Eastenders, Hollyoaks, Coronation Street, they’re all the same to me. Same unfulfilled characters, dreadful acting, and most importantly, same overdone, clichéd storylines. I find it hard to differentiate between them all, and yet we are too often judged by the programmes we watch: some think Eastenders is ‘chavvy’ whilst Downton Abbey is regarded a bit more high-brow. In terms of television, there is a definite divide. So do a certain type or ‘class’ of people watch certain programmes?
I’m using the term ‘class’ loosely of course; nowadays it’s hard to keep up with what is lower-class, working-class, middle-class, upper-middle ect. Deciding which group you fall in to becomes a matter of opinion.
Take, for example, Coronation Street. It revolves around a self-contained community of urban working class people, and needless to say, more working-class people will watch this programme, perhaps for the self-recognition rather than an exploration, which you might find in period-dramas like Downton Abbey. The issues raised in Corrie are often everyday issues we are facing ourselves (well, maybe not the part on stealing babies). Even Hollyoaks, once you move past the self-obsessed, vain characters, raises important issues on domestic violence, rape, drugs, pregnancy and sexuality. There’s even a handy helpline number at the end of the programme.
Likewise, Waterloo Road, set in Manchester, confronts the same gritty social issues; affairs, abortion, divorce, cancer and suicide.
So what of the more high-brow programmes? The period-drama Downton Abbey is set in Edwardian times, dealing with the aristocratic Crawley family. The dresses are fancy, the English is proper and the architectures a bit prettier than the corner shops in Eastenders. And yet it deals with the same social issues, perhaps just a bit more elegantly. So why will some people watch this sort of show yet swear off something like Corrie?
Regardless of class. I can’t help but ask the question why we watch these things in the first place. The characters in these soaps can’t keep together their marriages, they can’t stop themselves getting pregnant and they’re not able to sustain a job. So maybe we shouldn’t look up to these people. Then again, they’re fiction and they’re entertainment. We enjoy watching the self-destructive nature of these people; it makes us feel slightly better about our own lives.
And isn’t that their real appeal? Whatever your class, these programmes provide the perfect conversation fodder for you and your contemporaries. I for one see little difference between any of them.