Wednesday, 23 July 2008

in spiked July 18

Patrick West
Hollyoaks and the madness of the TV nutterMentally ill people are very rarely dangerous - so why do soap operas so often portray them as homicidal maniacs?

Are the makers of Hollyoaks mad, or what? The popular Channel 4 soap opera – popular, that is, with teenagers, hungover students and TV reviewers who really should know better – is currently running a story about a teenager with schizophrenia. And the programme, like so many soaps that venture to address this issue, is perpetuating the notion that all people with this condition are dangerous nutcases with quite literally split personalities.

The current storyline features a troubled ‘emo’-type lad called Newt (played by Nico Mirallegro) who is constantly pestered by an ex-Army, anti-capitalist fundamentalist ‘friend’ called Eli (Marc Silcock), who persuades him to steal, plant bombs, and generally torments him. ‘Eli’ appears to him when he is troubled. But only to him. This is because ‘Eli’ does not exist. He is a figment of Newt’s disturbed imagination. As will be confirmed next month on Hollyoaks, this is because Newt is clinically schizophrenic. And of course, as night follows day in TV world, he is a dangerous one."