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THE FATAL FLAW OF MODERN SOAP: THE CHARACTERS NEVER CHANGE

September 14, 2017

Dipping into EastEnders recently and occasionally watching the other soaps, it is clear that a HUGE issue with modern soap production is that the characters never change. The majority are stagnant.

 

For example in EE, Ian Beale continues to be a snivelling weasel despite being involved in countless explosions and trauma's; Sharon remains the same despite a torrent of personal crises; and Phil Mitchell has only ever changed once: when Grant Mitchell left the show and the producers realised Grant was the more interesting Mitchell brother and made Phil become Grant overnight. And Dot is just Dot.

 

Surely the very essence of drama - going back to the ancient Greeks - is that drama is really an exploration of character, seeing how a series of incidents and pressures force a character to change their behaviour and attitude, and either move towards fulfilling their true potential or - as in the case of a tragedy - become consumed in pain and suffering due to their fatal flaws.

 

The most memorable characters of TV soap history have been characters that have grown positively right in front of us.

 

Examples:

* Beth Jordache - growing from a meek victim of sexual abuse to an empowered lesbian, fully accepting and embracing her past and identity
* Ronnie Mitchell - similar to the above - an abuse victim ultimately finding empowerment and self acceptance - until one producer decided to make her a marauding serial killer
* The original Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully) - a repressed teenage single parent who rejected her upbringing, educated herself, and found love and success abroad
* Charlene Mitchell - teenage tomboy and wild child who grew to respect her mother, fell in love with the boy next door, and found career success (as a mechanic, not a pop star)

 

I'm sure you can think of many more.

 

These characters are the stuff of soap legend. It's as if they wear a number of masks that are gradually removed, their stories over time revealing the different layers of their personality which lead to seismic change. Their vulnerability and strength in gradually accepting who they truly are is what makes them so compelling.

 

Yet how many of today's soap characters have such compelling story arcs?

 

True character development has been replaced with incident after incident - whether it be a car crash, explosion, arson attempt, kidnapping or helicopter crash - which happens around the characters but doesn't actually affect or change them whatsoever.

 

If the soaps are to regain their power, they need to go back to basics and start telling us stories of consistent and progressive character development. This is what we are being starved of at the moment.

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THE FATAL FLAW OF MODERN SOAP: THE CHARACTERS NEVER CHANGE

September 14, 2017

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