Hollyoaks star says there is ‘no place’ for ‘tired’ LGBTQ+ caricatures
LGBTQ+ representation is incredibly important, and — with soaps mirroring real life — they’ve always been somewhat ahead of the curve.
Hollyoaks has been home to some incredible LGBTQ+ characters over the years, and to celebrate Metro.co.uk Pride Week, we chatted to actress Annie Wallace — who portrays Sally St Claire — about the importance of such representation.
How important is it for soaps to have representation of LGBTQ+ characters?
Over the last 50 years, LGBTQ+ people have felt more and more able, very gradually, to live their lives free from legal issues, and social stigma. Soaps hold a mirror to life, albeit through the medium of drama, rather than documentary.
LGBTQ+ people appreciate seeing their lives represented onscreen and as such validated. It can help hugely with confidence and mental health too. Celebrating our differences is an important job for soaps to tackle.
It’s a slow process, but with characters like Beth Jordache (Brookside), Colin Russell (EastEnders), Hayley Cropper (Coronation Street), Matty Barton (Emmerdale) and Grace Black (Hollyoaks, of course!) the door gets pushed open a little further each time, and once it’s open, the door is coming off it’s hinges.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, do you feel Hollyoaks shows positive examples of representation?
Positivity comes in many forms. Hollyoaks shows every character’s features and flaws without dilution.
LGBTQ+ people are neither gods nor devils, but human beings, with all our morals and foibles intact. This honesty is INHERENTLY positive, as it is truthful and believable.
Is there more that can be done in the TV industry to improve representation?
Yes, definitely. Some TV dramas are still portraying LGBTQ+ people in narrow, stereotypical ways; trans people especially.
Employing more LGBTQ+ people behind the scenes can help this greatly, as it avoids the pitfalls at story level. BAME LGBTQ+ are especially under-represented and there’s work under way to address that, at last…
How do you normally celebrate Pride?
By going to as many as possible! Learning from the talks and the stalls, joining my community in the parades, campaigning for justice and social rights, meeting loads of like-minded people and their families, and, of course, celebrating our diversity.
How important is it to have LGBTQ+ characters whose sole focus isn’t constantly their sexuality?
Tired LGBTQ+ caricatures from the past have no place in the present. Hollyoaks avoids these cliches by making sexuality or gender a PART of a character’s identity, not one which defines them.
This makes a character three-dimensional and believable, rather then a mere token or vehicle to carry a storyline. Character longevity is important too, to continue the dialogue and show many aspects of a character’s life. We all change as we grow up… LGBTQ+ people too.
Hollyoaks continues Monday 29 June at 7pm on E4. Hollyoaks Favourites resumes Wednesday at 7pm on E4, and find out which classic instalments are on offer next week here.
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