EastEnders boss Kate Oates has revealed her hopes that the soap’s romance between Ben Mitchell and Callum Highway will change homophobic attitudes towards same-sex relationships.
“There are so many obstacles and obstructions already built-in with a same-sex relationship because not all of society is accepting,” the BBC’s head of continuing drama told RadioTimes.com.
“There’s a paradox there because one of the things that makes viewers root for the couple and makes the story compelling is actually the thing we’re trying to change: the fact that there’s still so much prejudice. There’s still so much homophobia in our society, and we’re glad to use our voice to try and change that.”
Tonight’s episode of EastEnders will see an anguished Callum (Tony Clay) lash out at Ben (Max Bowden) as he struggles with the burden of keeping his sexuality under wraps. As viewers know, Callum is planning on getting wed to Whitney (Shona McGarty), despite him having developed strong feelings for Phil’s son. But the upcoming nuptials will be thrown into jeopardy after Whit discovers all about the groom’s secret flings.
EastEnders does, of course, have a strong history of depicting homosexual relationships, having screened TV’s first mouth-to-mouth gay kiss in 1989. Back then, the embrace between Colin Russell and love interest Guido Smith was labelled in The Sun as “a love scene between yuppie poofs” that was screened in the early evening “when millions of children were watching”. And while, attitudes have thankfully changed in the intervening three decades, Oates believes that more progress still needs to be made.
“I’m looking forward to the day when a same-sex kiss can be shown on a mainstream soap and the duty log receives zero complaints – because then we’ll be in a much better place as a society,” she said.
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