A woman who was comfortable with herself would never have sacrificed her daughter for the moral high ground or a political campaign.  Buzz Cooper managed to get through to Doris on how her behavior was affecting her daughter, but he didn’t address the root of the issue, as he didn’t know what it was, so eventually, Doris went back to being her hypercritical self.  Finally, Doris took her moral high ground a little too far and went head to head with Olivia Spencer over the definition of family, i.e. the infamous ‘My Two Mommies’ speech by little Emma Spencer.  Olivia, being Olivia, wouldn’t let it go until she picked up on the secret Doris had been hiding from everyone she cared about, finally giving Doris a chance to grow as a character and eventually tell Ashlee her big secret, the reason she was who she was, and when Ashlee finally accepted her, she began to love herself a little bit and realized that not only did she deserve love and happiness, she didn’t have to look behind every corner expecting someone to sabotage her.  Trusting people was still very difficult for her (the only main text on-screen relationship we saw of Doris with another woman was clearly a pleasurable business arrangement as we saw Doris offering her money in an earlier scene).

Speaking of pleasurable business arrangements, Doris, unlike many characters, viewed a physical relationship as being entirely separate from and a potential precursor to an emotional relationship.  This went directly back to her trust issues; for her, it was easier to trust someone with her body than with her heart.  Several stories interpret her inability to trust women with her heart to only apply to straight women, which if Doris had been “out” may have been true, but realistically, Doris had difficulty trusting *anyone*, man, woman, straight, lesbian, “whatever this is”, bisexual, etc. because any of them could have “exposed” her to the world and “ruined” her relationship with her daughter.

Another indication that the writers may have intended her character to be a lesbian from the beginning was Doris’s coffee addiction.  Doris almost always seemed to be holding a coffee cup.  For some reason, “going out for coffee” has become a huge lesbian stereotype, and coffee shops are places where people suggest newly out lesbians go to meet other lesbians.  Of course, her coffee addiction could also merely have been a sign of her interest in the lovely redhead pouring the coffee (who could blame her?) or just a manifestation of her anxiety; one of the questions left open to interpretation as a result of the show ending its run on CBS.  The end of Guiding Light did end with hope for Doris as a character.  Although for all intents and purposes she appeared to be single, she also appeared to be happy and more comfortable with herself, which was the perfect mindset to be in to start a new relationship.  Guiding Light’s mantra from the final theme song “only love can save the world” applied to Doris in that she had been saved by friendship, acceptance, and love of herself, which really is the best kind of love.

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2 Responses to “Doris Wolfe: An Anaylsis”

  1. Terry Says:

    I never thought of having coffee as a hallmark for repressed lesbianism. Can the author provide a source for this?

    “the only main text on-screen relationship we saw of Doris with another woman was clearly a pleasurable business arrangement as we saw Doris offering her money in an earlier scene” – No, Doris’ relationship with Jamanda was not a business arrangement. Jamanda worked at a bar and Doris was paying her tab, not for an escort. Justifying Doris and Blake’s alleged relationship may require leaps of mental logic, but Doris and Jamanda’s relationship does not, canon-wise.

    • giftofamber Says:

      I don’t believe I said “repressed lesbianism”; I said “closeted or newly out lesbians”. I was referencing both personal experience, the advice forums on, and the book, “Is it a Date or Just Coffee: a Guide to Lesbian Dating”. Lesbians in general don’t hang out at bars, unless it is in a major city. Coffeeshops and bookstores on the other hand: big hangout.

      With regards to Doris & Jamanda’s relationship, it struck me in the same vein as the one she had with Alan Spaulding. Jamanda abandoned her at the wedding before the dancing had even begun, and Doris didn’t seem to care at all. Jamanda was also decades younger than Doris and made significantly less money, which added to the money exchange that the show focused in on, implied that Doris was not only paying her tab, but adding in a bit extra either for a formal escort or a ‘sugar mama’ arrangement. Also, if she were in a real relationship with Jamanda, wouldn’t it have made sense for her to bring her girlfriend to meet Olivia and Natalia since they knew she was a lesbian? Doris made everyone, including Olivia, believe she was single.

      As for Doris and Blake, canon-wise, there were hints of potential, but those were not followed through on prior to the end of the show. The same went for Doris and Beth, another good potential relationship not given time to blossom as a result of the show ending.

      Thank you for commenting.

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