Three characters are fighting for their lives after a dramatic siege in Hollyoaks, in which Eric Foster (Angus Castle-Doughty) held a group of locals hostage in the pub as he took terrifying revenge against the women of the village.


The soap’s radicalised misogyny storyline reached an explosive peak tonight (Tuesday 10th January) as disturbed Eric, armed with a crossbow, stormed into his late sister Verity’s (Eva O'Hara) wake at The Dog in the Pond and unleashed a violent attack, which he live-streamed on the internet. Eric, Maxine Minniver (Nikki Sanderson) and Diane Hutchinson (Alex Fletcher) were all at death’s door by the end of the special hour-long episode.

While fans wait to see who survived the siege, Hollyoaks’s executive producer Lucy Allan spoke exclusively to, and said the events of the compelling instalment will have a lasting impact on the community.

EMBARGO 9 JAN 2023 Hollyoaks Eric siege
Eric (Angus Castle-Doughty) holds women in siege in Hollyoaks.

“There is huge fallout. How does the village rebuild after this?," she says. "Tony (Nick Pickard) has lost his sister, Eric is his brother, Diane is injured… The community will come together, stand up and renounce what Eric has done.

"Misogyny is the theme but it’s not about separating men and women, or villainising men - it’s about a community recognising the challenges they have in society and coming together to deal with it.”

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Hollyoaks is the first soap to tackle the controversial topic of incel culture, a term describing a subculture of people with misogynistic views, who promote hatred online that may lead to violent attacks.

The form of extremism worryingly seems to be on the rise. In August 2021, five people were killed in Plymouth by Jake Davison, a young man who was found to have expressed misogynistic views online on incel forums. But why does Allan think no other continuing drama has explored the subject?

“People feel like it’s something that only happens in America, but the truth is this radicalisation and the danger it brings is live and present in our country,” she explains. “Social issues, particularly youth-skewing ones, are hugely important to Hollyoaks and at the moment, this is a very real danger. It’s a horrific experience for young men out there who are being targeted and groomed into this world.

EMBARGO 9 JAN 2023 Hollyoaks Eric siege

“We wanted to articulate how easy it is, when you’re in that internet echo chamber, for someone to be taken down a rabbit hole. We introduced Eric a year ago and the audience knew straight away there was something not right with him.

"He’s not a classic soap villain, he is a broken, troubled and traumatised individual, and through his relationship with Mason (Frank Kauer) we showed how quickly someone can go from feeling odd and nerdy to this extreme behaviour.”

In 2019, Hollyoaks aired a groundbreaking storyline on Ste Hay’s (Kieron Richardson) far-right, anti-Muslim radicalisation. Now, the soap has approached incel-dom in a similar way, as a cautionary tale of online grooming where vulnerable, disenfranchised men are at risk of being drawn towards hate, and possibly acts of violence.

Allan admits that one of the challenges the team faced was making a story about lonely people hunched over laptops compelling to watch, which meant taking full advantage of Hollyoaks’s reputation as the most stylistically experimental soap.

On-screen pop-ups of forum threads, virtual avatars, live-stream point of view camerawork, fantasy sequences and all manner of technical trickery helped viewers get in the mind of tormented Eric as his grip on reality became increasingly fragile.

“We used a fish-eye lens effect with Eric as an articulation of somebody who has a social inability to express himself, but found an online medium that allowed him to show who he was," Allan explains. "The virtual ‘avatar’ device we saw was how he felt powerful, and allowed the audience to see his assumption of control in that online world.”

Incel culture also has its own slang vocabulary. ‘Chads’ are alpha men who find it easy to attract women, ‘Stacys’ are women who prefer men with conventional good looks over their personality, and somebody may be described as ‘blackpilled’ if they believe they are so unattractive and dating standards are so strict that they will never have a physical relationship.

For audiences, seeing these terms crop up in graphics on the forum Eric and Mason joined provided an insight into the disturbing world the characters were being lured into, without showing the full horror.

“This story has been pitched on several occasions and it’s a huge testament to Channel 4 for getting behind it,” continues Allan. “In deciding to do it, we knew from the get-go what we were committing to as an end point.”

That end point was a brutal, tense depiction of a violent attack on an unsuspecting community that pulled no punches - even more impressive when you consider Hollyoaks’s pre-watershed prime time slot.

“It was a huge responsibility but we knew from Jane Wainwright, the writer who pitched the original idea, and story consultants who managed to gain access to the incel community, that we had to really invest and authentically represent what the story was about and how it ended," the producer adds.

“When you hear about a storyline like this, you gasp and think, ‘Should we do it?’, then step back and ask: ‘Can we do it properly?’ If you can answer both things and are satisfied you know why you’re doing it, then you set off and commit to that journey.”

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Hollyoaks is available to stream on All4 and airs every weeknight at 6:30pm on Channel 4 and 7pm on E4. Check out more of our Soaps coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.


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