Tuesday, 7 November 2006

The Archers Go Pinker

Tonight marks the 15000th episode of the Archers; Radio4's long running soap about the inhabitants of Ambridge, an imaginary village in the English countryside. I don't follow the show as such but since I listen a lot to Radio 4, I can't help but stumbling on it from time to time and I therefore have a good idea of what goes on.

In March 2004, the series featured its first gay kiss. Since then, Adam and Ian's relationship has been developing nicely. They now live together and have been accepted by the community.

In march this year, a report by Stonewall criticised the BBC for the way it represented gay and lesbian people but I have to say that they are doing very well with this one.

Although all soaps have now had gay characters, they do not tend to last very long and are most of the time quite stereotypical (as in Coronation Street at the moment). By contrast, Adam and Ian give a positive and atypical representation of gay men. Of course say don't seem to have much of a sex life but otherwise they are in a stable and loving relationship. They are not camp, bitchy or even funny. They are almost boring, to be honest; like most of the gay men I know actually.

The Archers were the last soap to get a gay kiss but last week they started on the road to become the first soap to portrait a Civil Partnership. In a rather moving and romantic scene, which had me well up on the bus to rehearsal, Ian proposed to an unsuspecting Adam.

The synopsis of last wednesday's episode on the BBC website goes as follows:
Adam thinks he’s promoting Hassett Hills venison to a chef at a restaurant the other side of Felpersham but gets a surprise when he sees Ian there. Ian explains that it’s all a set up. There’s no meeting, only a special romantic meal to say thank you for everything Ian put Adam through with Madds. Adam’s pudding turns out to be extra-special. Ian has arranged for a ring to be brought out on a plate. Ian tells Adam he’s loved him from the moment they met and wants to spend the rest of his life with Adam. Adam never expected a proposal in a million years but thinks it’s a wonderful idea. Of course he’ll marry Ian.
On monday, I trawled the 300 odd messages posted on the relevant thread on the Archers' message board to see the reaction of the listeners. They are usually perceived to be middle class and quite conservative but I was quite surprised the find that the reactions were vastly positive. only 3 or 4 people were complaining about "PC tosh" in the story lines of the programme. The rest actually defended the "gay marriage" story line.

Along the way, the discussion digressed from the defining of the word "marriage" and whether marriage is an exclusively religious institution or not, one person saying that homosexuality doesn't exist in nature which proves that it is wrong while another said that because it exists in nature, it can't be a decent human behaviour (you just can't win!) to parenting and single parent families. Some listeners, considering the ceremony as already over and done with, expressed their expections of seen the two adopting and raising a child.

There has already been hints however (through one character's incredulous reaction to the news) that the ceremony might not happen as smoothly as one might expect.

It will be interesting to see the development in that department but in the meantime, I think the BBC should be complimented for their depiction of these particular gay people, even there is still some work to do in other areas.

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