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Monday 16 January 2012

Has Coronation Street ever had a matriarch?

With Pat Butcher's departure from Eastenders earlier this month, I began to think about all those soap matriarchs over years. And guess what? I can't think of any Corrie matriarchs. None at all. I can list ones from the others: Peggy Mitchell, Pauline Fowler, Meg Richardson, Helen Daniels, Madge Bishop, Susan Kennedy, Annie Sugden and Lisa Dingle. But none from Corrie. Do you find that weird - the soap that's known for its portrayal of strong women has not had a matriarch in 52 years?

If you look at the original three women on the Street - Ena, Elsie and Annie. Although they were strong women they were hardly matriarchs. The three had strained relationships with their children. Ena battled with daughter Vera; Elsie clashed with both Dennis and Linda; Annie's daughter Joan looked down on her while son Billy only visited the Rovers to sponge off his mother. And if you look at all those mothers that have graced our screens over the years, none of them are matriarch material. Just look at Hilda, Vera, Ivy, Gail, Audrey, Sally, Deirdre and Liz.

While Corrie has maintained the battleaxes (Ena, Blanche, Ivy), gossips (Martha, Hilda, Blanche), sirens (Elsie, Bet, Rita) and mother figures (Minnie, Rita, Betty) throughout it's tenure, the role of matriarch has never come about. While it's had head of the families in the shape of Blanche and Audrey, they lack something a true matriarch has. Maybe the fact that both were absent from their children's lives for so long. While Blanche filled the role of battleaxe and gossip; Audrey, although the Platt family's voice of reason, has on many occassions clashed with her family and the fact that she lives on her own away from the Street shows that weakness. Both, in their own way, never defend their family name and usually ridicule their family's decisions instead of supporting them.

Do you agree or disagree? Has Corrie had a matriarch? Does it need a matriarch? Or is the fact that it doesn't have a matriarch make it different to other soaps and that's why you love it?

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Tvor said...

I do disagree. I think these days Audrey is the closest to a matriarch there is. She's got a daughter and (absent) son, grandchildren and a great grandchild. It doesn't matter that not all the children live in Weatherfield and it doesn't matter that she lives in a different neighbourhood. You mentioned Peggy Mitchell but most of her children lived away from Walford for extended periods of time as did she. I think Audrey has the longevity, having been around since the late 70s and she's also taken other waifs and strays under her wing as well (Maria, Candice) who looked on her as a mother/grandmother figure.

I also would have said Blanche was a matriarch to an extent considering how big the Barlow family is. I don't think the show needed to have a matriarch for the full 52 years to qualify, certainly most of the others you mentioned were not long term characters other than Pauline Fowler (whose daughter had been off the show many years).

Llifon said...

Oh I didn't mean that Corrie should have a matriarch since 1960. What I'm saying is the fact that while there have been mother figures, there haven't been any matriarchs. And those characters I've listed were long term characters, some for 15-20 years. But I thought it'd be an interesting discussion :)

Tvor said...

I still think Audrey would qualify. She's got the years in, and she's got the descendants and the respect.

Anonymous said...

Audrey would be my choice for the modern-day matriarch.

She is a vital head of her family, is respected by daughter and grandchildren alike.

She is definitely the 'voice of reason' and I feel is unfailingly supportive, if not always in agreement, she gives her opinion which is usually considered and fair and then does her best to keep the peace.

She doesn't have to live with or even nearby to be the head of the family, and I think the family as a whole would be lost without her sincere interest in them and her reputation as the one you go to when in trouble.

Anonymous said...

I didn't think Pat's character in EE was such a matriarch...she was estranged from most of her children and neglected them terribly when they were growing up. Later on she became a foster mom and foster grandma and most of those children had mental issues and were in and out of jail (just like Corrie). As far as Corrie goes, the only person that might have made the grade as the head of a family that is well respected and raised her children properly and who would have been above reproach would have been Emily but as she had no children I don't think there could have been one. I mean, after all, all of the women on the street are either cheats, liars, thieves, murderers etc. or dumb as a lamp post.

Adam Rekitt said...

Interesting blog, CSC. You have brought some different ideas here. I wasn't actually sure what a matriarch was, but apparently she's a woman who rules or dominates a family. I think Blanche has been closest to a matriarch, since the Barlows were all afraid of her sharp tongue.

Personally I am glad Corrie hasn't had a matriarch. It's just another sexist stereotype, like interfering mothers-in-law. Corrie has had its fair share of mother tigresses, willing to defend their young, (Gail, Ivy, Eileen etc) and those who have tried to rule their children (Gail and Ivy again), but it hasn't worked and nor should it. In this day and age it's not realistic.

Anonymous said...


keith♠ said...

My definition of a matriarch is a woman who is widowed, wealthy, and dominates her family, and neighbours. Would she live in a lower class neighbourhood?

Cobblestone said...

Matriarchal status has nothing whatever to do with wealth or the kind of neighbourhood. It's to do with the social and familial status. It's often found in tribal societies. Think you might have been watching too many American soaps, there, Keith ;)
I do think that, ironically, since she came late to responsible mothering, Audrey has made the grade in the last 20 years.


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