Sunday, 28 October 2012

Glad to be Gay?

(This post was originally posted by Scott Williston on the Coronation Street Blog October 2012, reposted to this blog with permission.)

Have a look down the end of the sofa.  What would make you trade in your pretty, delicate girlfriend for a big hairy man?  What would turn you off the strong arms of your husband and onto the weedy limbs of a girlie?

I'm asking because apparently, Maria has turned Marcus heterosexual.  This is a bit surprising for those of us who've watched Corrie over the years, because it's difficult enough for us to work out why men go for her.  Yes, she's pretty, but once she's told you the difference between L'Oreal's Coral Surprise and L'Oreal's Coral Smash for the eighteenth time, you realise that celibacy is a not unattractive option.

Sexuality is a continuum.  I'm a gay man, but if Mrs Peel from The Avengers or Holly Goodhead from Moonraker knocked on my door, I'd have to have quite a long thought before I said no.  Their awesomeness is beyond gender.

The current storyline asks us to put Maria in the same category as these titans of phenomenalness, and she just doesn't cut it.  It is sadly undercutting what could be an interesting storyline.

Weirdly, if it was the other way round, none of us would be blinking an eyelid.  If, say, Steve MacDonald suddenly took up with Sean, we'd find it hard to believe, but we'd accept it.  We're conditioned to understand that homosexuals can repress it for years.  Even though Sean is, fundamentally, a horrible person, we can see that a repressed gay man might still fall for him.  As a culture we see "coming out" as the end of the line.

The Marcus/Maria storyline hints that it's not the end of the line, which becomes confusing for us as an audience.  We like binaries; we like simple yes/no answers.  Tracy Barlow's evil: yes.  Kirk is thick: yes.  Mary could beat Jessica Ennis in the 800m: no.  Characters in nice simple boxes where they don't move from.  It's true of all soap operas - it's a necessary part of a show that churns out so many hours of drama.  Certain characters are always needed - the matriach, the bitch, the stud.  Marcus is "gay", and now he isn't, and we don't know what to do with him.  It's confused by the producers and the actors stating he's not bisexual (like Sonny, who was, like most tv bisexuals, a duplicitous scumbag).  How can Marcus be gay, and with a woman?  It doesn't seem right.  It doesn't fit the boxes.

There's a political element to all this too.  At a time when there are rallies against gay marriage in this country, and homophobic attacks continue, and many countries inflict horrific punishments on homosexuals, the idea of a gay man turning straight carries with it a political strength out of proportion to the storyline.  Remember, in the 80s, there was a widely held belief that you could "promote" homosexuality; that it was some kind of club you could convert people to.  Gay rights campaigners have fought to underline that homosexuality isn't a choice.  A storyline in which Marcus passes up Fish Lips Aidan in favour of Luscious Lips Maria plays right into conservative hands - "see?  It just takes the right girl!"

Coronation Street is one of the gayest programmes on television - even if you strike out Sean and Marcus and Sophie, you still have Norris, and Mary, and Julie, and Gloria, camping it up beyond all boundaries.  Corrie was created by a gay man, is produced by a gay man, is written by gay men; we can trust that they understand the politics.  And it's undeniable that this sort of thing happens.  Russell T Davies's excellent Bob & Rose dealt with just such an issue.  The lesbian comic Jackie Clunes is now married to a man; the composer of Glad to be Gay, Tom Robinson, has a wife and kids.  Things change.

It's an interesting storyline, an interesting question.  I'm curious.  My partner Dave is horrified by it; he sees it as a nasty right-wing plot.  Of course, he also hates Maria, because she is going out with Chris the builder in real life, so there's a certain amount of bitterness.  How it develops is the question.  Personally, so long as Aidan and his weird mouth are out of the picture, I think I'd be happy.

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