The decision by EastEnders producers to reflect the growing menace of knife crime has prompted more than 200 complaints according to news reports.
The corporation says it acknowledges “that some viewers could consider this storyline challenging” but promises it “will culminate in the character of Jay doing the right thing.” That’d be a welcome change for this tired and depressing show which reflects only the worst aspects of life in London.
It’s pretty ironic that the show is now trying to reflect London’s gang culture because, and let’s pull no punches here, it’s one of the most prominent causes of the cultural lack of respect and growing violence which politicians and the police are now struggling to reverse.
No single show or media platform is wholly responsible for society’s ills but the relentless wave of gangsters and bullies in EastEnders, who seldom pay a price for the actions and when they do it’s usually a violent one, can send only negative messages to the millions of young people who tune in every week.
Lying, cheating and fighting are the three main hobbies in Albert Square where the only characters seen to prosper do so off the back of violence and intimidation. Part of the problem is that the quality of writing on the show is at an all time low and so it finds itself stuck in a rut, littered with low aspiration characters and little acquaintance with the real world.
Whenever a new character or family are introduced to the show their immediate course of action is to fall out with or make life hard for other characters. When was the last time a family arrived with the intention of being responsible neighbours, had visible jobs and didn’t end up engaging in, or being the victims of, crime, betrayal or infidelity?
It’s telling that Ian Beale, the character who reflects the much under represented entrepreneurial spirit of modern Britain, is the constant subject of ridicule and intimidation. The very character who could provide some semblance of a role model is shown to be the kind of weak loser no teenager would aspire to be.
It’s simply dishonest to claim, as TV types do, that any show which spends two decades showing violence and dishonesty as the path to success has played no part in the problems society currently faces.
If the authorities want to reverse the growing gang culture and reverse the lack of respect which we all see daily on our streets they’ll need to tackle television’s refusal to accept its part in perpetuating them.