Thursday, January 06, 2011

Eastenders cot death: too much too crass

Has the BBC soap joined the foul practice of exploiting bereavement for ratings?

BBC News reports that "around 3,400 viewers have complained" about EastEnders' New Year storyline (first announced in November) in which Ronnie Branning turns into a baby snatcher upon discovering that her own newborn has died of cot death.

It is true that the original intention of drawing awareness on sudden infant death syndrome was commendable. But by drowning it out with industrial dollops of unnecessary sensationalism and unrealistic drama, the result was just a mish mash of morbid goo and crassness.

In a statement, the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths said: "Despite the continuing statement [...] by the BBC that 'FSID were consulted on the storyline...', FSID had no involvement in the planning or adoption of the specific 'baby-swap' plotline. The behaviour and actions of Ronnie Mitchell are in no way 'endorsed' by FSID as a typical, or even likely, reaction of a bereaved parent".

This blog has always believed that what sets Eastenders aside from a lot of its pappy televisual competitors is their knack for challenging storylines and social (though not narrative) realism.

Covering the tragedy of a cot death and its aftermath in order to raise awareness and promote infant health would have been admirable enough. But to introduce such an unfeasibly brutal development smacks of exploiting grief for the sake of jacking up TV ratings. Tactful, it was not.

Which is why extra credit goes to actress Samantha Womack for quitting over the distressing scenes.

UPDATE (7 Jan): OK, now the whole thing has turned into a witch hunt as usual, with the hyaenas from the Daily Fail landing on the carcass in search of bits to gnaw at. What the fuck has Womack's past lovelife got to do with anything?


Acidfairyy said...

But Eastenders is never realistic! It's ALWAYS OTT and depressing. Personally, I thought this story line was amazing.

Chris said...

It's a soap. They're supposed to be like this.