Shame on you Eastenders

15 Jan

I had dinner last night with friends and, as the only mum at the table, someone asked me what I thought of the current baby-death-swap storyline in Easterners. Eastenders is my dirty addiction. I’ve tried for years to wean myself away from the depression and tragedy that constantly looms in ‘The Square’. There have been periods in my life where I haven’t been able to watch it; when I was living in japan (though I’m sure if iplayer had existed then, my viewing wouldn’t have been interrupted) and during last summer, when we travelled Europe in the camper van. On return to normal life, I swore I wasn’t going to get involved with it again, but the Ryan / Stacey storyline sucked me in.

On Christmas day, the fellow-fans in my family (it’s evenly split, which causes some problems) gathered around the TV to watch Stacey’s farewell episode. The whole thing left me feeling angry, frustrated and depressed. Why can’t the script writers let their characters have a little happiness? When something starts going right for someone, you know their life is going to be pulled into turmoil in the very near future.

After the episode, my sister announced the storyline for the New Year; I couldn’t believe they would take it that far. No sane person would write such a harrowing story. But alas, my sister was right and on New Year ’s Day, Ronnie’s brand new baby died of SIDs (sudden infant death syndrome), or cot death as it is commonly known. This is a horrific story in itself, but they decided to take it to twisted levels far beyond the normal person’s imagination. Ronnie snuck into The Vic and swapped her lifeless baby with Cat’s brand new baby (who happened to be born on the same day, and was wearing the exact same outfit!). UNBELIEVABLE – and I’m not talking about the outfit part.

As a relatively new mum the fear of SIDs (sudden infant death syndrome) is still very fresh in my mind. Before the birth of your child, you are handed leaflet upon leaflet with information on the ‘dos and the don’ts’ to avoid cot death: put them to sleep on their backs, never let them overheat, don’t smoke around them. However, the reality is that no one really knows the cause and it’s hard to get your head around the fact that there are still hundreds of seemingly healthy babies in the UK dying suddenly without explanation.

The anxiety of knowing that your healthy baby could just not wake up could very easily consume a new mum. I certainly remember getting up regularly in the night to check Toby was still breathing. I still do sometimes; it sounds neurotic, but I don’t think I am alone in this. Had I watched this story unravel when Toby was first born, it would have instilled even more terror in me.

Eastenders has taken things way too far this time. The BBC had the opportunity to really raise awareness of SIDs and actually help the cause, but instead it has taken an utterly insensitive and overly sensationalist approach to a very, very important issue. Eastenders – never again will I watch you. You have lost a loyal fan.

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