Come on Down? Popular Media Culture in Post-War Britain

By Dominic Strinati; Stephen Wagg | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

British soaps in the 1980s

Christine Geraghty

Finally, a word of advice for Coronation Street. Forget the social action garbage with councillors and social services. Your research is totally up the spout. Besides, if we want to be depressed, we’ll watch EastEnders.

(TV critic, Evening Standard1)

Soap operas have always dealt with social issues although media critics have not always recognized it. Soaps have traditionally dealt with the fabric of personal relationships, setting up a network of gossip and support, conducted by women who were both the strongest characters in the programmes and their most faithful viewers. It was the drama of personal relationships within a homogenous community which was the hallmark of Coronation Street, establishing a sense of geographical place so strongly that it over-rode the boundaries of the family. Coronation Street, and Crossroads after it, placed a strong value on friendship between women as the bedrock for plots of romantic encounters, marital quarrels and everyday happenings. Routine such stories may have been, but they posed the question of how one’s personal life was to be lived and gave endless opportunities to examine issues of fidelity, consistency, disappointment and personal choice which inevitably arise when love and friendship are put under such close examination. 2

British soap operas in the 1980s, however, took up social issues in a more overt way and publicized their concern for social problems which represented more than the plight of individual characters and dealt with the public sphere rather than the personal. Elsie Tanner’s love life was not an issue in this sense but gay relationships in EastEnders and Brookside were; Ena

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