Friday, 1 February 2013

Coronation Street's long-term lack of diversity


I had high hopes when Coronation Street bosses announced that Lloyd was to get a proper family. For one thing, it would give him more people to interact with therefore bringing a great character into the limelight. However, it also highlighted the lack of diversity that persists in Weatherfield.

It struck me that Lloyd, Mandy and Jenna are the first black family to be cast as regulars in Coronation Street.



Could it really be the case that it has taken 52 years for Corrie to create a black family? Apparently so. Mind you, given that actors from London and Scotland are forced to attempt Mancunian accents shows that today's Corrie bosses are less than up to date with the current make up of our major towns and cities. Not everyone living in Manchester these days must have a Manchester accent! Being a true Cockney worked out ok for Mike Baldwin!

So while I am pleased to see a black family establish themselves in Coronation Street, I am immediately rather worried about their chances for survival. Their arrival - long lost love and surprise daughter combo - was hackneyed and convenient to say the least. Mandy and Jenna did seem to be parachuted in rather quickly. I do think Mandy and Lloyd are much better suited than his last partner, Cheryl (who has very quickly been forgotten). As for the Jenna/Sophie pairing...I really hope this doesn't last long! They appear to have very little chemistry, although I'd rather Jenna stick with Sophie than end up with Kevin! I'm just sorry they have decided to rob an educated, intelligent character like Jenna of her career.  Despite my worries, I hope Lloyd's family do become established in the Street. Looking back in Corrie history, black and Asian characters have really struggled to make any headway.

The first prominent, regular black character I remember in Corrie was factory worker Shirley Armitage, portrayed by Lisa Lewis. During her six years in the Street in the 1980s she was known for working in Baldwin's Casuals and taking Curly's virginity. Despite this, she never achieved the legendary status of other characters of the time and is barely remembered at all these days. 

More successful was hairdresser Fiona Middleton, played by Angela Griffin in the mid-1990s. Fiona was a strong, independent, intelligent young woman who ended up running her own business despite having a love life that included both Steve and Jim MacDonald and a best friend in Maxine Heavey. I really liked Fiona, although things got a bit desperate after she did the MacDonald double. I would like to see her back in Weatherfield one day - I bet Steve would be pleased to see her too!

However since Fiona, Corrie bosses have really struggled to bring in long-term, prominent ethnic minority characters. There have been repeated attempts but in most cases the characters have been dull, badly written or simply not given any significant storylines. Bobbi Lewis or Sonia Marshall anyone? What about mechanic Nathan Harding? Or the twins Joanne and Jessie Jackson? Kelly Crabtree initially faired better although it was really no surprise when actress Tupele Dorgu departed in 2010. Her character had reached the end of the line - the writers really did not know what to do with her. We also had Polish factory worker Wiki Dankowska who I rather liked, but become embroiled in yet another daft faktry story with Carla Connor and subsequently disappeared. 

Dev Alahan must be one of the most enduring characters from an ethnic background, regardless of what you think of him. The Alahan family unit have established themselves in Coronation Street but again, in my opinion, have suffered from some truly woeful stories over the years (Mad Maya being the main exception!) Who knows what will happen to Dev once Sunita leaves? I did rather like Dev's cousin, Vikram, however his character was again rather short lived despite his obvious potential. 

So why do you think Coronation Street has always struggled to introduce characters which would show the true diversity of modern day Manchester? Do you have any favourites from the past you wish had been given more of a chance? What do you make of these latest additions to the Corrie cast? 


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18 comments:

Chewy said...

I don't think Vikram will be back anytime soon, he's become quite a big character in Emmerdale :p

It also annoyed me that they took Jenna's career away from her, they always do it, like with Kirsty and the police.

Graeme N said...


Why would he want to be in Emmerdale when he could have Corrie?! I guess the scenery is better...

Yes, I don't know why they always do it either. Maybe to keep everyone living in each others pockets in the Street. Nobody seems to have a life away from it. If she ends up working in Underworld i will SCREAM!

BarT said...

Am i the only one who thought lloyd and cherill were a good match? I hate mandy and jenna. Mandy and lloyd have zero chemistry and i think the producers realised this very quickly and moved her into the rovers. Have you noticed how lloyd and mandy are rarely in scenes together these days. The actress who plays mandy just can't act

Graeme N said...


