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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

In Defence of the Grooming Storyline

The grooming storyline has courted much controversy and will continue to do so, up to the point where
it plays itself out and the villains of the piece get their comeuppance. Some people feel that such a storyline, involving the abuse of young teenage girls and the manipulation of them by men, several decades older, should not find a place in a soap opera.

Why though, are people objecting to this particular storyline, when other controversial storylines are accepted without a murmur?

Coronation Street has never been shy of an issue - often issues which divide opinion. There has been surrogacy, assisted suicide, gender reassignment, clinical depression, endless affairs and betrayals, murders, attempted murders, domestic abuse, bigamy, illegal immigration, gambling addictions, child abduction, teenage pregnancy, stillbirth, sham marriage and the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s Disease, to name just some.
Each of these issues makes for difficult viewing, so why does the grooming storyline, in particular, cause so many to be upset?

Coronation Street must keep up with the times and though I’m sure that grooming in some form or another has always taken place, it is at the forefront of our awareness, because of the Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and other scandals, where vulnerable girls have been abused. And some boys too.

Maybe people take the view that soap operas should not tackle current issues, but that would leave the soaps much the weaker. It’s great to have the comedy and the conversations, but, in my view at least, it needs some grit, otherwise it would fail in its attempt to mirror, at least to some extent, real life. What keeps us watching is the fact that we can relate to happenings on the cobbles, to the characters, to their problems, their joys and their disappointments – all of which we, in our turn, at some point in our lives, experience.

Grooming is a fact of life. It is my view that producer Kate Oates is courageous in bringing this truth to our screens. Nathan’s manipulations and his cruelty, coupled with Bethany’s downright refusal to see the truth and being so obstinate, despite her family pointing out the reality, is not easy to watch. Nor is Sarah’s desperation at the possible loss of her child. Bethany has turned completely against her family. Her thinking has become so twisted and distorted that when Nathan has a ‘party’ Bethany agrees to his demands, even when it involves three of his ‘mates’.  A cigarette burn, too, is accepted as some kind of a show of affection. Nathan’s masterstroke is the proposal and the ring. Bethany is young and foolish enough to believe that it actually means something.

This storyline must be seen through. It would be false if Bethany suddenly saw the light and ran home to Sarah. Also, the after effects will be heart breaking and drawn out, once Bethany has finally seen the truth - as she surely will.
By Ruth Owen, twitter: @Ruth1722

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Maricha said...

Have there been that many objections to the subject itself being tackled?
That's unfortunate since a soap has to reflect real life, both good and bad to be interesting.

Personally I liked that this was brought to light but was disappointed that certain twists put in for the sake of drama might undermine the message. I want parents and girls to know grooming exists and to see the signs and I want them to go to the proper authorities without any fear that one of the policemen they report it to is in on it. In all the cases I've heard of such crimes happening in developed countries, police corruption has been virtually unheard of so I object to that insinuation in the storyline. Aside from that, it was well done so I hope the rest of the storyline makes that right somehow.

Anonymous said...

Nah...they're milking it now. IMO.

dulyquoted said...

Great post Ruth. I agree with everything you say, although, at the same time, this storyline is a bit unique. Where it gets tricky is that what they're representing - the criminal sexualization of minors - can only be represented in the story by - wait for it - the sexualization of minors. I'm sure they're afraid of being accused of presenting scenes that border on pornography. It's a fine line for sure, but I admire the Corrie team for taking it on. Imo, it's one of their gutsier, grittier efforts in recent times. I look forward to watching the resolution and hope that Bethany comes out of it stronger in many ways.

abbyk said...

Yes, for a soap story it is getting a little drawn out. But it's one that would have to take time. I just wish we didn't have to see as much of it -- do we really need to go to every party? One thing I am thankful for is that it is Bethany's story instead of Faye or Amy's. While it is horrific to think of this happening to a mouthy 16 year old, I'm sure in the real world there are younger, weaker girls going through the same or worse.

Naysayer said...

The storyline itself was OK up to the point where they decided to make one of the main culprits a police officer. There was no need to add this element. What child/teenager watching this is going to feel safe going to the police now? Not many, that's for sure. Even Bethany looked shocked on Monday when Neil rocked up at Gail's in police uniform.

