Eastenders and Controversy… Well I never!

On the way back to work dinnertime I passed a man stopping people in the street. This in itself is nothing special, on the corner between my home and my work (I work and live within minutes walking distance of each other) I often find marauding gangs of uniformed men and women. Sometimes we have the HSBC mafia trying to get you to open an account with menaces. Other times it’s the SKY gang and their HD weapons of mass stupidity. Today it was neither of those, today it was someone asking an opinion.

I stopped for a moment to listen, hoping that he would turn to me and ask me mine. Anyone who knows me is aware that I have an opinion about everything and I feel it my duty to allow everyone access to such opinions. Unfortunately (for me? for him?) the man did not turn my way, perhaps my “vibes” of disagreeability disturbed him too deeply; so eventually I walked on by.

I so wish he had asked, but (un)fortunately for you he didn’t so I have to inflict my opinion on someone else.

The question was about the TV soap “Eastenders” and its seemingly controversial storyline about cot-deaths. The actress playing the woman concerned has left the show and now portions of the national news have been devoted to the show.

This in itself seems rather ludicrous to me, I’m certain there are many starving and dying across the world who would consider their plight to be more news worthy, but despite myself my interest had been plucked.

“Eastenders” could never be mistaken for a light-hearted piece of entertainment. Never would you see a review of it bearing the words “light and fluffy” or “heart-warming entertainment”. The show deals weekly in forbidden homosexual love affairs, drug addiction and adultery, and sometimes we are treated to multiple murder and gangsters vying for turf just to make sure we get the point.

Now, to be upfront about this, I’m not  fan and I think anything that takes a BBC show off the air is a good thing (please take the WHOLE BBC, that’d save me £150 a year). On the other hand the nay-sayer are missing the real point here.

Like any other piece of entertainment “Eastenders” has no responsibility to be truthful as long as it works within its own “premise”. If it suddenly told a story about happy elves I’d be more inclined to agree with the nay-sayers; but telling a story about cot-death is exactly what “Eastenders” is designed to do.

Even the notion that it should do so sensitively is a foolish one. “Sensitivity” is in essence a subjective notion and therefore at best a piece of entertainment can only be “sensitive to most”. Something designed to offend no one is something that is designed to cause no conflict, and conflict is the essence of drama.

There is something more important than this however. Something far more important. Freedom of expression is something that is eroding in the United Kingdom (even that name means nothing anymore), some words I cannot utter because my skin is white, others I cannot because I have testicles rather than breasts. Now we have the taste police saying that we should consider our sensitivity even further and that certain things should only be spoken about while adhering to certain criteria.

It’s a slippery slope.

I feel a great deal of empathy for those who have lost children through cot-death, I have a friend this has happened to and I saw the effects it had on him and his girlfriend. I know because it has not happened to me that I feel only a tiny amount of what I would feel in their shoes. Perhaps, you could argue, I would feel differently if this happened to me.

Perhaps I would, I hope I never find out.

I do know that the most important thing to me is that people can express themselves openly, that they can discuss and argue that which they feel strongly about. For this “Eastenders” has done something good, it has created something that some people feel the need to discuss, and through this perhaps some people who have experienced this may feel the need to talk about their tragedies.

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