Anyone coming across the above headline to this piece will be forgiven for assuming I hate British TV soaps. Far from it.
On the contrary, I am a die hard fan of our soaps. My day is not complete without my daily dosage of Emmerdale, Eastenders and Corrie. Brookside Close and El Dorado (for those old enough to remember them) were also part of my list in the 90s. Unfortunately, I never really took to Hollyoaks, so I can’t say much about it. But I am sure it will fit nicely into the subject of this article.
Anyone like me who is a soap fan would have grown to love their favorite characters up to the ridiculous point of seeing them as part of their family or circle. The antics, troubles and joys of our soap folks entertain, amuse, irritate, sadden and educate us – all in the space of the 25 odd minutes that we sit down with a packet of biscuit or popcorn and get lost in the Dales or on The Square or The Cobbles.
I have been a soap’s fan and a very committed one at that since the 80s and Eastenders, I have probably seen every single episode since it launched in 1985.
But I have watched with increasing alarm, the frivolous and seeming nonchalant treatment given to marriages and relationships in our soaps. I am not saying that relationships and marriages in real life are not without their troubles and ups and downs, but soaps writers tend to just play hopscoth with them judging by the way and eye-watering speed that soaps folks tend to change their partners or cheat on them.
Take Emmerdale that so rightfully won Best Soap award but a very guilty candidate of playing around with relationships. Rhonda Kirk came into the village and got married to Marlon Dingle with whom she had a baby son. But even before her baby was born, she was sleeping with Marlon’s best friend Paddy Kirk. Soon she divorced Marlon, moved in with Paddy and they two got married. Fast forward a few years, Paddy cheated on Rhona with their son’s school teacher Tess (who later was killed by a hit and run driver) On finding out Paddy’s infidelity, Rhona struck up an affair with Tess’s widower Pierce and soon after left Paddy and moved Pierce in. Oh, when she and Pierce had a falling out, she spend a night with Paddy.
There was a time that it seemed that every Dingle in the village was sleeping with each other including mother and daughter sharing the same man!
Recent Eastenders storyline featured 47 year old Michelle Fowler bedding her 17 year old student while he was also sleeping with her 16 year old niece
And how about the nation’s favorite Eastenders?
Sharon Mitchell has probably been engaged, married, divorced and almost married to every man on the Square including brothers Grant and Phil Mitchell. Trying to mention them all will be no easy feat.
Lauren Branning left for Australia with fiancee Peter Beale and their son, but came back with Peter’s brother, Stephen in just under 1 year. Peter and Stephen’s dad Ian, has been married 5 times including to current wife Jane who also had an affair with neighbour Masood and Grant Mitchell. Ian was at a time engaged to Denise Fox who recently had a one night stand with Phill Mitchell resulting in a son which she gave up for adoption. Phil and Grant’s cousins Ronnie and Roxie had kids by the same man, Jack Branning who was also once engaged to Sharon! And who can forget Jack’s brother Max, bedding his sons wife Stacey!!
Your head must be spinning. Mine is…
And for Coronation Street, I have watched with shocking bewilderment the recent unbelievable circle involving Peter Barlow, Nick Platt, and the circular conveyor belt of the women that they tend to pass among themselves – Leanne Battersby and Carla Connor. Lately, Leanne’s sister Toyah has been introduced to the equation by cheating on her own husband with her sister’s ex Peter. Lets not forget that Carla cheated with Chef Robert Preston while he was with Peter’s sister Tracy, and Leanne also cheated with Steve Mcdonald while he was still married to Michelle – who is Carla’s best friend.
At the risk of sounding prudish which I am not, I am really unhappy that our soap writers feel we cannot enjoy our soaps unless they are heavily laced with sexual antics and relationship destroying plots.
The frequency at which soap characters change their partners and the seeming frivolous attitude of writers to relationships is alarming to say the least, and demonstrates a great lack of respect for the institution of marriage. They make cheating seem exceedingly easy and acceptable even among gay couples and show soap characters as uncontrollable sex crazed folks who would drop their boxers or knickers at the slightest attraction.
In Emmerdale, we saw Robert Sugden fall into bed with an ex girlfriend, barely a week after declaring everlasting love to his gay partner Aaron.
If you made the mistake of leaving the country for a week after witnessing a soap wedding, the marriage might just be over by the time you came back with one of the partners already shacked up with someone else and probably already pregnant.
While we all do enjoy our soaps and realise at the same time that they are just that – soaps – and not reality, would it be too much to ask our soap writers and producers to also try to respect our sensibilities and realise that many of their viewers actually do respect and believe in the institutions they are so desperately trying to destroy.
At the same time, there are many out there who believe that soaps are a mirror off real life which does not say much for the morals of the nation….. In these days where we have a serious problem of break down of family values, soap bosses could actually emerge unlikely heroes by coming up with more storylines which uphold family values and marriage. Stories that educate and teach our young ones the benefits of faithfulness and loyalty in a relationship, and the sacrosanctity of marriage.
We are aware that many TV shows are ratings driven and the more shocking the storyline, the more viewership it generates and high viewers mean high ratings. But shouldn’t TV bosses also be given the responsibility of showing respect to our institutions and even if they don’t see themselves as our moral compass, they shouldn’t go the other extreme by being the harbinger of immorality.