Thursday, 6 January 2011

On Eastenders...

Word of warning. This post is written by Angry Mark, and as such it'll contain language that may offend, you have been warned.

This is a bit of a weird post for me for a couple of reasons, first of all because this is the first (and likely to be only time) that I put the same post on both my blogs. The second reason that this is weird is that this is that generally I’m not the “Points of View”, Mail reading whinge-bag who moans about the BBC, I’m not that dude. But I for the probably the first time in my life feel compelled to add my two cents to the Eastenders cot-death/baby swap debate. Okay the reason I’m commenting on this is the same reason I am writing this on both blogs. First up, those of you who read “Living Without Emma” may not know, I am an amateur scriptwriter and film-maker. For those of you who read the “Little Things Movie” blog, my daughter Emma died from a rare heart condition when she was just two day old and it’s as a writer and as a father I feel like I want to comment.

First up I just need to say I don’t watch Eastenders, and I missed the whole media kerfuffle about this story. I just turned on the TV a couple of nights ago and saw the ongoing elements to the story. The five minutes I saw pissed me off but I thought I’d look into it before passing judgment. Right, I’ve looked into it and I’m gonna pass serious judgement.

For those of you that don’t watch or don’t know what the hell Eastenders is, the offending story goes like this. Two women called Ronnie and Kat give birth to boys on the same day. A week later, Ronnie’s baby dies. Due to some ridiculous set of circumstances Ronnie, swaps her dead baby for Kat’s live baby. So now Kat thinks her child has died and Ronnie has a baby that isn’t hers.

Okay, there are two main reasons why this is horseshit. Firstly and most obviously I can categorically tell you that any parent whose child dies has no interest whatsoever in a replacement child. They want THEIR child, the idea that the notion of taking another baby would enter the head of a bereaved parent is utter bollocks.

Secondly, Emma was with us less than two hours before she was taken to the Special Care Baby Unit. In that time she was so firmly imprinted on my mind that I could pick her out from a room full of dozens of babies even after she died. To portray parents who’ve had their baby home for a week as being unable to tell that the baby was theirs is ludicrous. You don’t have to be the parent of a dead child to know that, just a parent.

In the interest in symmetry there are two things about this storyline that piss me off. One is because I’m Emma’s father and Rach’s husband, the other is because I’m a writer.

As a father to a child who’s died, I’m pretty thick skinned. Yes certain films and things resonate with me and can upset me, “Wires” by Athlete and the opening montage of “Up” nearly bring me to tears every time, but I don’t get offended by stuff, I watched Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist” and didn’t get offended for God’s sake. But Eastenders pissed me off and this is why. When you’re child dies people avoid you like the bloody plague, they look at you like you’ve got ten heads, and don’t have a clue what to say or do around you. That’s not everyone, but it is a lot of people. Neonatal death is not something often covered in the media and for a lot of people soaps are the only way that they are aware of issues, so to portray a mother of child who dies as a baby snatching lunatic, how the hell is that responsible? Yes you may say that people know that it’s not real, but people are not always that smart. I’ve heard so many instances of actors who play villains on soaps getting accosted and attacked by people who can’t separate them from their characters. Thanks Eastenders, you have made things potentially more difficult for people who are going through hell.

The other reason I’m pissed off is because I’m a writer. Little Things (my short film) is partially about someone with a magical ability to alter the course of destiny. That doesn’t really happen, therefore when including this in the story I can do whatever the hell I like. Babies really die, so do you’re goddamn research. Yes, I know it’s a soap, yes, I know it’s for dramatic effect, but this is something that really effects people. A hell of a lot of people. With viewing figures in and around 10 million it’s probably going to effect some of the people who actually watch your crap. Sticking websites and helpline numbers on the credits does not mitigate any of this. Do your research you fucking hack!

Angry Mark Out.

1 comment:

  1. I know that feeling...I hate watching a movie where there is a miscarriage, a stillbirth, or a baby born too soon who dies shortly thereafter, because I have personally experienced all three.
    I cannot think of a single time where I have seen this on TV and they didn't turn the parent into a grief-stricken baby snatcher or worse, make the character into someone who had it out for other parents and committed violence against them or their children because of it.
    Yes, people look at us in the real world like 10 headed monsters or however you put is hard because many many people simply do not have the emotional or mental capability to accept that children die and that babies just does not fit with their world view and because they can't handle it, they feel the need to villify the parents who have suffered loss.
    The reasoning? If you villify the parents who have lost a child, then you can be self-righteously angry and creeped out and then you don't have to deal with the incredible sadness you might otherwise feel for them for losing a child, and even worse, you get to avoid the feeling of FEAR that come with that...the fear that it could happen to you or someone close to you.
    Anger is a safe emotion and protects us from emotions that hurt too much.....and maybe that is what you and I are doing right now being so angry with the writers, directors, and producers of this crap...we are being vocally angry because if we're not angry, we're going to be hurting so badly because when we watch this stuff we feel like it's just another blow from society saying that they don't care enough to help us carry our hurt....we don't matter enough for them to make a small sacrifice and hurt with is...its easier for them to villify us and avoid those feelings when the sad fact is that we don't have the luxury of doing what they are doing...we don't get the luxury of avoiding our feelings. This is reality and our babies are dead.

    I certainly hope you take your art and create something that gives us loss-parents a voice.