SOCIAL REALISM OR DALIAN TELEVISION?
Ever hear people in the media drivelling on about how realistic Coronation Street is; how true to life it is; how close to everyday life?
Its close to the life you experience if you spend your entire life under the influence of mind-altering substances, but not to the one most of us have to endure every day.
Well, as someone who has lived in the north-west for his entire life, let me tell you it sure aint true to my life. So lets just look at Britains Favourite Soap for a minute and see just how it matches up to reality, warts and all.
Mike Somers - Professional Northerner.
What we have here is a working class community in inner city Manchester in the north-west of England. So straight away youve increased the chances of people being on the dole by a factor of three, but what do we get: a live action Lowry painting with lots of grim faced individuals walking the streets from dawn to dusk, cap in hand, looking for work?
Not a chance! Every time someone loses their job, every time someone moves into the street, every time someones long-lost and previously unmentioned second cousin five times removed comes to stay, lo and behold a job is miraculously created for them. No one is ever out of work!
Years ago Curly lost his job and his descent into the hell of long-term unemployment lasted about three episodes. He went from a cheerful and ambitious young middle manager to clinical depression - signified by his forgetting to change his clothes, not shave and eating cold baked beans out of a can - in one episode. From there he went to the certifiable stage - signified by his sitting on the living room carpet in a catatonic state and not eating anything at all - in the next episode. By the following programme hed been offered another job, made a full recovery and was back at work neatly dressed and clean-shaven all in the space of three episodes.
Now remember, this was back in the days when they only showed two episodes a week, so were talking ten days; if it were happening nowadays hed have managed all this within three days, Sunday to Wednesday. Have you ever been unemployed? It takes longer than that to get your application for Job-Seekers Allowance processed!
Back in the early eighties when all this was happening to poor old Curly, I was unemployed for four years. If only Id moved to Weatherfield I could be running the local branch of Sainsburys by now.
All right hands up all of you whove been hopping up and down on your seats waiting to shout WHAT ABOUT LES BATTERSBY, SMART ARSE!!!!!.
Well if you think Les Battersby is a realistic portrait of an unemployed man in Manchester you obviously wear floral hats, live in Cheltenham and think Margaret Thatcher was the Second Coming. Les Battersbys function is to reinforce the stereotype that all unemployed people are work-shy scroungers who live the life of Riley on the backs of normal, hard-working people and of course if you believe that Ive got some swampland Id like to sell you.
You dont need a first class honours degree in Political Science to know that all inner-city councils are Labour dominated. So when was the last time you heard a political issue being discussed in The Rovers Return of an evening. Never, thats when.
Alfie was an Independent, Deirdre was an Independent, Audrey is an Independent. What, no Tories? No Lib-Dems? No Monster Raving Loony Party No dont mention Les Battersby again. No Labour? Aha, wrong. Once, Ken Barlow stood as a Labour candidate against loveable old Alfie, Weatherfields answer to Cyril Smith. But, his robust campaign was characterised by dirty tricks, sneering innuendo and attempted character assassination. Clearly video recordings of those episodes were re-run at Conservative Central Office just before the 1987 General Election.
How many times does someone walk into the Rovers Return and say, Pint please, Betty. And get exactly what they wanted?
Miraculous isnt it. Betty Turpin is old enough to be Draculas grandma and yet she still has the mental dexterity to remember the favourite tipple of every single customer of that pub. Now I dont know about where you drink but in my local if you went in and said, A bottle please, Eric, the impudent young wag behind the bar would probably say, Yeah sure. Bottle of bleach, bottle of milk, bottle of paracetamol. Oh the hours just fly by.
This is not a phenomenon thats restricted to the pub. People walk into the Kabin and say Packet of fags* please, Rita and before you can say, lung cancer the cigarettes of their choice are lying on the counter waiting to do their carcinogenic work.
* For American surfers, this means cigarettes in England, not a collection of gay men.
Other great mysteries of the Coronation Street commercial Universe are:
- Why does nobody read any other paper than the Weatherfield Gazette?
- Why is it that even though the menu in the Rovers offers such cosmopolitan delicacies as Lasagne and Chicken Curry, nobody ever orders anything but Hot-Pot?
- Why does the corner shop never sell out of anything?
- Why does nobody ever seem to drink Guinness or Grolsch or any of the other beers on offer in the pub?
I dont know anyone at all, nor have I ever known anyone in my entire life, who refers to people as folk.
Okay, so Minnie Caldwell had a cat and Mavis Riley had a budgie but lets be honest they were just minor aberrations. They were nothing more than background detail, part of the mis en scene (a technical term just in case you thought I didnt know what I was talking about).
More importantly Jack Duckworth kept pigeons in a loft in his backyard and Tyrone Dobbs has a greyhound which, for the moment we shall refer to as a whippet. Is a picture emerging here, do you think? Whippets? Pigeons? By eck all we need now is for someone to start keeping coal in the bath and we could call it Stereotypification Street.
Where do I start? Why the name Margaret Thatcher never passed this mans lips I can only speculate because he is the personification of the Wicked Witchs ideology. This man runs a thriving business, has a very expensive apartment in one of the most exclusive developments in Manchester; he wears sharp suits, drives a Lexus, plays golf and has all the trappings of wealth and success.
Four more profound mysteries of the Coronation Street Universe:
- Why does the bastard have to be a Southerner? Well, clearly us folk up North are not bright enough to be successful, are we? No, thats because were too busy keeping pigeons and whippets! We need to be shown how to do it by some jumped-up Cockney barrow boy.
