Monday, 3 January 2011

Why I Can't Watch Eastenders

What I am about to consign to this screen might just be naive and silly - but I feel strongly enough about this issue to write about it, so here it is. 

I have watched this programme for a good many years, and I have followed the ups-and-downs of its hapless characters. In truth, the world created by this soap-opera is a grim one, largely devoid of hopefulness, and constructed to line up tragedies like obedient school children on a trip to the zoo. It lacks the humorous counterpoint that Coronation Street has to dilute the pathos implicit in the stories. 

Christmas and the New Year are the rating-winning times, and story-lines in the ongoing dramas will build up to them. A key character might meet their end, a secret revealed, a relationship smashed. We viewers love this stuff, as much because in suspending disbelief for a moment, we can know that we are in a 'better place' or at least know that for those who are struggling with life's lot, that they are not alone. I can live with all of this. After all, is that not the reason why fiction was written and why telly thrives - we like to be taken somewhere else and ogle another gathering of people and their lives. 

Well, in this British soap, the New Year was filled with the birth of two lovely babies. Ahhhh. Then one of the mothers haemorrhaged as she lay in bed cooing over her son; she was rushed into hospital. Then the baby of the other mother died in its cot as his mother slept on the sofa. We have ourselves a heavy story line that has the potential to wring us dry. Story-writers seem hell-bent on upping the ante, and it seems that they are a little masochistic these days. This story line to date is plausible, believable, and I was "happy" to subscribe. This stuff happens in real life, and that is what soap-operas are all about - mirroring life. Oh, but then we have a trump card. The grief stricken mother wandered aimlessly around with the corpse of her baby wrapped still in its blankets, and found herself at the cot-side of the baby whose mother is bleeding in hospital with dad watching over her, and while the babysitter vanished for a moment. Train crash alert. The grieving mother swapped babies, leaving bleeding mother to believe that her son has died.

To me, this was a grotesque development in a story that had me, until that moment, feeling sympathy and pain in line with the intention of the producers. The story went too far and I left the room and cannot return to that programme. Now, this might be me being silly - but I believe that story-writers have a duty first to their story but then to the viewing public (a notable number being, in this case, still older children at 7.30pm). This would be akin to Inspector Morse not just dying, but dying under a bus, visibly. Suspending our disbelief is one thing, but to abuse that privilege is, I think, quite another. No wonder we feel so little emotion at the pain of others in this world of ours. 

This post was written while Eastenders was on ... elsewhere in the house. 


  1. I seem to be alone in finding EastEnders very positive and encouraging! It is, I admit, a catalogue of disasters and broken relationships but yet.... people live in community and are involved in one anothers lives in a way that would be fantastic to see in real life. They rally around to help in times of difficulty and crisis. They celebrate together. They all have the same aspirations for love that people in real life have. Big, strong characters like Pat are endlessly loving and giving. All the characters make a mess of things, but they keep on going, keep on hoping, keep on loving. Three cheers for EastEnders!

    Mary x

  2. SO glad to hear that you have at last received sufficient 'aversion therapy' to overcome one of your more inexplicable addictions.
    My own view of Eastenders is that is has always been far closer to melodrama than drama and the characters more caricatures than real-life.
    Do try not to backslide, you'll feel so much better!

  3. Personally, I gave it up in May 2004, having had it inflicted upon me for some years.

    Strangely, yours was an exact replica of the rant to which I was subjected whilst taking gifts from afar to Carisbrooke Close yesterday.

    I say to you all, stop watching it - it is what ir has always been, a saga of nasty people being horrid to each other and, if that's what "community" is like, I'm off to the nunnery!

  4. Move over LL. I'm coming with you! Not that I imagine for one minute they'd be unwise enough to let me in but the Eastenders type of "Community" which largely consists of interference in others' lives, and shouting aloud preferably in public, the private affairs of their hapless neighbours is an appalling alternative to real community.

    Sorry to grab a 2nd "go" David, couldn't resist!



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