As per my previous post on the upcoming marriage referendum in Ireland, I’ve been looking at TV shows that IMO have good LGBT representation lately, this time, I’m looking at Coronation Street and Dawson’s Creek.
*You know spoilers for the below shows if you haven’t seen them yet but you really should!*
This was a household institution, and still is, however I lost interest a long time ago. But back in my teens when I was desperately trying to avoid homework, Corrie was quite exciting from time to time. Two characters made a particular impact on me.
I never forgot the story of Todd Grimshaw, who discovered that he was gay but also had to come to terms with his own sexuality. Poor Todd didn’t have it easy, not only was he in a relationship with resident hell raiser, Sarah Lou, they also had a son together, and he helped raise Bethany (her daughter). Of course Todd soon discovered that he started to have romantic feelings for men and eventually it all came to head with Sarah Lou. But what I remember most was the struggle Todd went through upon discovering his sexuality. When he did come out, he faced homophobic attacks from Sarah Lou (although he did cheat on her with another man) and her family (her little brother spray painted ‘fagot’ on Todd’s house).
Todd eventually moved to London, but came back and even befriended Sarah Lou, who happened to be marrying his brother Jason (it’s a soap). Todd is a regular resident on the cobbles now, but occasionally stirs trouble when he sees fit.
Another prominent LGBT character on the street is Sophie Webster who discovers her attraction for women when she pursues a relationship with her best friend Sian. There is also Sean Tully who is now in a relationship Billy Mayhew, but are having difficulties in having an open relationship, due to Billy’s position of vicar in the town.
I’ve mentioned my love for Hayley Cropper on this blog before. She is probably the sweetest and kindest character to grace soap history. Too nice for her own good, I don’t think Hayley had a bad word to say about anybody (even Tracey Barlow). But what made Hayley such an endearing character that despite the upheavals she went through in her life, she still persevered. Upon entering the street Hayley was undergoing her transition from a man to a woman, and unfortunately faced discrimination because of it. I was 7 years old when this story first aired on screen.
I wasn’t too aware of what was going on, but only that Roy (who owned the cafe on Coronation Street) was in love with Hayley, but Hayley used to be Harold. I didn’t understand what transgender was then, and this was the first instance I suppose, when I think about of seeing an LGBT character on screen. But none of that mattered to me, because it was evident that these two characters loved each other, and I think like all fans of the soap were rooting for them to be together. I think the sweetest moment of Hayley and Roy’s story, was when he went to Amsterdam to show his support for Hayley during her transition treatment. There he showed that it didn’t he care that Hayley used to be a man, he loved Hayley for Hayley, and from there, their love story began.
Unfortunately Hayley never had it easy on Corrie, she faced discrimination for being transgender (even from her own son) and was the butt of many cruel jokes. But through her kind nature and her no ill will to anyone, she gained understanding from her co-workers and friends, and was soon beloved by all who lived on the street and fans too. In fact she was loved so much that I say nearly the whole of the UK and Ireland were in mourning when she died in heartbreaking story two years ago. While Coronation Street have got it wrong sometimes with LGBT storylines, when it came to Hayley Cropper it was something they handled realistically and with sensitivity.
I’ve spoken before of my love for Andie McPhee (such an underrated character), but this post is about her awesome brother Jack. Jack originally was supposed to play a swift love rival for Joey, but creator Kevin Williamson decided to do something different with Jack. Instead of him losing out to Dawson and ultimately disappearing from the Creek, they decided to present him as the show’s first LGBT character. There were inklings that Jack could be gay when he was in a relationship with Joey, but things came to head when he had to write a poem for his English class. In a cruel act the teacher made him read out his personal poem (he clearly didn’t want to), where he described in detail his attraction to a mysterious man.
The story was heartbreaking because Jack was immediately targeted in school for his poem (they spray painted ‘fagot’ on his locker), and he had no one to talk to about it (his sister Andie was going through some of her own difficulties). Things only grew worse for Jack when his father returned home, and from the get go it was evident that Jack and his dad had a strained relationship. His father refused to talk about ‘what happened’ to his son, and eventually Jack broke down and came out to his father. In a heartbreaking scene he described how he tried to hide who he was, because he knew how much it would upset his father. But in tears Jack revealed that he always knew why he was treated differently to his siblings by his father, and it was because he was gay. He continued saying that can’t be something he’s not for his dad, because as he says “it hurts too much”. This was not only a moving scene but a powerful one. Kerr Smith who plays Jack revealed in the DVD commentary that he had received a letter from a fan, where he said after watching that scene with Jack and his father, it gave him the courage to come out to his parents. This proves just how influencing and important scenes like that can be.
While Dawson’s Creek handled some things questionably, I will say when it came to Jack’s sexuality, it was one thing they did well. It was a gradual process developed throughout the seasons, and some of the greatest relationships culminated as result of it too. It also dealt with the reality of discrimination that many homosexual people face. Jack was forced to leave his post as kids’ soccer coach because of his sexual orientation and well, he also put a girl as a goalie on the team (Jack wasn’t taking anyone’s sexist shit). But the scene that it culminated in for me was when Jack had his heart broken by a guy he really liked, and the one person who was able to comfort him was his father. This showed growth for Joseph McPhee, a character who was definitely homophobic upon discovering his son’s sexuality and treated him differently and harshly as a result. But his love for his son came through eventually, and he accepted Jack for who he is. The line that gets to me the most is in that season 3 finale (also apparently it was big deal was made back then because it was the first gay guy kiss in a teen programme… oh the 90’s) was when Jack said he “didn’t ask to be gay” and Joseph responded in the best way possible “I didn’t ask for a gay son, but boy am I glad I have one.”
This to me was the perfect way to culminate the strained relationship between Jack and Joseph, but it also highlights the difficulty some parents have with their children in coming out IRL. Yes, a lot of parents can be supportive but the reality is some are not. Like Joseph they can be homophobic or have difficulty in understanding that their son/daughter is gay, and it can take time for them to come to terms with it. But Dawson’s Creek reflected this, from the harshness Joseph displayed in season 2 to the warmth and love he gave to Jack in the season 3 finale. There he was finally able to show love and support for his son, who was struggling with his own self acceptance. I think for Jack that helped him a great deal in having confidence with his own sexual identity.
Stay tuned for my next post in this series.