- If he has all the trappings of success why is he marrying a slapper who rolls her own and drinks pints. I bet shell go down a storm on Ladies Night at the Masonic Guildhall, Sherry, madam? No ta, chuck. Just shove us another pint of Old Thruttocks Volestrangler in there would yer!
- This Cockney gobshite is always going on about how clever he is and how hes always outwitting his thick Mancunian workforce. Right? Well, if hes so goddam clever how come he hasnt sussed that his son is fucking his bride to be? Especially given that every time they came back from having a driving lesson, the imprints of her feet were all over the windscreen!
- He hates Ken Barlow so much that he married his daughter and had an affair with his wife. Why hasnt he dug up 'Mr. Charismas' first wife, Valerie, and indulged in a spot of necrophilia just to really wind him up.
THE STEPFORD KIDS.
You remember Ira Levins novel about the town in New England where businessmens wives would vanish into the night to be replaced by more compliant and subservient duplicates.
Well this curious phenomenon has struck Weatherfield but shock horror in reverse!!!!!!!
First, years ago, that loveable cherub, Tracie Langton, a.k.a. Barlow, was replaced overnight by a surly, uncooperative, apprentice Goth who got up to all sorts of mischief. The stress of her transformation and the subsequent problems it created are, I firmly believe, the reason why poor old Deirdre now takes on the facial characteristics of a Cardassian warlord at the first hint of a crisis.
The Platt household has been particularly susceptible to this effect of late. Take Sarah Louise for instance: one night an impish schoolgirl, the next a gymslip mum having sampled the forbidden fruit with some acne peppered little plonker from her class at school. Then theres her brother, David, who went from being a loveable but dozy, fresh faced kid interested in football to a sort of modern-day Artful Dodger encouraging our lickle Tommy to go robbing sweets from the corner shop (that is when hes not plotting the horrific murder of his sisters sprog).
Come to think of it, the evil little bastard bears more than a passing resemblance to Jez Quigley. Perhaps Gail knows the local drug pusher a little better than shes letting on? Before you know where you are theres going to be pictures of them all over the covers of Woman, Womans Own and a dozen other womens mags under the banner Our Secret Love or some other such bollocks.
The one possible exception to this theory is Rosie Webster. Now I dont know about you but this kid used to scare me shitless, mainly because she looked like one of the Children of the Damned having a really bad migraine. With that high forehead and those menacingly staring eyes she looked just like one of the pod people in the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Anyway she gets suspended from school for bullying this probably involved her threatening to rip other kids limb from limb using only her mental powers. The next thing you know shes been replaced by a cheerful and loveable little moppet whose facial expression doesnt make you think shes possessed by a soul-eating demon from the fifth level of Hell. Go figure!
THE MARY CELESTE
If my memory serves me correctly, Eunice Gee buggered off to Oz and left Jack and Vera Duckworth in charge of her Bed & Breakfast. Now you can hear the wind whistling along the empty corridors, there are meals laid out on tables but nobody to eat them and cups of steaming coffee untouched on tables. Its either a sea-monster or aliens off-course from the Bermuda Triangle but theres no one stopping there. Isnt Eunice starting to wonder why the bank deposits have dried up?
THE TWILIGHT ZONE
Do you remember when Christopher Columbus set off to find the western route to the East Indies and all the Flat Earthers warned him that he would fall off the end of the world. Well they might have a point.
Remember Hilda Ogden? She married that Doctor (yeah right) and went to live in Derbyshire? Or Mavis Riley? Bought a guest house in Cartmel in the Lake District. Why dont they ever come back and visit? I mean were not talking about taking a camel caravan across the Sahara or accompanying two Sherpas into the Death Zone are we? No were talking about an hour and a half in the car, tops. But do they ever show their miserable faces, no!
Folk get married, folk die, folk have babies and then lose them and do the miserable two-faced bastards ever show up to celebrate or commiserate? Do they hell as like. When Hilda upped sticks and went to live in the Peak District they gave her a big send off in the pub and she went on and on about how shed miss all her friends. Well why doesnt the miserable old boot ever come and see them?
These are not isolated cases either. If anyone leaves but doesnt die they seem to vanish off the face of the universe. Ray Langton - pissed off and left behind a daughter that he hasnt seen for twenty-odd years. Ken Barlows kids, where are they? They went to live with their grandparents in Edinburgh and now not even a card on Fathers day the tight-arsed little jock bastards!
Andy Macdonald, theres another one. Goes to University and you never see him again. I suppose he thinks hes better than the rest of his family .hang on, his dads a piss artist, his mums a slapper and his brothers a low-life perhaps hes got a point.
THIS IS MY TRUTH
I think its fair to say that Corrie, far from being true to life is actually the perception of life in Manchester by some middle-class, middle-aged, middle-Englander. Someone who didnt grow up in the North, has probably never lived in the North and who probably doesnt want to come to the North.
Whereas Eastenders, now. Isnt that what all those cheerful Cockney types are really like, eh? Cor blimey! Do what? Leave it out! Me and er indoors are off down the pub for a right old knees up!
One mans stereotype .
If you're a Coronation Street fanatic and must have a 'fix', then Click Here to access the official Granada TV Web Site, although it takes ages to load and you need a plug-in. Still, musn't grumble, eh?
Alternatively, Click Here, or on any of the graphics on this page to take you to Corrie.net, the unofficial Coronation Street Fan Web Site. It's supposedly quite good. I wouldn't know, but Mike Somers has extensively browsed it - all in the name of investigative journalism, you understand!
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