Yes I know there are corrupt policemen in real life but for the purpose of this storyline, it is an unwanted, unwelcome, unnecessary side to it. Especially in these sad times when many of our policemen are actually heroes. It is an insult to them.

maggie muggins said...

Thanks for addressing this, and so well, Ruth. Going by the many TV interviews the actors appear to be doing, this must be getting a lot of feedback. I think one reason that it's so angering id that this happens to the vulnerable among us, with such horrible manipulation & threats that almost assures "cooperation" from the trafficked.

As I mentioned before here, I am gob-smacked that our Canadian broadcaster is not addressing this is any public way. I don't doubt there are a few complaints, but they should have done something about helplines and even space on their website with some mention of how it was addressed in the UK. It's not like it's not happening here too.

As for the twist about the police who's in on the grooming, I felt the way most do too. But tonight I thought about police in some other countries where I know that girls and women who are sexually abused don't get proper help from police, and may not have much in the way of support in other ways. So maybe it's not a bad thing to have this twist in the story. Viewers of Corrie are international and come from many places.

I'm sure we're going to see some heroic police action before this ends, so I don't think it is disrespectful on the whole. Good cops calling out the bad ones is a good thing and doesn't tar all with one brush.

Anonymous said...

You will never see heroic police action on Coronation Street, they are always portrayed as bumbling idiots (DS MacKinnon, anyone?) or nasty "kiddiefiddlers".

Maricha said...

I sent an email to the CBC mentioning that due to this storyline it would be useful to include the contact information of Canadian organizations dealing with sexual exploitation but who knows if they'll bother.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Provocative post, Ruth. It's a difficult story to handle completely authentically. On the one hand, some parts are being drawn out and unlikely, eg Nathan taking abroad to pimp her while, on the other, we know real life situations can take years to come to light. Kate Oates has said repeatedly that all the villains will get their come-uppance. Of course, that's fiction, too, because many perpetrators escape justice: not enough evidence etc.

For me, the story is only now getting really interesting and I wish we'd got here sooner. The family know what's going on and have tried to rescue Bethany. She refuses to be rescued. I said it in another post, and I apologise for repeating it, Bethany is suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome, empathising with her abuser. What we've seen in the British press are cases of vulnerable girls going to the police and being ignored. Bethany's storyline is a different take on the subject. She doesn't want to involve the police. I wonder how Bethany will come to understand what's going on.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the police officer was a good twist. Whether or not people believe it, it does happen. There is no black and white and victims in this position have to realize that they can't always trust everybody absolutely and must tell as many people as possible to find the trustworthy. Sadly, it can and does happen and survivors need to know that they can take these people to task as well.

Anonymous said...

My problem with the Bethany story line is the fact that Bethany has a loving, albeit somewhat dysfunctional family nearby. From what I understand these creeps pray on lonely vulnerable girls who are far away or estranged from their families and have no money and nowhere else to go.

dulyquoted said...

One small thing that blew me away recently in this storyline was Bethany's conversation with great-grandma Audrey. The other family members have been so polite and even Mary, who seems to have insight into Bethany's situation, keeps the chat pre-watershed. Audrey, on the other hand, pulls no punches: "Is he sharing you?" It's a great reminder of Audrey's past. She knows the many ways of men. It made me wonder if a young Audrey had experienced something like this or knew other young women with direct experience of being "shared."

Ruth owen said...

Thank you Maggie Muggins and duly quoted. Thanks too, Humpty - yes. I wonder too when the scales will fall from Bethany's eyes. It has to be her realisation and not other people telling her. Now Sarah has cut up the passport, I wonder how Nathan will manage to get her abroad - but of course, he'll know someone who can quickly deliver a false passport.

Maricha said...

Getting fake documents may be Nathan's undoing when all else fails, just as Capone went to jail for mail fraud instead of murder and drug trafficking. Nathan's victims might not testify against him or be able to prove what he did but using fake documents is a serious crime.

Corriegated Cardboard said...

oh yes, that would be totally brilliant. i truly hope that happens now


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