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Monday 1 January 2018

Why Coronation Street is right to air this storyline

Guest blog post by Stephen M Hornby You can follow Stephen on Twitter @StephenMHornby and on Instagram @stephenmhornby.

Stephen M. Hornby considers the reaction to one of Corrie’s first big stories of 2018: male rape.

A recent BBC3 documentary, Male Rape: Breaking the Silence, offered a disturbing insight into the levels of sexual offences men suffer.  1 in 6 men in the UK are a victim of rape or sexual assault at some point in their lives.  8 men are sexually assaulted every hour. 90% of men who are raped know the perpetrator.  And, perhaps most shockingly of all, it takes an average of 26 years for a man whose been raped to find the courage to speak out.  

We have a serious problem with male rape, not just with the levels of the offence itself, but with our collective attitude to it.  Stigma, ignorance and shame are the three words that kept on being repeated by the victims brave enough to speak in the programme. 

And perhaps that’s where a soap opera, of all things, can help a little.  

Coronation Street is about to feature a male rape storyline with David Platt as the victim/survivor.  Just the intention to cover such a topic produced newspaper headlines and a wave of responses on social media.  The Mirror talked about a “harrowing storyline” deemed too controversial for Eastenders five years ago (although Hollyoaks dealt with it in 2000).  The Radio Times reported it as a “controversial”, and the Manchester Evening News called it “shocking.”  

With an estimated 12,000 men being raped and 70,000 being sexually assaulted each year, perhaps the shocking thing really ought to be that Corrie hasn’t done it before.  (Just apply the 1 in 6 statistic to the number of male characters the show has featured in 57 years.)

Now, I’m the first to fight for quality comedy moments, to justify scenes just on the basis that they’re nice character piece, and to argue against the constant use of the emergency services to pep up every plot.  But, I also think Corrie has always tackled complex social issues and often tackled them well, sometimes helping to remove some of the stigma around tough topics.  The show is reported to be working with Survivors Manchester, one of the few specialist services dealing with male rape, and is committed to making the portrayal accurate and respectful to the huge number of men who have gone through this ordeal, many of whom will be watching.

Ultimately, Coronation Street is a soap opera seeking viewers to support advertising revenue, but it can seek them in an educational and responsible way.  The recent grooming and rape storyline of Bethany Platt has proved what the Street can do when it allows stories to simmer and build and when it shows the immediate and on-going implications of sexual abuse.

David Platt can be a bit of bore, a monotone moaner with a nasty edge to him.  Jack P Shepherd plays what he’s given well.  And when he was given the death of Kylie in his arms following a knife attack, he gave a sensational, gut-wrenching performance that made you feel each moment of David’s rage and pain.  If he gets material of that quality in this storyline, I have every faith in his ability to deliver and to make this one of the most memorable stories of 2018.

Stephen is a playwright and theatre reviewer. 
You find him on Twitter @StephenMHornby and on Instagram @stephenmhornby.

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Maricha said...

Great post, Stephen.
I agree it's a story worth telling and that Jack P Shepherd can certainly do a great job with it. The only thing that bothers me is that the show and particularly this family has had nothing but a pileup of one misery after the other. Also, at the speed Bethany's stripper situation is going to start, these two very serious and dark situations will air simultaneously. I think we, and the Platts, could use a breather.
Keep in mind that meanwhile the rest of the characters' lives aren't sweetness and light either: Anna is leaving and for all we know that might be harrowing as well as Phelan's unmasking.There's Carla returning with a major health issue while Robert may have to battle cancer. The Barlows and Billy sorting out Susan's death. This on the heels of Rita, Seb and Billy just being hospitalized and Phelan's double murder.
That's a lot of turmoil in the span of less than a year for a neighborhood with some 50 people living and working in just over dozen buildings.

There's three or four years of difficult stories being compressed into one year as though the show was ending soon and all loose had to be tied up and all social issues covered before it went off the air. I don't necessarily think the show needs any madcap comedy but it would be fun to just see the characters going through ordinary conflicts and life events for longer stretches of time between ordeals.

M in Toronto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph said...

I don't object to Corrie covering this subject - male rape is still a taboo subject after all and any help Corrie can bring to raise awareness should be welcomed. However I do believe they picked the wrong character. Bethany has just been through a grooming story and now to have a member of the same family go through this feels too similar. Personally I think Daniel would be a good character to pick for this story (and if we have to continue to put up with his undying love for Sinead, having her find out and support him while Chesney slowly becomes more uncomfortable by their closeness would have been an interesting angle.)

Anonymous said...

C in Canada:
David Platt is many things, but a bore is NOT one of them.
Brilliant actor that always has me glued, even just to see what his reaction in the background is.

Anonymous said...

If the writers felt a male rape storyline was necessary[and perhaps for awareness of the issue it is]I wondered why not Sean who's been severely underused rather than David for the storyline?
Since it's just as likely for a gay man to be raped as much as a straight man,it would be just as dramatic with Sean as it would be with David.
I also think that with Sean[or anyone else for that matter]in this storyline we would see him get the support he needs dealing with the trauma of rape whereas with David,I fear he won't get that support or worse ridiculed by his family especially Sarah who won't take the trauma seriously[because it's not about her!].

Anonymous said...

I agree that Sean would have been a better character for this story. As a gay man he might not be believed as be accused of asking for it just a females victims often are.

Catsmom said...

I might come across as naive with this question, but is David raped by a woman or another man?

Tvor said...

I believe the spoilers say he is raped by another man.

popcorn said...

What Maricha said. While the story might be valid, the number of tragedies which have befallen the Platts in the past year have stretched our credulity too far. As others have suggested, Sean or Daniel would have been better characters to play out this story line.
And David is anything BUT boring!

Anonymous said...

The actor playing Sean just wouldn’t be able to give the performance that Jack will...agree with the previous poster about his gut wrenching performance when Kylie died. Daniel also could act it much better...but not Sean!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't think being able to act is a requirement for getting a story on this show. If it were more than a few would be background performers only.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more

Unknown said...

I really hope that isn’t the case. I’m afraid this will come off as gay men being predators and straight men should “watch out”. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

JW, I think they will make the rapist a straight man. This is all about power and not sex.

Linda said...

I think that if another character like Sean had this story line, it would mean leaving the street afterwards. I don't think that he could handle the aftermath of a gay rape as it'd be so explosive. This way, David will keep it quiet and it'll fester. Good luck with it.


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