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EastEnders – from soap opera to soap box

Lynda Moyo thinks the ‘distressed’ and ‘appalled’ should get down

Written by . Published on January 10th 2011.

EastEnders – from soap opera to soap box

IF it’s not Corrie’s Christmas carnage, it’s EastEnders’ New Year’s insensitivity.

The writers of the London-based soap have hit the headlines with their cot death/baby swap storyline involving Kat Moon and Ronnie Mitchell. I for one took that particular story with the same fictional pinch of salt I do with all soaps. Pity it left such a bad taste in the mouth for a minority.

EastEnders viewers have always and will always turn on for a good dose of doom and gloom. And as an EastEnders spokesperson simply put it: “Our job is to be a drama”.

Around 10m of us watched the very real (followed by very surreal) turn of events over the Christmas period as Ronnie Mitchell discovered her newborn James had died in his cot before sneaking into the Queen Vic pub and swapping him for Kat Moon’s newborn, Tommy.

Shocking, thought-provoking, and utterly ridiculous at times; the storyline is everything we should expect of a soap opera and more. And it’s the ‘more’ that’s rattled a few cages, most of which appear to belong to ‘appalled’ and ‘distressed’ mothers. The same mothers who watch the soap four times a week for the reasons they’re now slating it.

Over 6,200 complaints have been made about the storyline so far. An Ofcom spokesperson told Confidential: “We are currently looking at them to see whether we are going to investigate or not.”

Meanwhile Daily Mail columnist, TV and radio presenter Anne Diamond has given her two pence worth against the soap which is broadcast by the BBC – the company she is employed by. Speaking of the offending cot death/baby swap story, she said EastEnders had “taken a real tragedy and made it cheap” and called it “tawdry and silly.”

Granted, Anne has her reasons for her concern about cot death. Her son Sebastian died from the syndrome in 1991.

But although for many people the storyline made uncomfortable viewing, covering topics such as cot death raises public awareness of the issue and gets people talking. The fact that EastEnders chose to create another twist to this story to get some more bums on seats is besides the point. If viewers can look past their own personal affiliations with the storyline, they’ll see the show has in fact created discussion on two important issues – cot death and child abduction.

EastEnders viewers have always and will always turn on for a good dose of doom and gloom. And as an EastEnders spokesperson simply put it: “Our job is to be a drama”.

What with years of murder, teen pregnancy, rape, kidnap, violence, disasters, abduction, abortion, and adultery (and that’s just scratching the surface) I’d say if you’re one of the 0.06 per cent of viewers affected so deeply by soap dramatisations then it’s time to trade your EastEnders addiction for something a little less hard to swallow.

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Cocker nee BarstewardJanuary 11th 2011.

Leave it aht! I wasn't shocked - vat's nomo be'ayviour for us Laaaaahhhhndanners!

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2011.

I beg to differ, as someone who has carried a dead baby downstairs while it's Mother screamed in the street outside I'd suggest some things don't need fictional depiction in such a ham fisted and insensitive manner.
EastEnders didn't broadcast that storyline to get people talking, it did it to generate publicity (mission accomplished). With regards to soaps in general, there is a constant pushing of the boundaries of pre watershed tv by writers (particularly EastEnders) of soaps, "our own" Brookside being one of the originators. I'd suggest this pushing is akin to riding down a hill on a toboggan, once you start its difficult to know where you stop.

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