Friday, 16 September 2016

Until Plot Do Us Part

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a happy couple in possession of a good marriage must be in want of a plot twist. It’s seldom a harmless one either, and generally something devastating for one if not both parties.

Yes, it’s soap, and Corrie has had us enthusiastically sobbing and despairing at countless heartaches and infidelities over the years. In recent weeks and months we’ve seen Billy and Todd, Nick and Leanne, Luke and Maria, Gary and Izzy, and Caz and Kate embroiled in relationship drama, while secrets threaten the happiness of Aidan and Eva and Steve and Michelle.

The course of true love never did run smooth, but the cobbles tend to offer added bumps along the way. However, while we wouldn’t be without this feature of our favourite soap, does every couple have to be rocked by catastrophe from within the relationship itself? Seeing as the thread of normality is one of the most endearing things about Coronation Street, why can’t we have a strong, devoted couple who simply love one another and face life’s obstacles together, as people do in real life?

While not without their troubles, Tyrone and Fiz and Steph and Andy are among those showing stability at the moment. But it’s a fact that, along with Tim and Sally, Beth and Kirk and Sharif and Yasmeen were probably the closest thing to the faithful, enduring couple that we’ve seen in some time. It actually pains me to write that in the past tense, as we have now come to learn that Sharif has been having an affair for the past seven years, and Beth is a bigamist.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the Nazirs from the beginning was the love and respect the couple clearly had for one another. As we got to know them we could see Sharif’s admiration for his clever and passionate wife, and the strength she gained from his support, particularly after the death of Kal. She in turn helped him when he struggled to cope with the news that Alya had slept with Jason, allowing him to see the situation in a new light. This was not the guise of a man engaging in an affair behind his wife’s back, or a husband giving any indication of being remotely interested in anyone other than the woman he clearly adored.

Beth and Kirk’s unlikely pairing has been a triumph, and a ripe source of humour as well as proof that couples can simply be happy with one another, irrespective of what life throws at them. They also show that good marriages are far from boring to watch, a fact which is thankfully supported by Tim and Sally. As with the Nazirs, Beth and Kirk have had their ups and downs, but consistently supported one another and faced the world together. Their 80s wedding was joyous, and at no point did we see a hesitation or glimmer of doubt, concern, or guilt from Beth which might have indicated that she was already married. In fact, she wanted them to have a dream wedding, and so much so that they exhausted themselves working extra shifts to pay for it. Nobody would have suspected that she was entering into a bigamous marriage, and while her behaviour is questionable at times, such is her love for Kirky, it’s hard to believe she would.

In the cases of all the other troubled couples, their woes have arisen organically out of the drama. However, with regard to the Nazirs and Sutherlands, it would certainly seem that their existing backgrounds have been revised, and quite dramatically at that, for the sake of creating new stories in the present. Both revelations have the shock factor, but for me, the believability isn’t there. Why? Because these very particular actions would have needed to be part of their stories in the first place for them to ring true.

This is not to say that hitherto unknown ghosts can’t arrive to haunt people, but if they do, the chosen ghost has to make sense in the context of the existing drama, and who that character is as a person. With regard to Beth and Kirk, I personally think their marriage should be sacred, and bigamy simply isn’t believable to me in this instance. As above, there is nothing wrong with a resurrected skeleton, and they have proven themselves to be great for drama. Indeed, the reappearance of Craig’s Dad already has this potential without the bigamous element.

While my preference for the Nazirs is fidelity, if Sharif absolutely had to play away, why not have him embark on an affair in the present? Considering the strength of the couple, there would have to be a good justification for it, but we could then experience the situation unfold, his potential turmoil and possible guilt-ridden reveal, and feel fully invested in it.

While we can't be sure of how the drama will progress for either of them, and there's no doubting that whatever happens will be performed well, as Beth’s marriage and Sharif’s affair predate their first appearances on the programme, they now alter my perception of their characters and every scene I’ve ever seen them in, and this jars because they simply don’t match. We all know the suspension of disbelief is essential to viewing Corrie, but for us to believe in the drama, realism must be at the core of who the characters are, the actions they take, and how they deal with the situations they find themselves in. Even if the actions or situations are unheard of and surface from the past, fitting both the character and the drama which has gone before is essential if we are to believe in them. These retrospective additions to Beth and Sharif's stories are proof of just how important this is.

By Emma Hynes
Twitter: @ELHynes
Facebook: @EmmaHynesWrites
Instagram: emmalouhynes

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Anonymous said...

I am very disappointed in Sharif, I thought they were a strong loving couple. Does this mean Sharif will be departing the show? Yasmeen will be gutted.
As far as Beth and Kirk are concerned - I have never been a fan of Beth (she has raised a lovely son) but I have always found her way over the top and absolutely hate the way she calls Craig - Craigee, and Kirk - Kirkee.

