Monday 23 October 2017

We may never again get to share a soap storyline as good as Hayley's poignant farewell to Corrie

The character bowed out in a controversial right-to-die storyline, after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
The character bowed out in a controversial right-to-die storyline, after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

AS she drank the lethal concoction that would end her life last night, the death of Coronation Street's Hayley Anne Cropper marked the end for Hayley and Roy, the last of the great soap couples.

The character bowed out in a controversial right-to-die storyline, after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

Corrie has always led the way with its brilliant soap pairings, including Hilda and Stanley Ogden, Jack and Vera Duckworth, and Ken and Deirdre Barlow.

In fairness, other soaps had them too -- honourable mentions must go to Eastenders' Den and Angie, Glenroe's Biddy and Miley and Fair City's Bela and Rita. They were all funny, feisty and daft as brushes -- killing each other one minute and devoted to each other the next.

But Roy and Hayley? They were special, for this Corrie fan at least.

Hayley Patterson, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh, was introduced to us in 1998 as a shy shop supervisor, who became friends with David Neilson's socially awkward, Roy Cropper.

Hapless cafe owner Roy was a bit of a joke character at that time, and the original idea was to further the gag by sending him on a series of disastrous dates, culminating in him falling in love with Hayley, who was revealed to be the UK's first pre-operative male-to-female transgender character. It was a very tasteless idea, but by the time they were married in a blessing ceremony in 1999, following Hayley's sex reassignment surgery, they had become one of soap's best-loved couples.

In true soap fashion, the pair went through a series of disastrous and implausible events, but these paled in comparison to the right-to-die storyline that had so many of us blubbering into our pyjama sleeves last night.

It's a storyline that has been a talking point for months. Soaps may be fictional but they mirror situations that are happening daily in real life, and have successfully brought about real changes in attitude and thinking.

As Hayley, dressed in her famous red anorak, touchingly said her goodbyes to the people she loved, I couldn't understand how anyone could stand in the way of someone deciding to bring their misery to an end under similar circumstances.

Or how anyone could judge someone based on their gender or sexual preferences.

Soaps have always been a shared experience, providing many watercooler moments and talking points. They are an endangered species though, with viewing patterns indicating that we are now veering towards watching TV at our own time and pace.

I regularly hear people talking about how many episodes of Breaking Bad they watched in one day. In an age of Netflix, on-demand TV and box sets the shared experience of watching something together is waning.

With our increasing demand for instant gratification, you have to wonder whether, in five years time, if we will all have the patience to sit around the TV at 7.30pm for the latest instalment of a dramatic storyline?

That would be a pity because -- if it comes to pass -- we will lose the unity that comes with collectively going on a character's emotional journey. We may no longer get to know people like Roy and Hayley, the uncool yet hugely loved duo who taught us that while prejudice is a blight on the human condition, love can conquer everything.

Rest in peace, Hayley, and thank you for that lesson.

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