If you watch Coronation Street, you’ll no doubt now be 100 per cent convinced that losing a child turns you into some kind of deranged kidnapper.
Recent episodes of the ITV soap have seen Jenny Bradley make off with Kevin Webster’s son after it was revealed that her own boy had drowned in a paddling pool. And a confrontation in Monday’s double bill saw Jenny teeter perilously close to a balcony ledge with young Jack in her arms as Kevin staged a rescue attempt.
All of which left me thinking: must every grief-stricken parent on Corrie be depicted as a child snatcher?
After all, Jenny is just the latest in a long line of heartbroken mums to become an abductor. Ever since Sally Norton took the infant Tracy Barlow from outside the Rovers Return in 1979, we’ve been witnessing emotionally damaged women go mad in order to have a headline-grabbing cliffhanger.
In 2000, Bethany Platt was kidnapped at birth by Alison Webster after her own child died (something that Kevin seems to have completely forgotten about). Bethany was then kidnapped again in 2003 by Brenda Fearns who – in a state of torment following the death of her son Neil – threatened to jump from the tower of St Savior’s Church.
Then there was the case of Casey Carswell in 2007 who – in an almost exact mirror of the Jenny Bradley storyline – was narrowly prevented from killing both herself and little Freddie Peacock after it turned out that she too had lost a child.
Kevin, Rita and Sophie race to stop Jenny in last night’s Coronation Street
Enough is enough. Listen up, Coronation Street – stop depicting mourning mothers as unhinged and unbalanced. I know you’re not alone in doing this and that EastEnders rightfully had moral opprobrium heaped upon it following the Ronnie Mitchell baby swap saga. But I’ve definitely seen enough child-kidnap plots on the streets of Weatherfield to last a lifetime.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com today, Justine Roberts, CEO of Mumsnet said on this very topic: “There seems to be a trend in soapland towards representing bereaved mothers as kidnappers-in-waiting, despite the fact that there is no evidence to support it.
“Sadly, quite a few Mumsnet users have lost their own children, and while current goings-on in Corrie hardly rank among their more pressing concerns, such sensationalist storylines can materially add to their distress.”
It’s hard not to agree. And I also can’t help but feel that such hokey twists squander the chance to tell proper, grown-up stories about the gut-wrenching prospect of outliving your own child. Witnessing families disintegrate over time or inch their way back to some semblance of normality following such a tragedy is about as powerful as storytelling gets.
Just watch, say, Ordinary People or The Accidental Tourist. Enough repressed family fury there to fuel months of soap storylines. So, come on Corrie – not every study of parental grief has to lurch into Hand that Rocks the Cradle-style madness. There is an alternative to having Jenny Bradley led away in handcuffs following a high-rise stand-off.
Soap operas are in the privileged position of portraying characters week in and week out for years at a time. So the writers should use the opportunity to articulate the real-life experiences of their viewers – and sometimes refrain from resorting to schlock thrills for the sake of a ratings spike.
You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of Coronation Street below.
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