Coronation Street has a well established history of strong women whose talk, camaraderie and resilience springs from its very foundation. An organic offshoot of such female representation has proven to be the beleaguered male; never too far from a telling off, apparently unable to get anything right despite his best efforts, getting away with what he can when he can, and usually to comic effect.
Names such as Stan Ogden and Jack Duckworth immediately spring to mind, but what of the current men of Coronation Street?
Courtesy of a recent set of Friday episodes, we were presented with a window on how men are perceived by some contemporary Corrie women. The double episode of the 9th of August opened with Sally and Gail strolling along the street, the former complaining about Tim putting fun ahead of work, and the latter offering the following observation:
“The problem is that most men are on the laziness spectrum. Top end’s lying on the settee all day watching re-runs of Bullseye and eating last night’s kebab, and well, the bottom end is just leaving the lid off the coffee jar, that sort of thing. I think it’s just inherent in men, laziness.”
It wasn’t necessarily laziness that saw the men of that Friday’s Corrie fall foul of its women, but nevertheless, they were undoubtedly playing second fiddle.
Nick learned that Robert was the new chef at the Bistro by finding him behind the bar, already working. Hired by Leanne, Nick had no say in the matter, and tried to exert some belated authority by introducing a trial period which all three knew held no weight. Nor did Nick offer much in the way of advice or encouragement during Carla’s intervention. In a subsequent episode it took Erica to break up with him even though he’d slept with Carla.
We had Michael at the behest of Eileen and Gail, flitting between them like a pawed mouse as he attempted, failed and was caught breaking into Barlow’s Buys. As if his situation couldn’t have been any more dismal, his tool of choice was a spatula.
And while Tony has proven himself worthy of anyone’s fear, there was little he could do as an undaunted Liz stamped his flowers into the concrete outside Roy’s with a determined stiletto. We also later saw Tracy move Robert into number one with no regard for Ken who was powerless to intervene.
Perhaps the most hen-pecked of all is Tyrone who appears to be getting it from all angles of late. If Fiz isn’t berating him or fighting his battles for him, he’s under pressure from Kevin at the garage despite having an equal share, and the recent camping holiday saw him completely emasculated by alpha-male Dougie. He wasn’t the only one, but appeared to be particularly singled out for ridicule as he attempted to assert his manhood, and failed miserably.
Poor Kirk is also well used to being on the receiving end of a scolding courtesy of Beth, and as he skipped behind her through the woods, attempting to keep up while she relentlessly berated him for getting them lost, he too secured his place in the ever burgeoning Corrie catalogue of mithered men, joining other existing characters such as Steve, Dev and Tim.
While persistently making little of men is no laughing matter, and is not an activity I engage in, I think what makes it work in Corrie is the manner in which the stories are portrayed and performed. While we can sympathise with the women some of the time, these men have often been victims of ladies who aren’t always in the right, and we are encouraged to align ourselves with the men, and celebrate and share in their triumphs, enjoying their antics as much as they do. Indeed, you sometimes get the impression that they wouldn’t have it any other way.
With the exception of the very serious and aptly portrayed domestic abuse storyline between Tyrone and Kirsty, for the most part, instances of mithering have generally consisted of light hearted additions to storylines, or subplots which have humour at their core. What is essential is that there are plenty more male characters who don’t find themselves mithered, and enough women who don’t engage in talking them down to redress the balance and counter the erroneous perception that ‘all men are the same’. I did feel that Steve’s past treatment at the hands of Michelle and Liz overstepped the mark, and was glad to see this remedied.
Another positive element is that the hen-pecked are given the opportunity to assert themselves, as last Friday’s Corrie demonstrated in two ways. Firstly, the opening dialogue saw Steve roundly discredit Michelle’s arrogant assertion that Aidan wasn’t used to intelligent female conversation with the line “Yeah, I often have chats about renaissance art with Beth Tinker”.
Secondly, when Mary declared cut flowers to be “a time honoured pathetic male gesture,” Tim taking the bunch home as an apology to Sally affirmed her assertion. But it also interestingly succeeded in diffusing it. Tim may have skipped out on cutting the grass in favour of a lark about at an art class, but he was thinking of Sally nevertheless, and seized an opportunity to soften her anticipated anger with something he knew she would like.
We didn’t see the scene, but such is the quality of the characters that we can easily imagine it play out in our heads; an initially furious Sally mildly chides him with a twinkle in her eye at the sight of the bouquet before picking her best designer vase to proudly display her floral surprise while Tim reclines happily on the sofa cracking open a beer and wondering what’s for tea.
As above, there are plenty of male characters who aren’t actively harangued by women. Kevin, Jason, Sean, Billy, Callum, Lloyd, Gary, Roy and Zeedan, for example, are all well capable of asserting themselves when necessary.
While I enjoy the balanced comedy which arises from beleaguered males and scolding females, I also like to see men strongly represented. I enjoyed Tony avenging his son, I pitied Jason as he experienced the indignity of talking about being beaten up from his hospital bed, I like Kevin’s new found entrepreneurship and Lloyd’s decision to reject Andrea. Aidan is also shaping up to be a very positive addition to the male cast.
But whatever happens, there is no denying that the poor hen-pecked Corrie male, who is of such long standing and has provided many hours of entertainment, will continue to be found sneaking off to the Rovers for the apocryphal ‘swift half’ for many years to come.