I’m feeling no sympathy here …

So, as I’ve said before, I kinda got into Coronation Street. And a recent storyline — or, at least, it’s recent for us Canadians — has demonstrated yet again one issue I have with the show: it’s seeming inability to portray sympathetic characters. In this case, it seems to me that the show tried so hard to create a villain in it that the storyline suffered. Or, at least, I dearly hope that they were trying to create a villain, because if they were all supposed to be sympathetic then I weep for the morality of jolly old England.

Anyway, the storyline was the Cheryl/Lloyd/Chris/Maria (kinda) square. To summarize as best I understand it, Cheryl and Chris were married, and had a child, but he was abusive, and so she left him. She ended up with Lloyd, and he ended up with Maria, who had a child from another relationship. Anyway, Chris was discovered to have a brain tumour, and as part of that moved out on Maria — for no real reason that I can see — and ended up staying with Lloyd and Cheryl and the child while he went through treatment, which pleased Lloyd to no end, as you might imagine. Chris then started trying to worm his way into Cheryl’s good graces and cause some problems between Cheryl and Lloyd, while using his tumour as an excuse when it was found out (ie “I forgot, but forgetting is part of the symptoms”). Towards the end of it, the treatment was successful and yet Chris was pretending that it wasn’t in order to keep living there, while still applying subtle manipulation on Cheryl and trying to rekindle that relationship. Eventually, he succeeded. Cheryl and Chris slept together and she found herself falling in love with him, while he was still lying to her. After a heartfelt discussion with Leanne over which of the two she wanted, Cheryl decided to choose the lying scumbag Chris over reliable, steady, and actually really nice Lloyd. Meanwhile, Lloyd found out that Chris was lying about the treatment, and when he confronted him about it in front of Cheryl Chris quite smugly decided that he had to know about them sleeping together. Lloyd then jumped to the erroneous conclusion that they were both lying to him and was quite reasonably upset, and that ended their relationship, presumably so that Chris and Cheryl can get back together for however long that will last.

Now, the problem with this is that:

  • The most sympathetic character in this and one of the few almost sympathetic characters on the whole show got screwed over big time by all of this, and by someone who was, in fact, lying through his teeth.
  • The guy who did lie through his teeth and that we now should all despise and that the show seemed to be trying really hard to get us to despise seems to have won, at least for now.
  • Cheryl looks like a naive idiot to fall back in love with Chris while he’s being manipulative and deceitful. If she finds out about this, there’s no way their relationship can continue.
  • And, in a case of Fridge Logic, we have no idea why Maria was tossed aside to set this up, and Maria at this point should have gained a lot of sympathy based on how she dealt with Carla’s rape.

So, by setting it up this way with an actual villain, the whole storyline leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and probably in most people’s. I don’t think anyone can say that this ended well, and there’s no way as far as I can see to go forward with this without us remembering what a jerk Chris is, in general. And it didn’t have to be this way. If they had set it up as a clash of sympathetic characters, then this would have worked out so much better and given them far more options going forward. Imagine if it was done this way:

Have Chris move in like he did, though giving a better reason than was given. Have him have an epiphany, where facing death really made him think about his priorities. Heck, do that first, and have him decide that he wants to spend as much time with his son as possible, and so this would just be more convenient. With this refocus on his child and on family, have him start thinking even more about what he’s lost, and about trying to regain that. Let Cheryl watch his bonding with his son and think about how happy being with his father makes her son, and then fall back in love with him. Things proceed pretty much as they did, except that Chris never really manipulates anyone nor does he lie about his treatment. They still have sex, and keep it from Lloyd. Cheryl has her heart-to-heart with Leanne, but now instead of us yelling at the screen that Chris is a jerk and being exasperated at Cheryl’s decision that Chris makes her feel more alive than Lloyd does we can see that there’s a real choice here, and a choice between two at least decent blokes. We then can strongly empathize and sympathize with her position, and feel the struggle along with her since in this case it isn’t clear which one is better. She then chooses Chris, Lloyd still finds out, and things proceed as before.

Again, this is a far better storyline. All of the problems I listed go away. Cheryl looks like a woman caught between two decent guys, good in their own way, and not like an idiot who’s being played by Chris. While Lloyd still gets screwed over, since Chris doesn’t look like a complete jerk we can sympathize with him and still appreciate his emotions without the additional anger. Maria gets put aside because of Chris’ attachment to his son. And now, they can either continue that relationship forward on that level and keep the epiphany, or have the epiphany wear off and Chris return to the ways that led her to break up with him in the first place if they don’t want that to happen. So, it’s a better storyline and provides more options for the future. Sounds like a better way to go, in my opinion.

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