Maybe it was the story Cheryl was given but I just thought it awful! I think Mandy and Jenna are v good for newcomers - their scenes earlier this week were pretty good :)

Janice said...

Corrie seems to cast Asian women as villains. Maya, now Sunita. I recall Orchid Patalya who duped Fred, I say duped. And of course the annoyingly selfish Xin. Mike Baldwin had a few dodgy Asian garment dealers over the years. Of course if Corrie really wanted to do something noteworthy, a Weatehrfield-born muslim family where the girl chooses to wear a hijab because of sexual harassment from Kevin and Ryan while her brother gradually becomes radicalized after witnessing the skanky behavior of most of the residents on Corrie.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Asian people do have corner shops and Chinese people run chippies but do we ever see a male black teacher? The show is full of stereotypes, though admittedly, not just racial ones: fisticuffs on the street, etc. With this backdrop, it's not surprising we don't see many diverse families. I'm pretty sure Dev's on a safe ticket. Where are the Polish families? There's a Polish foodstore in nearly every neighbourhood. That could make a good story of rivalry between the Polska deli and the corner shop. The lack of diversity must be down to a narrow range of writers. You can't write about what you don't know. Maybe that goes for producers, too.

Tvor said...

Well, i would have to agree that Jenna and Kevin would be just too much even though I dislike Jenna with Sophie.

Another ethnic character you've not mentioned is Jason, whose father is black. We met his wastrel of a dad some time back if you will recall.

The other soaps are similar, are they not? a small number of non-white faces that come and go for the most part.

I like Mandy and Lloyd and I think they do have good chemistry, even Jenna and Lloyd seem to work well off each other so far. It's a shame they took Jenna's job away, though, and in a way, too bad Jenna is gay because she might have made a good match with Dev once Sunita left.

Frankie goes to Hollywood said...

Bring back Uncle Umed!

ChiaGwen said...

Thanks Frankie for the reminder of Uncle Umed - yes, bring him back!

Anonymous said...

Race doesn't matter one jot. It's the person who counts.

Graeme N said...


I could not abide Uncle Umed!!

Thanks Tvor, I'd forgotten about Jason's dad. Shame they had to make him a wrong'un. He's never mentioned these days.

Tvor said...

It wasn't so much Jason's dad as it is Jason, an ongoing bi-racial character.

Graeme N said...


Yup - and it's a shame that hasn't been touched on since - that was the point I was making :)

Anonymous said...

Good question, Graeme. Good comment Humpty Dumpty "You can't write about what you don't know." I think, too, the original premise for Corrie comes from a very different era, and the story began about white, non-wealthy, average working people of the time, which didn't include immersion of different cultures like it does now. As well, since the story began, Manchester, indeed England, is in a much better economic situation than 1960. But, you're right, Corrie still is "less than up to date with the current make up of our major towns and cities."

Anonymous said...

The soaps are not all the same. Eastenders has always been much better at including black and asian characters.

njblas said...

I like Lloyd and Mandy as characters but they are not sparking off each other at the moment - it's all rather dull. Hopefully the writers will come up with some stories involving them as a couple and give some vitality to their relationship. And please, don't let's see Jenna wind up packing knickers at the Faktry - it's so unrealistic that Kirsty wound up there for the convenience of the scriptwriters...don't want to see Jenna lose her career too. Which brings me to another character I liked - Vikram's sister Nita Desai. She had ambition and a hard edge, yet was quite likeable...so of course had to be written out:(

Anonymous said...

Feels like Lloyd has been on the Street for ages even though he really hasn't - he feels like an original character.

I recall reading something from the new producer indicating his intention to address the issue of diversity on the Street, to reflect modern day. So long as it comes out naturally and not forced/stereotypes...

Defrost Indoors said...

It's depressing and predictable that anyone with a decent job loses it as soon as they hit the Street -- I think Marcus is the only one with an off-street job (which requires some training/education) who still has that post. I shouldn't say that too loudly though, in case they decide to make him drive cab or sweep up hair or bus tables at the bistro. It goes back to what I was saying about the way education is depicted on the street -- if you aspire to something better than slinging beer or stitching underwear then you get smacked down.

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