Soap tragedies are tragic, OK?!!

July 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

rant_tv_web.gifWhen a tragedy occurs in a soap, it is very often rather tragic. I want to make it clear that when I use the term tragic here I do not mean useless or pathetic. I mean to make the point that when someone dies in Eastenders or Hollyoaks this is oft quite distressing to watch. By now, I expect half of you to be reeling back in disgust, shaking your head / sniggering at how ridiculous it is for me to even bother to argue that, shock, horror, a soap might be moving. Well, don’t be such a bloody snob.

The prevailing (and frankly, pretty uninteresting) view is that soaps are the lowest of low, the shallowest scum of the dramatic arts, mundane viewing for even more mundane people. But, this simply ain’t so. When a character dies, it matters not whether they happen to be draped over the boards of a west end stage with their hand across their brow spouting “Alas, I am done for? or on the cobbles of a puddle-filled Albert Square with the neighbours clutching pints outside the Queen Vic gawping at their limp body – the catastrophe remains. In a lot of ways, the tragedy is heightened because at the time you’re usually stuffing your face with your tea just as they snuff it leaving you feeling a tad disrespectful as you munch while, Martin Fowler cradles his dead mother. It’s bad enough that you’re left with a mouthful of sausage and mash (which you’re rapidly going off) and tears are streaming down your face, but imagine if the doorbell goes. What is whoever it is at your door going to say? Of course, someone in the next row at the theatre might gladly hand you a hanky but let’s face it, when they glance at the telly you’re going to get ridiculed.

The other thing about disasters in Soapland is that they upset routine, much like real life tragedies, which actually renders them more affecting than a one-off trip to the cinema, during which you are introduced to the characters, watch a bit of their life, see them killed off all within the space of two hours and off you go. You trundle along, as you do in your own life in the belief that things are likely to stay the same, that everything is hunky dory, then bam, someone’s dead. It’s unexpected and thus heart-wrenching.

I’m not saying soaps are always where it’s at for the highest drama. Indeed, some soap disasters are handled in this manner, disastrously. But this is largely down to a poor script and terrible acting. Take for example, Drew’s death in Neighbours…a good few years ago now…he was fine one minute, fell off his horse the next and was dead and buried by the end of the episode! But when they’re done well, the words aren’t too cheesy and the actors are acting their little socks off, there’s no stopping the tears. Max’s death in Hollyoaks last week and his funeral last night left me balling (watch the omnibus this Saturday and tell me I’m wrong).

Fine, all you sceptics, if it makes you feel better, go shed your ‘sophisticated’ tears at some ‘sophisticated’ tragedy. But I resent being made to feel daft for getting emotional over a soap – soap tragedies are tragic, OK?!!

By Susan Allen