Many Soap characters take an extended break – either to cover a real life pregnancy, personal crisis, or simply as an opportunity to just recharge their batteries after an extremely protracted storyline.
Last night saw the departure of Coronation Street’s Carla Connor for a four-month break, and – boy – does she deserve it.
Having been viciously raped by fellow factory owner (and fiancée) Frank Foster, Carla not only lost her Court case against him but was also placed under suspicion for his subsequent murder. Carla sunk into a depression and found herself increasingly drawn to alcoholic bookie Peter Barlow.
They eventually began an affair which not only destroyed his marriage, but led to a bitter custody battle with ex-wife Leanne over their son Simon. Determined to get his own way – as usual – Peter removed Simon from school and attempted to leave the Country without Leanne’s knowledge.
Things didn’t quite go to plan though, and it came down to the little lad having to make a choice between his parents on the concourse of Manchester’s Piccadilly station. He chose his mum, so Peter and Carla boarded a train to Southampton on the first part of their journey to go and sail a boat around the Atlantic.
“Just another dramatic Soap exit,” you might think, but what’s unusual about this storyline is the incredible outpouring of grief from WOMEN … not at the loss of Peter, but of Carla.
Not since the days when teenagers swooned over Kylie and Jason in Neighbours has a Soap character evoked such passion, but Carla Connor’s not some teenage heartthrob; she’s a 37-year-old knicker factory owner from Weatherfield.
Is there a twist to this tale?
Twitter’s been buzzing for weeks with tweets from Carla’s hugely devoted fan base of mostly ‘straight’ women who openly talk of their love and devotion to both Carla Connor and the actress who plays her.
In an age where ‘lipstick lesbianism’ is big news in the media (and lesbian couples grace the front cover of many a newspaper or magazine), it’s not surprising that so many women feel completely at ease in tweeting about their feelings towards the stunningly-attractive actress Alison King.
What’s curious here though is that Carla Connor (a normally emotionally cold character) behaves in a far more relaxed way with her sister-in-law Michelle than would be expected of any straight woman, and the pair of them are always extremely tactile towards each other.
Since the iconic ‘Brookside kiss‘ in 1993 lesbians have only played a minor role in British Soap Operas. It was Coronation Street which gave us our first ‘real’ lesbian couple in 2010 when teenage friends Sophie and Sian began a relationship which culminated in Sian fleeing the church (and leaving the show) on their wedding day, having discovered that Sophie had kissed another girl.
Fifty Shades of Grey has taken the world by storm, but there’s also a huge body of ‘straight’ women who are clearly attracted to feminine-looking women, which is something the media (with the exception of the women’s fiction market currently) uses to its advantage at every opportunity.
Although Emmerdale currently have a lesbian couple (Ruby and Ali), their relationship is very low-key, so will Coronation Street capitalise on the chemistry between this pair and bring us our first grown-up ‘lipstick lesbian’ relationship when Carla returns in November?
Jane Reynolds is the author of the lesbian/chick-lit novel “Just Good Friends?” and writer of the weekly Soapy Corner Soap blogs. Her website is www.janereynolds.co.uk