Portraying real life events is very important in soaps. Soaps are known for their usual adultery and murder storylines. Who is cheating on who? Who killed who? However, even though they do portray those ‘normal’ issues that often go on in real life, hard hitting issues such as assisted suicide are often rare which is where soaps come in to portray these issues in a touching way.
Last night on Coronation Street, we saw Hayley Cropper, who was diagnosed pancreatic cancer, take her own life with her husband Roy by her side. She did not want to die naturally, she wanted to die at her own time. Some may say that scene was rather exploitive and trivial yet it seems Coronation Street are being praised for the wonderful acting in Roy and Hayley’s part, for portraying such issue in a rather sensitive yet emotional light, even though assisted suicide is illegal in the UK.
Though this storyline was handled very very sensitivity, making sure vulnerable viewers are not affected by it, it still almost normalised suicide in a way. Hayley’s determination to die was very strong and I am sure we all felt Roy’s pain. Seeing a loved one take their own life, having to agree with it for their sake, is sure to be very heartbreaking.
It has opened up debates and soaps do send a strong signal out to the country. They almost set the agenda on taboo subjects and make us talk. That is why we watch them, don’t we? To relate to it? Assisted suicide, though illegal and controversial, may not be that rare, and perhaps Coronation Street just wanted to show that.
It is only a few years that we have seen a rise in this issue. Real-life cases such as the paralysed Stroke Victim Tony Nicklinson and MS sufferer Debbie Purdy have inspired such storylines and it is right that we do get an insight on the rationale of assistive suicide.
Julie Hesmondhalgh, who played Hayley Cropper does actually want assisted suicide legalised “I would like to see it legalised, very much so, but I have to add the caveat that it has to be properly done; you have to make sure that people don’t go round killing elderly people, say, just for the inheritance. But I can’t imagine how anyone can look at the Tony Nicklinson case and see his suffering and be against it. It’s quite a simple thing for me – and I understand it isn’t for everybody – but we need to look at this issue seriously.”
So even though some may think Coronation Street are almost ‘normalising’ this issue, there is more to it than that. If you are terminally ill, how much control you have over your death would be something of a big deal to you and frankly, that is not known to the wider public. You may automatically think “Just let nature take its course” but to the terminally ill, it really is not that simple. We have such bleak knowledge of why people want to do such a thing.
The scene last night was very touching, raw and controversial yet it did shine a light on reasons why people do what they do. We will miss Hayley. As a massive Corrie fan, Hayley has been a wonderful character and a pleasure to watch all those years. Despite the heartbreaking scene, we cannot deny how wonderfully it was done and a memorable farewell to a legendary character.