Pat said...

Whole heartedly agree with your article Emma.

Humpty Dumpty said...

At one time, break-ups were part of a long story arc. These days, it can be quite random. I'm not yet sure where Craig and Co are going but it seems obvious (though it could be producer's trick!) that Sharif is being written out. He might be one of the residents conned by Phelan so he'll be left with no money and no wife. A plot device, maybe, for other Nazirs to leave as the family crashes. I can't see much point to Alya.

Rapunzel said...

Great article Emma. It's not just unlikely affairs. It's all implausible storylines involving established characters.

My solution would be to vest responsibility for the integrity of each character with the actor playing them. The writing department should be required to float new storylines past them for comment and there should be a power of veto, provided it is not used often.

That approach might have saved many a once-popular character. Frankie Baldwin for instance. IMO still the worst ever character-debasing storyline: an affair with the stepson she had raised since infancy. No synonym of "yeucck" was strong enough to describe it.

Tvor said...

I agree so much! I might just have been able to accept Sharif as a long time cheater. A lot of men do that even though they love their wives, have mistresses on the side. But with Beth and Craig, it would have been more believable if she didn't realize they weren't properly divorced.

Anonymous said...

With you there, it's the randomness - like with Gary and Izzy, after all the woes with the baby purchase from Tina, then out of the blue Gary was smitten with Alya - a ham-fisted attempt (and thankfully short-lived) at integrating the character. And yes, how many years on and I also still ask, what's the point of Alya!

Cobblestone said...

Bruno Langley is on record as saying he was told the long-term plan with Todd's character was for him to discover he was gay right from being first cast in the role, but the writers didn't move on the story for several years. He kept checking with them that this was still the plan. But it meant that nothing incongruous, nothing incompatible with Todd being gay was written in that intervening period. It meant the eventual revelation felt authentic and believable. I doubt much of this kind of long-term planning takes place anymore.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the producers can plan for anyone to be long term. Actors want to move on which is a good thing I think. Then you have the never-gonna-leave ones, who seem IMO just to be there because they've always been part of the furniture. Ken, Rita, Steve, Norris..there are no plots that can be written for them other than another fling..except for Norris who really should come out..just IMO.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Emma 100%. I couldn't explain why the plotlines of late have left me feeling "meh", but you put the ennui into words so beautifully. It's true that most of the storylines of late are not believable and the actors themselves just don't fit or believe in their characters any more.

coconno196 said...

Excellent and perceptive article. We can only hope that Beth and Kirk do reconcile. I love them as a couple and feel that their relationship has gone a long way towards making Beth more likeable than the harridan she was initially. As for Sharif, his affair is totally unbelievable in light of his clear adoration of Yasmeen and his strong religious beliefs.

Emma Hynes said...

Thank you all for your lovely comments. It's always good to hear when readers enjoy our blogs.

Anonymous said...

Agree that Sharif's affair seems completely out of place--both in how the character and the relationship with his wife has been envisioned from the beginning. But I think the bigamy plot line actually fits very well with Beth's character--she IS the type of person who would commit bigamy without giving it much thought. She's loyal to the people she loves (Craig, Kirk) but also selfish, lazy, and, let's face it, pretty stupid. So I can easily see her convincing herself of what she wants to believe, that it doesn't really matter if she marries Kirk without divorcing her first husband. The marriage with Kirk will still be real (in her eyes). She doesn't have the type of mind or personality to think about long term consequences and legal responsibilities.

Bifrost Group said...

The bigamy discovery seems a bit of a mountain out of a molehill. Nothing like Peter's betrayal because he was stringing along two women at once.

I can understand why Kirk is upset, but hopefully he will soon realize it's not such a big deal and calm down. Beth hasn't had contact with her "husband" in fifteen or so years, so it's really just a legal issue--a matter of paperwork so that the state will no longer have them tagged as married. From Beth's point of view she ceased to be married to him when she turned him in and decided he would be a bad influence on her child, and she made good her divorce by having nothing to do with him for fifteen or whatever years. While I don't especially like her character, I can respect that decision and think that--apart from the paperwork--she truly is not married to Darryl.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time believing that Beth & Darryl were ever married - it came across as if their relationship was very short and not really steady. If they were married, I doubt she would have turned him into the police, she probably would have changed her last name to his and his name would have been on Craig's birth certificate, which obviously isn't or he wouldn't be known as Craig Tinker, surely a birth certificate is required when a child registers for school?

coconno196 said...

Me too, Anon 00:55. Also, I don't know how easy bigamy is, but don't they check records at the register office? With everything computerised, surely you can find out if folk are already married?

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