If theres one television show everyone in the UK should be watching for an accurate, well research depiction of the issues facing our society right now then its Hollyoaks. By tackling storylines head on including footballer abuse, self harm, eating disorders, mental illness and depression, the show continues to impact its audience, particularly those of the younger demographic – aka our future.
The country and indeed the world is in very uncertain and almost unchartered territory right now. Some in power are seemingly exploiting their positions of power to further the benefits of the rich and make what were once extreme views more normalised. Platforms of social media and the mantra of freedom of speech are being used to spout any uneducated and unresearched view that comes to ones head. As a result, young people in particular are at more risk than ever of being groomed or manipulated into believing things that simply arent true.
Far right movements are on the up – figures such as Tommy Robinson claim to speak for the people and fight for the country when all that is happening is that we are isolating ourselves further and further from everyone else in the world while creating atmospheres of hatred, judgement and fear.
More often than not, those on social media arent even aware that they are absorbing and sharing false propaganda designed to stir up hatred against immigrants or Muslims or the trans community – no minority community is immune from the memes shared on Facebook, many of which are blatantly false or misleading.
We all have relatives and friends who will take anything they read on social media as gospel and then be filled with an outrage they neednt have. Radicalisation is something rarely tackled on televison and the story of a Muslim youngster being groomed into Islamic terror groups is something that has been shown, addressed and discussed in the past. It would serve little benefit to address this again and further arm the stereotype that Islam and terrorism are in any way similar. Of course, this isnt to say that this does not go on – it does and rightly it needs addressed – but it is not the only form of extremism in existence.
Hollyoaks have poured their resources into portraying another variation of the same worrying issue in the UK. With far right extremism on the rise and the political terrain particularly in the UK and the US creating more divisions than ever, the timing for this could not have been better.
Ste Hay, played brilliantly by the layered and well nuanced Kieron Richardson, is by no means an angel and never has been. But he is arguably the soaps most vulnerable young man, having been through many situations – some of his own creation, some not – and it was when he was at his lowest ebb that he was targeted as the poster boy of a far right group in the show.
What was a fascinating watch was exactly how the far right operate to successfully and terrifyingly convince people of their stance and get them on board. It took an explosion almost killing his neighbour to wake Ste up to the reality that everything he was being fed was leading to acts of violence and hate – and by then, he was in so deep that the de-radicalisation process is going to be complex, confusing and frightening for him.
Hollyoaks worked with organisations such as Small Steps to examine exactly who can be targeted by the far right and why. As touched upon well by other shows such as Ackley Bridge, those in poverty or with difficult home lives are particularly vulnerable. They have plenty of reasons to be angry – but are not necessarily aware of a healthy outlet for their justified sense of injustice and fury.
We watched the slow process of Ste being befriended, accepted, treated by and made to feel like he had a sense of belonging by the chilling Jonny and Stuart – played without fault by the astonishingly good Ray Quinn and Chris Simmons.
They wanted a gay man to be a representative of their group in order to broaden their reach as the far right thrive on publicity – so much so that they even exploited their own arrests for a video opportunity. One of their angles was making Ste believe that all Muslims hate LGBT people, when in actual fact the most homophobia we actually saw was from Jonny himself.
They played on his emotions, turning his grief over the death of his sister into anger towards the Maalik family – who have become a much loved heart of the Hollyoaks community. It has been chilling to watch Ste turn from an accepting and much loved local into a hate filled thug but his representation has already led to some in the UK seeing some of their own behaviour in him and seeking help.
And once again, Hollyoaks has shown its true power. Portrayals such as this save lives and counteract the messages of hate which are a constant flow on sociRead More – Source