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Sunday, 23 November 2014

My issue with Steve's depression storyline


Over the past few days I have been thinking about how appropriate it is for Coronation Street to feature issue-led storylines. Steve McDonald's depression is the most current example of this. It's making uncomfortable viewing, in more ways that one.

When I blogged about Tim's literacy issues last week I received a lot of feedback from people who wished Corrie would ditch the big issues and focus on entertaining us viewers. While I would hate for Coronation Street to turn into EastEnders and I still believe character-led drama and comedy are Corrie's strengths, I think the programme does handle sensitive, thought-provoking issues well on the whole. Whether it be Sally's breast cancer or Tyrone's domestic violence plot, I really do think Corrie has a lot of power when it comes to educating the viewing public. 

Simon Gregson is terrific as Steve. He has brought his character on leaps and bounds since his first appearance as a gobby delinquent teenager back in 1989. In recent times Steve has mellowed from the bad lad we used to love into a softer, middle aged comedy character that most characters on the show send up and in some cases, belittle. I have been quite out-spoken on this blog in the past about the treatment Steve receives from his partner Michelle and to a lesser extent from Liz. Although often played for "comedy", it frequently leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I just don't like it. After all Steve is a successful businessman, a doting dad and a good friend to those close to him. 

I still believe Steve is a good character to put at the centre of a mental health storyline. On the surface of it, he has it all. Things have come a little unstuck of late with his involvement in the Peter and Tina story and that, coupled with turning 40 has hit him hard. I think Simon Gregson is a good enough actor to pull this one off and I know that a lot of research will have gone into writing this plot. There is one thing that just jars for me in all of this and I can't escape it. Michelle. 

It was a mistake to put Steve and Michelle back together. It didn't work the first time and it doesn't work now. Putting it bluntly, she treats him like dirt. Everything is about her. She is rude, obnoxious and always thinks she knows best. She knows something is not right with Steve's current behaviour but she still manages to put herself before anything else. The way those closest to Steve have treated him has made a massive contribution to his current state of mind. The trouble is he won't admit it and they just can't see it.

Stuart Blackburn promoted this as a love story between Steve and Michelle. I'm sure his intentions are genuine and true but I just cannot see this for a moment. A Coronation Street love story is Hilda and Stan. It's Roy and Hayley. It's Alf and Audrey. It's not Steve and Michelle. Michelle is a deeply unsympathetic character and therefore during all of their recent relationship woes, I cannot empathise with her at all. This has a massive impact on the dramatic effect this storyline can generate. Had it been Julie or Sally or even Beth it would have been a richer, more layered story I could believe in. 

When Steve eventually shares his diagnosis with his close family I really hope Michelle and Liz show some remorse and work hard to both help him through it and understand their part in the problem. I also hope the writers see sense and bring an end to Steve and Michelle's relationship. It does neither character any favours. 

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25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sometimes people with depression have very low self-esteem and will attach themself to a bully or refuse to leave a bullying partner as they feel it's in their place to be punished. As a bipolar person the story isn't ringing true at the moment, apart from the car - I bought a very similar one on a whim - it creeped me out a bit when Steve did the same thing LOL Still it's a better storyline than that awful librarian and her husband. At least Simon can act!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree with this on the whole. I think its a reasonably well written storyline but its Simon Gregson who is falling short on delivering it, as he's just not credible as someone living with depression. He is a very good character but performs best in comedy storylines, as unfortunately doesn't have the range to make this what it could be. He reminds me very much of Tim in The Office - i.e. a comedy depressed character not a real one.

I am not fan of Michelle's character but I think she is not the problem here. Anyone in her shoes would be frustrated because they don't know what the issue is, and when she does, that'll change. I imagine thats very much the case in life when partner's struggle to understand and deal with depression in a loved one.

Got to say the level of vitriol that Michelle (or more, I suspect, Kym Marsh) receives on this site is a bit unnecessary and harsh, and as I said, I'm no particular fan of hers!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of Michelle either and I agree with the writer's assessment of her. I would also add Liz into the equation. Surely as a mother, who lives under the same roof as Steve, she should recognize all is not well with him.

