Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Anna Windass: Heroine or Harridan?

(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in April 2014.)

With thanks to Nathan Richardson of for sending us this great article about Anna Windass.

Manchester has always been a city of strong women; from Mrs. Gaskell, the Suffragettes, and Shelagh Delaney. It is a city in which women are not content to take to the background, rolling out the pastry in pretty pinafore. Gaskell gave Dickens a run for his money, the Suffragettes together effected such indelible, extraordinary change in society, and Delaney took the largely male-dominated world of 1950s theatre and made her genius known, influencing both cinema and pop music consequentially.

This aspect of the city is invariably felt in Weatherfield, for Weatherfield too is a place of strong, commanding women. In 1960, when Coronation Street was first broadcast, the three most central characters were Ena Sharples, Elsie Tanner, and Annie Walker. They were all different, but each a matriarch in their own respect. Men in Coronation Street are like men in Jane Austen or Barbara Pym novels; while they may have their name over the door, in reality they are feeble, infantile, pitiful. It was the women who held things together, the women who called the shots. Such gender roles are still apparent. Steve McDonald is the babbling, boyish figure who comes across as so absent minded that, without the help of Michelle, he’d struggle even tying his own shoelaces. Jason Grimshaw is but the pet dog of Eva Price, and even Tim, who entered the show as a roguish figure, has fallen under the thumb of Sally Webster, and her company has the strange ability to reduce him to that of a submissive school-boy. (And even the men with something about them, like Tony Gordon, or Frank Foster, transpired to be both deranged psychopaths, and Dev, who could be seen as a wealthy, confident male character has always, in one way or another, relied on women.)

Carla, Liz, Leanne, Gail – they have all led tough lives, yet they get through it, and come out somehow stronger. The greatest heroine of the street at the moment is Anna Windass. Without her, the family would simply collapse. We see the great toil and trauma in which they find themselves presently, yet she keeps a brave face, and perseveres, assuring everybody that everything will be alright. It is her that they turn to, and she is always on hand to support, encourage, love. She may be by profession a cafe assistant, but she is as powerful and as important as the lioness.

It took me a long time to warm to the Windasses. They seemed too dull, easily replaceable, and their reason for being there didn’t really wash with me, but with the recent Pat Phelan storyline, I’ve seen a different side to them, and to Anna especially. She stands in a long line of leading women, from Elsie Tanner, to Bet Lynch, Vera Duckworth, and Becky McDonald, embodying the very spirit of the cobbles, of the city, all that makes it unique and wonderful. She is an inspiration.

Nathan Richardson

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