Thursday, 22 November 2007

"No One's Gay Round Here": The Street

The BBC is currently showing the second series of the series 'The Street'. Tonight's episode focused on the character of Charlie. The BBC summarises the programme as:

Charlie, a demolition man (Vincent Regan), is going to work away, leaving wife Roz at home with their teenage kids, Luke and Leah.

At the end of a gruelling day, Charlie retires to the room that he’s sharing with fellow worker, Tom (Will Mellor). Charlie is woken when Tom tries to get into bed with him. Affronted by Tom's actions, Charlie states that he’s straight.

The next day Charlie attempts to change hotel rooms, but it’s not an option, and so he’s stuck with Tom. That evening, Tom tries his luck again, and Charlie doesn't resist his advances. Will he be able to come to terms with what's happening to him?

The programme was significant TV for a number of reasons. It was the first time that a prime time UK TV series focused on a working class man confronting questions of sexuality. It did not seek to pigeon hole the character as gay/straight/bisexual. Instead, it sought to open up the question, raise of issues of how an individual comes to define their sexuality and as one might expect with the series, the question of class.

On numerous occasions, I've thought the series shows working class in way in a dramatic way that Coronation might still do if it was more like the original 1960s series. The series was perhaps too sweeping in its portrayal of working class views of sexuality but that said the character was not a 19 year old surrounded by his peers, but rather a 30 odd year old wondering who and "what" he is.

Incidentally, I'm fairly sure (though I wouldn't put big money on it!) that the toilets in which Charlie is assaulted is 'Hollywood' where a few of us ended up in Manchester during the field trip. The Manchester bar scenes were also interesting to see queer perfromativity in action. The character of Tom (played by the tattooed and seductive Will Mellor) undergoes a transformation between the scenes as builder on site, private bedroom and the gay bar itself.

Essentially the programme leaves the viewer with a central question: what is it to be non (hetero)sexual in the working class north today? It cuts beyond the politics driven agenda of the middle class campaign groups like Stonewall or the ideology driven activists and seeks to challenge those groups just as it does the working class viewers watching the series.

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