It was reported earlier this week that two complaints were made to the BBC recently after they aired a gay kiss.
Compared to the 8 million or so regular viewers Eastenders has raked up since the arrival of the Carters, this almost seems like nothing.
Of course, it is something. The fact that even 2 people out there, in 2014, are happy to complain about something that should these days not kick up any kind of fuss is disgusting. I remember reading an article on The Gay UK soon after the kiss had first aired in which there was a stream of tweets from homophobes whinging about the scene and making some rather vile slurs.
2 official complaints (and several grotesque Twitter ones) is nothing compared to the past; in 2008, in the very same park that played host to Johnny and Danny’s kiss, Christian and Lee shared a very similar moment. This led to a much larger 145 complaints, most of which were unimpressed that it had been aired before the watershed. As well as several other incidents throughout the years, let’s also not forget the soap’s hugely famous episode from 1987, when a kiss between Barry and Colin led to so many complaints that it was eventually discussed in the House of Commons.
This shows how far Britain has come in almost 30 years. To go from a gay kiss being discussed in the Commons to just one sad duo making complaints is great, when you think about it. But complaints are still complaints and these are the sort of people that still make it so difficult for people to come out in a country where they can be accepted and should be happy with who they are.
What the complainers and anyone blind to modern society really need to realise is that this storyline is bloody damn good. Tonight’s episode without a doubt played host to one of the show’s best and most realistic, relatable plots in quite some time. It’s easy to get annoyed when all they do is kill people off in ridiculous Mafia-like ways, have constant fights and focus on events that would never, ever happen (*cough* baby-swap *cough*). But when it was announced there was to be a new gay storyline within the Carters, my ears pricked up. Watching it has grabbed my attention even further; I’ve actually been excited to watch it in recent days. Properly, totally excited.
Why? Because this time around they actually seem to be covering the concept of coming out (and the struggles that may come with it) completely and utterly flawlessly. This is particularly so with the latest couple of episodes. If you’re not familiar – Johnny Carter was outed to his parents by his sister in a dramatic dun dun ending to Thursday’s episode. She then retracted her statement, claiming it was all a huge lie. Danny Dyer’s character Mick was not convinced though. This led to an absolutely wonderful, fabulously acted out scene between him and Johnny in which Johnny broke down in tears and eventually came out. The lines spoke by Mick completely reflect the way in which parents and families *should* react to a child coming out (“There’s nothing unnatural about you” etc). Mick doesn’t let it get in the way at all and makes it completely clear to his son that it won’t change a thing. Beautiful.
After this, those two sad fools who complained mean nothing. Nothing at all. Because for a guy who is straight in real life to come along and create one of the most realistic and easy to relate to on-screen gay characters of all time is just incredible.
A few years ago, I was completely in the same position as Johnny. I spent day after day masking my sexuality from family. The worst thing about this was how alone it made me feel. Even though my friends were utterly brilliant, there was a complete lack of similar gay role models for me to find solace in. If this plot had been happening then and I’d have been sat here watching poor Johnny burst into tears, only to be completely accepted by a loving dad, I’d have felt so much more confident to follow suit than I did when I eventually bit the bullet and told them.
The country needs more incredible young actors like this, acting out beautifully and painfully realistic LGBTQ storylines, to show teens and young people that it is okay. That it does get better. Of course there is set to be conflict with his on screen mother. But when she accepts him (and she will accept him) it’s nice to see that Johnny Carter is just a normal young adult. He goes to university, lives in London, has a fairly average family and is popular. He also likes boys. He might only be a character, but with such perfect acting from Sam Strike, Danny Dyer and all others involved – a plot like this could be the inspirational kick up the arse that is needed to show homophobes how irrelevant they are in today’s society. I really hope the importance of Johnny Carter gives as many people as possible the confidence boost they may need to come out. That would be wonderful.