Is ‘Enders Too Traumatic?

The Guardian reports that the BBC has received more than 3,400 complaints about a cot death storyline, which saw a bereaved mother swap the corpse of her own child for next door’s live baby.

Executive producer Bryan Kirkwood responded: “We appreciate this is a challenging storyline and have taken care to ensure viewers were aware of the content in advance of transmission.

“We also provided actionline numbers at the end of each show, offering advice and support to those affected by the issues.”

EastEnders has a large built-in audience, and uses its primetime status to push the envelope when it comes to coverage of social issues on TV. The producers know that an ‘Enders storyline will attract a lot of media attention. Sometimes they use this to positive effect (provoking discussion about what it’s like to be a gay Muslim, for instance), but sometimes it’s sheer sensationalism.

Should soap opera’s prime directive be realism? Or entertainment? And under what category do you file a plot involving dead babies that sounds as though it’s ripped from a Victorian penny dreadful?

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