“I don’t agree about the Steve storyline. Bad idea to make a funny character depressing. Boring when soaps get all worthy…”
The idea of this blog originally came from me receiving the above reply, a week or two ago on Twitter. It comes from a tweet I sent to a friend regarding the Steve McDonald storyline in Coronation Street at the moment. Now, I should make it clear that this is a friend who I really like and usually agree with almost everything they say, on this occasion however I could not have disagreed more!
As a lifelong Corrie fan, I’ve almost always found the Steve McDonald character(played by Simon Gregson) a really enjoyable one to watch. Like many long standing fans of ‘The Street’, I’ve grown up watching Steve McDonald quite literally grow up in the show. At first he was seen squabbling and getting into lots of scrapes with his twin brother Andy, later as a grown up man we saw his turbulent relationship struggles with the so called ‘love of his life’ Becky, and then in recent years we’ve seen him mature into a mini Lord Alan Sugar owning two businesses on ‘The Street’. Throw in a night of passion with sour mouth Tracey Barlow that resulted in them having a child together, as well as having a Dad who tried robbing a Building Society and you could say as viewers we’ve seen Steve go through rather a lot. Latterly, Steve McDonald has developed into a funny comedy character. For example, in 2014 Simon Gregson won a Soap Award for Best Comedy Performance for his portrayal as Steve. Corrie does humour far better than any other UK Soap Opera in my opinion.
Nevertheless, regarding the recent Steve McDonald storylines his comic side has been on the decline in recent times. Yes I found it hilarious when he somehow inadvertently got involved in spending the night with Peter Barlow in a B & B(Peter falling off the wagon and admitting his affair with Tina to a horrified Steve), but even before this I can remember him having a birthday and revealing how fed up he was with his lot in life to girlfriend Michelle. It is in the latter months especially where we have seen Steve’s inner turmoil gain greater significance and prominence in the show. He currently comes across like a tortured soul who has the weight of the world on his shoulders. The ending of his relationship with Michelle was due to low self worth and I’m assuming he went completely over-the-top with the Christmas celebrations due it being a form of avoidance. By this I mean it made him focus on something pleasant, rather than say how sad and depressed he was really feeling deep down inside. Another example of this was him spending a fortune on a banger of a car, again a distraction from how retched he really felt I’m guessing. His mental inner turmoil reached a peak when during the New Year Eve celebrations he was seen sobbing in a darkened room all by himself
As viewers we saw Steve’s feelings and behaviour get diagnosed as depression, when he finally plucked up enough courage to go and see his local GP about it all. He was then supposed to tell his Mum about it and I can remember seeing him have one failed attempt at this. Given he told Andrea(played by Hayley Tamaddon) when quizzed that he was suffering from a private physical rather than mental health problem, then I’m pretty certain he did this out of embarrassment. Embarrassment because mental health issues still carry a stigma out there in society. How come I know this you may ask, because I’ve suffered with mental health issues since I was fifteen years old. I have watched this storyline in Corrie and thought to myself many times that I indeed feel like a real life Steve McDonald at the moment. ie depressed, worthless and low self esteem.
Back to the quote at the top then. My friend is against this ‘Steve McDonald depression’ storyline because they don’t like it when soaps/programmes get ‘all holier than thou’. Given what I’ve just said in the last paragraph about me feeling there still is a societal stigma out there attached to mental health illnesses, then I instead applaud Coronation Street for focusing on such a subject matter. There can’t be enough television programmes that highlight the harrowing plight and immense suffering of mental health illnesses in my view. Only with greater public awareness will more and more people feel confident about openly discussing their own mental health difficulties. If this storyline in Corrie gets the media talking more about mental health issues in the public arena, further educating the uneducated, then it will have been worth it. Furthermore, even this if storyline just gets ONE more mental health sufferer to finally reach out and seek help, then it will have been a worthwhile exercise by the producers.
Regarding stigma of mental health, it is only within the last twelve months that have I felt brave enough to start blogging about my issues. I guess being a perfectionist I want people to see me as being perfect, especially girls. I am still hesitant and embarrassed even now talking about my mental health demons. I don’t want to be laughed at,nor seen as a ‘nutter’, or a girl I really fancy to run a mile once I mention it to her. The reaction I’ve had to my blogs and openly discussing my mental health illness, has I’m pleased to say so far all been positive. They have all admonished me for me saying that I feel embarrassed admitting to people I have a mental health problem. I view my depression and OCD as just one part of me. Ultimately, it is not who I solely am and I guess I worry the uninitiated will not realise this, there is so much more to me as a person than this. I do think mental health stigma is getting less but it still exists in my opinion. Can you imagine a group of so called ‘macho men’ all going to the pub together and them openly discussing how depressed they were all feeling over a few beers………..nope neither can I? Yet there is a much higher chance they would chat about one of them having an achy back, or one of them suffering from a pulled muscle from playing rugby at the weekend.
This is why the depiction of Steve McDonald feeling and being depressed is such a good thing to welcome in my opinion. It can only work to engender more open talk about mental health issues and especially from male victims of it. It has not been a flawless depiction of a mental health illness but so far in the main I think it has been well done…….. the programme NEED PRAISING, RATHER THAN SCORNING FOR ITS EFFORTS!!