Eclectic Blue

Brave or foolish?

Comments Off on Brave or foolish? 10 May 2018

I am not an expert on Coronation Street. I was, many years ago, when it was broadcast once a week. I knew the characters intimately. Len Fairclough, Ray Langton, Bet Lynch, Elsie Tanner, Ken Barlow et al. When the show started broadcasting twice a week, that was simply too much for me. I had other things like to do, like talk to people, have a life, play music and, most importantly, go to the pub. It came as a surprise to learn today that Coronation Street now has six episodes per week.

I was also surprised to learn that one of its characters, one Aidan Connor, had committed suicide in what was described as a touching and very moving episode. As suicide is the biggest single killer of young men, I can understand the decision of producers to do a story about it. And I know that they did a large amount of research with, among others, the Samaritans before going to screen. But I have very mixed feelings about it.

Firstly, it is important that the issue of male suicide is discussed in the public arena because if it isn’t, the government will continue along its path of inertia. We need to know why so many young men are killing themselves and we need to take action to prevent it. Action can take place in many forms, but which is best? Serious government investment with research conducted by exports, which will not be the government. More and better mental health treatment will be part of it, but not all of it. That should start today. But what of the TV show?

Coronation Street is an entertainment programme and a fabulously successful one at that. Over the years, the show has been more of a gentle comedy show than a serious drama show. All the miserable side of life was available on Eastenders. Until now.

I wonder how I would feel if I had lost a son, brother, father, friend to suicide and then saw a TV soap opera come up with a dramatisation of such a traumatic story. I reckon I’d be absolutely devastated, with a big fat reminder of something awful in between moments of gentle comedy and punctuated regularly by advertisements by people trying to flog me stuff. That’s always the problem I have had with ITV. In my opinion, they produce little of value and they are now in danger of trivialising male suicide. I am not saying that’s what they have done. I am just concerned that the line between Ena Sharples having a half of stout in the snug bar and a tragic death has been crossed.

Perhaps, I am being too sensitive. Perhaps, it was a worthwhile piece of drama and perhaps it will benefit some people. But perhaps it will just be another here today, gone tomorrow TV soap storyline. So, was it brave or foolish?

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