Something about Peter getting out of prison/jail before Rob has been formally convicted bothers me. I know this is "soapland" and Rob confessed to Tina's murder but what if he changed his mind and actually pleads 'not guilty', wouldn't Peter still be a "suspect"??

We are still little "behind" in Canada and this issue just occured to me this week.

Anonymous (in Canada)

Humpty Dumpty said...

There are some actors in the cast that can delve deep into the character and find the layers. The others have to be given brilliant scripts and often this works as we've seen with Kate Ford/Tracy and others. The problem with Michelle is both the acting and the writing. I suspect that at one time, Andrea was brought in as a possible match for Steve and so Michelle, it seems from nowhere, became even more nagging and shrewish to explain the split. When Andrea was matched with Lloyd, the writers had to make Michelle more sympathetic. Hence, less eye-rolling and more billing and cooing with Steve. The damage had been done by then and I don't think many people care about Michelle now. It would be wonderful to see a Jack/Vera couple at the helm of the Rovers but it will never happen with these two.

What does Michelle gain from the relationship because she could probably get any guy in the neighbourhood? The writers haven't shown us what Michelle finds so compelling about Steve; she could have confided in his mother and given us some insight. So let them split up - but they won't - and we wouldn't be bothered.

People close to someone with depression often don't see what's under their nose. Could be interesting if it was Tony who suddenly cottoned on that Steve wasn't well.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what the problem is that people on this site have with Michelle.

She's an ok character and Kym Ryder a decent (ish) actress.

Good looking as well :)

Tvor said...

Hmm good point, last commenter. Maybe it will be someone not as close to Steve that will pick up on it before Steve is ready to admit it. But Graeme, I really agree with all of this. I never thought Michelle and Steve were well matched and always thought she dragged him down with her drama.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,To answer your question about Michelle,the main problem,I have with her is that she's a self centered character who shows no compassion for anyone other than herself or Carla.She has a nephew whom she barely acknowledges and instead of suggesting that Steve sees a doctor,makes it all about her and assumes he's leaving her.Sad to say but I think Steve would have to be on the brink of a suicide attempt before Michelle even considers that something is wrong and even then she would make it about her and worried about her status at the Rovers.

John said...

Well he is leaving with her

John said...

I meant leaving her

LindaSonia said...

I agree with the commenter who said it is Steve that is having the problem with delivering a believable character with this issue. I know I'm bored to tears with it and want it to go away ASAP.

I'm just soooo happy whiny baby Peter is finally gone. Hooray!! I was sick to death of his whining and crying when he created the whole situation he found himself in. Good riddance.

I'm also finding little patience with the Tim illiteracy issue too. They just drag things on f o r e v e rrrrrrrr. I can't take it.

Maybe I need a vacation from Coronation Street.

Shan said...

I haven't watched many of the episodes with the depression storyline yet, and I'm no fan of the Michelle character, but I will say that I do still find this believable. I went through depression and when it hit, my own family couldn't see it. They knew I was off but depression would never have crossed their minds because I was still functioning well. Most people have in their minds that depression is something where you can't get out of bed. And so they can't see it sometimes even when it's someone close to them.

So I can find it believable that Michelle is still putting herself first and not clueing into what is going on with Steve or thinking that it's such a big deal. Because I was told by people close to me to just get over it. I think the Michelle character represents the people who really don't understand depression and other mental health issues.

Anonymous said...

I know this comment is superficial and not on topic but every time I've seen a photo of Michelle (Kym) in the past while, I genuinely struggle to recognize her. I know her hair is growing out but what else is it about her that has changed? Has anyone else noticed this?

Anonymous said...

I'm glas they're showing Michelle as an insensitive bitch. When I heard of the depression storyline I thought "Michelle has been a nasty character for years so don't you dare suddenly turn her into a sympathetic character overnight!" A bit like how Tina was for years a gobby independent character only for her to suddenly be a 100% innocent character for her murder storyline.

