Sunday 21 October 2018

Comment: Fair City had a real opportunity with its all-female episode, but the end product was just insulting

Some of Fair City’s female cast
Some of Fair City’s female cast
Niamh leaves her mark on Hayley

Sasha Brady

Its message was lost in a plot riddled with gender stereotypes.

On Wednesday night, Fair City broadcast an all-female episode to honour International Women's Day - a global movement where women and men take a stand for gender parity.

It was a nice idea for Fair City to get involved in the narrative of the day. Parking my cynicism for now, I could say that the show's bosses had hoped to get people talking about the movement. This all-female cast might raise some eyebrows. Get a conversation going.

But a conversation about what? Women backstabbing each other and fighting over a man?

Any substantial message Fair City had hoped to get across was lost in a plot that was riddled with gender stereotypes.

In case you missed it, during a lock-in at the pub, Niamh confronted Hayley over her affair with Carrigstown's resident love-rat, Paul.

Niamh leaves her mark on Hayley
Niamh leaves her mark on Hayley

A few insults were traded and then a smirking Hayley told Niamh that it wasn't her fault she "couldn't hang on to her man" and her cutting remark led to a slap across the face.

There was also a bit of female backstabbing as Carol threatened Niamh (the poor woman was getting it from all sides) she'd inform Paul that she'd been scheming against him.

I understand that Fair City is a soap. It has limited parameters in which it can educate and inform. Its purpose is to entertain. And the Niamh/Hayley/Paul love triangle has been ongoing for months (years?) so it was a natural progression of the plot to see it played out on Wednesday's episode.

But while I didn't expect RTE to stage a radical movement towards social change, it would have been nice to see some real issues addressed.

Why make a stand on International Women's Day if you're not going to tackle some of the urgent concerns facing women such as violence, harassment or workplace discrimination?

Fair City has a decent track record when it comes to dealing with sensitive issues. In the past it's handled issues like rape, incest and domestic violence rather well.

The storyline of domestic abuse, where the female was the aggressor, touched a nerve with many men suffering similar attacks at home. The disturbing plot, between characters Suzanne Halpin and husband Damien, resulted in a rise in calls to national helpline and support service Amen. It proved that soaps can inspire people to speak out.

And just last year the show was widely praised for tackling a difficult storyline on child abuse. It sparked a major conversation about the issue online. That was a major achievement. And it's something that could have been repeated in last night's episode.

Surely one of the women, after a stressful day in the office, could have mentioned the fact they're getting paid less than their male counterparts in between cocktail rounds at McCoy's? I wasn't asking for much. They were drinking all night. They could have talked about anything. So why not make it matter?

They had a chance to do something important and they ignored it. The whole thing felt like a cop-out. To ignore the real issues of International Women's Day while broadcasting an episode featuring an all-female cast was self-defeating.

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