What the fuck is going on in Eastenders? Just watching the omnibus – it’s the first time in years I’ve seen it – and some Jesus freak has got a poor women locked up in a basement. What’s with that? Turns out he has been killing people too. “I’ve been chosen; I was the anointed one. I was going to lead us all out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land.” Not doing much to improve my already low opinion of the religious, Eastenders. Now he’s after a suicide pact. She is screaming ‘kill me’ and he is crying. Some other kid is worrying about his Jewish girlfriend, and thinking about getting circumcised cos ‘I really fancy her’. “You don’t wanna take the knife to the ol’ swizzle-stick,” warns his dad.
Dot explains “the church likes it when Black folks drop by, it makes them feel inclusive. I’m not sure what the Church of England has. It’s all about caring for the Third World and Homosexuals.”
Why is religion taking a central role in all the storylines? How long has this being going on for? I can only presume it’s got something to do with a weird BBC policy to pander to the religious; to push what should be a private matter, as far into public life as possible.
But if this is what they are playing at, seems like an odd way to do it. They are jumping between gentle mocking, and implicating religion in homicidal mania. My experience of Britain is that despite religion being established by the state and funded by the government at any opportunity, it actually plays a minor to non-existant role in the lives of most people. Perhaps the BBC is surreptitiously implying that religion is the driving force behind everything we do. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, based on my own preconceived ideas – imprinting my own ideas, and seeing patterns where there are none. Or perhaps it’s just a coincidence that all the storylines in the BBC’s flagship soap are all currently driven by religion.
Whatever is going on its resulted in some damn good drama! Perhaps it makes it easier to write good drama simply by using archetypes. Christians used pre-Christian archetypes to create the fiction of Jesus’ life. And since then the so-called greatest story ever told has been re-framed and re-used countless times. The King James Bible is as much a part of the English language as the works of Shakespeare, and quotes and references to it are an easy way of appearing deep and universal. They are also vast public domain sources of poetry, turns-of-phrase, intrigue, love and death. Useful references for any storyteller, especially ones who need to generate hours of weekly televised drama.