AmandaB said...

Hit the nail, almost, on the head there & that's my problem with her, she's a singer who got lucky, she's NOT a trained actress and in my opinion shows no talent as such either.

John McE said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks Simon Gregson isn't the world's greatest actor. For years he has got away with mugging to the camera at every possible turn. And now he is meant to be depressed he is doing much the same, albeit with a frowny face.

And although her character is a harpie, I think Kim Marsh has actually turned into quite a good actress.

Tvor said...

I don't have a problem with Ms. Marsh's acting but I don't like the character. And Steve really isn't functioning that well lately. I would have thought at least his mother might have picked up more signs than just "He's not himself" but overall I think it's a very well done story so far.

Anonymous said...

In Canada, we are 2 weeks behind. I completely agree with this blog/article. I'm sorry some commentors find it unfair Michelle is judged so harshly, but I for one, can't stand her character and her acting is mediocre at best. As far as their relationship goes, it has never been clear what qualities they love about each other. I have never felt any chemistry between them at all. She nags him, and eventually he does what he is told. That is how I would sum them up.
Lee, Toronto ON

Anonymous said...

Whether the storyline is accurate in its portrayal of depression or not, it is still good a mainstream soap is raising awareness.
If you are suffering from depression, I recommend the http://destroydepression.com system.
Written by a former sufferer of depression, it teaches a simple 7-step process to eliminate depression from your life.

Barrie.T said...

I agree with others who have said that Simon Gregson is just not good enough to pull this off. He is trying his best to pull a sad face but he's not acting like he's depressed.

Zagg said...

Thankfully, Canada is only 1 week behind the UK now,and sometimes it even seems less. I am also not a fan of the pairing of Michelle and Steve. They just do not have any chemistry. And...she does treat him like dirt.
In the past when they paired the bossy wife with a bit of a goofy partner, there was at least chemistry, a believability that in the end you felt...yup, they're right for each other. That is just not the case with Michelle and Steve. I have always had the feeling that she is just putting up with him to have a roof over her head. The ever present eye rolling, arms folding skills from Kim Marsh does not lend itself to greatness either.

Glenda Young said...

I think the comments on the Blog post highlight the fact that not enough people know the signs and symptoms of depression. Simon Gregson and Kym Marsh are doing a great job in my opinion. How on earth are you supposed to "act as if you're depressed?" The point Corrie are making is that Steve is hiding his depression, he doesn't know what's happening to himself, never mind being able to ask anyone else for help. This is a drama, it's not real life, but if this storyline helps people with their own struggle with depression - and it is a horrible struggle - then Corrie has done it's job right.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised Steve is depressed if the Streetcars office isn't opening until 8.45 in the morning !
(see last wednesday's episode). Breakfast in the Rovers said 8.05 am but then Michelle had chosen and booked a weekend break by the time Andrea opened the office.

Anonymous said...

As someone recently diagnosed with depression (long overdueI might add, as it's something I've suffered from on and off for about 20 years but never wanted to admit it), I find this storyline really convincing. Michelle and Liz and their "just get over it" or "cheer up it might never happen" attitude are reminiscent of people in my life and it was because of those attitudes I didn't get properly diagnosed for so long.

Regarding self esteem - it is common for people suffering from low self esteem to be in a relationship where you are made to feel like you should be grateful for the other person's affection and attention. You feel like you are not as good as them and that you are punching above your weight. This was evident in a scene when Steve was at the doctors recently, and he said something like "have you seen my girlfriend, she's gorgeous". He thinks he's lucky to have her. On her part, it's not uncommon for certain types of people to be attracted to people they can dominate, put down, control. Perhaps the same can be said for her character.

vicky said...

The anon who said there's too much vitriol towards Michelle on this site was spot on.

Anonymous said...

I agree, too much nastiness toward both Michelle and Kym Marsh. Give them *both* a break. Michelle has every right to feel upset when her relationship is falling apart! Why does that make her selfish? He needs to open up to her. People can't read minds.

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