Belfast Telegraph

EastEnders boss: Still a way to go over viewer reactions to same-sex romances

Kate Oates said she believes there is still a level of homophobia in society.

Kate Oates is BBC Studios’ head of continuing drama (Matt Crossick/PA)
Kate Oates is BBC Studios’ head of continuing drama (Matt Crossick/PA)

By Lucy Mapstone, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor

EastEnders boss Kate Oates has said she is looking forward to the day a same-sex kiss on a soap does not receive a single complaint from viewers.

Oates, BBC Studios’ head of continuing drama, said there is a lot of homophobia in society, and that she hopes the BBC One soap can be instrumental in changing that.

EastEnders is currently in the midst of a storyline around the secret romance between Callum Highway (Tony Dean) and Ben Mitchell (Max Bowden), despite Callum’s relationship with Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty).

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Ben Mitchell, Whitney Dean and Callum Highway (BBC / Kieron McCarron)

Same-sex romances are becoming increasingly prominent in mainstream serial dramas across the board, and have continued to do so since EastEnders aired the first homosexual kiss on a soap opera in the late 1980s.

The BBC received a record number of complaints and the press largely reacted negatively when Colin Russell, the soap’s first gay character, kissed Barry Clark on the forehead.

More than 30 years on, Oates said that there are still “so many obstacles and obstructions already built-in with a same-sex relationship because not all of society is accepting”.

Oates told RadioTimes.com: “There’s a paradox there because one of the things that makes viewers root for the couple and makes the story compelling is actually the thing we’re trying to change – the fact that there’s still so much prejudice.

“There’s still so much homophobia in our society, and we’re glad to use our voice to try and change that.”

She added: “I’m looking forward to the day when a same-sex kiss can be shown on a mainstream soap and the duty log receives zero complaints – because then we’ll be in a much better place as a society.”

Thursday’s episode of EastEnders saw Callum lash out at Ben as he continued to struggle with his feelings towards Ben ahead of his wedding to Shona.

EastEnders continues on BBC One.

PA

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