Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Get real, Mumsnet

I gather that that mighty political force in the land, the Mumsnet website, has been moaning about a storyline in BBC 1's flagship soap opera Eastenders. I'm afraid I don't watch this programme (life is miserable enough without having misery for entertainment, Coronation Street please note), but it appears that around Christmas, Eastenders featured a storyline involving a cot death and the grieving mother swapping her baby for another.

The BBC had several thousand complaints, apparently in some large part due to a campaign by Mumsnet, and as a result has curtailed the storyline. It seems this storyline was disliked by the site because of the combination of a distressing theme which would impact on some of their readers and the unlikeliness of the substitution story.

This really isn't good enough - either that anyone should think this argument worth listening to or that the BBC should actually respond to it. It is a fact of life that we all go through unpleasant experiences, and when we do it seems the TV is full of dramas related to it. When I have been bereaved, suddenly everything I saw on TV seemed to be about loved ones dying. Of course it is distressing - but we can hardly say there should never be any dramas about anything nasty happening to people because someone will be going through it at the time and will be upset. That's ludicrous.

As for the juxtaposition of unlikeliness argument this is just bizarre. Why aren't these people complaining about Midsomer Murders? After all, having a loved one murdered is at least as distressing as a cot death, and no one could argue that the Midsomer Murders set up or storylines are likely. The whole genre of murder mysteries would have to be banned, as well as any serious drama, if these emotion police had their way.

For goodness sake, Mumsnet people, understand the difference between fiction and real life. And as for you, BBC, don't be such a wimp. Next time, don't roll over and give in at the first moan. In an internet world where a site can generated hundreds or thousands of email complaints in no time there is no need to take such complaints as anything more than an indication that you are doing your job right. This is just the modern version of Mary Whitehouse moaning that Dr Who is too scary. You didn't give in to that, and you shouldn't give in to this.

6 comments:

  1. Mumsnet's big complaint wasn't that they were confusing fiction and real life, but that others can and do. Remember the campaign to free Deirdre Rachid? Many people will take this to be the normal and expected reaction of a bereaved mother, vilifying a group of people already pushed to one side because their experience makes others uncomfortable.

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  2. Does that fact that some sad deluded people can't tell the difference between fiction and real life mean we should censor fiction with anything that could possibly be confused? Again, practically any fictional storyline bends the truth one way or another. It sounds what Mumsnet should be campaigning for is better education so people can tell the difference between fiction and real life.

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  3. There are 'off' or 'change channel' buttons on most remotes which can be used should anyone not be entertained by any station at any time.
    Drama is the same as humour, not everyone gets the same thing.
    Vive la différence, its what makes us interesting!

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  4. I find this really worrying. Most writers have internal censors and accept that we have to think very carefully about the possible consequences of what we write. But making this subject off limits on those grounds cannot be justified IMO.

    I'm always applauding the power of the net as a force for good and for mobilising support for vital issues, but I'm afraid Mumsnet seem to have got this one wrong - and BBC even more so by caving in.

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  5. I didn't see the episodes, but I would be very surprised in any case if Eastenders was vilifying the mother - soaps are very good at showing the points of view and psychology of people in trouble. While snatching babies is clearly not the usual result of experiencing cot death, isn't it true that mums who do snatch babies very often do have some similar psychological trouble or trauma in their past fuelling their action? Do Mumsnet think we should simply vilify, rather than understand THEM?

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  6. Sorry, I should have said 'women who snatch babies', not 'mums', because often they are trying to fulfil an unfulfilled need and have miscarried or can't have children. In any case, though, they are usually suffering some kind of tragedy.

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