Do soaps, such as Corrie and Emmerdale, promote vigilantism and/or evading criminal justice?

by Lynn Connolly

Earlier today, I was reading an interview in which Coronation Street star Andrew Lancel discussed his character Frank Foster, and the forthcoming rape trial storyline, with the Daily Star

It has of course been widely speculated it the press that there have been two endings filmed for the rape trial outcome; one in which Frank is found guilty, and one in which he’s not guilty and walks away a free man.

Andrew told the paper, “During the trial you will see him really twist the knife. He appears vulnerable in the stand and even gets a bit teary…

“But, as everyone knows, there is something deep inside him that one day needs to be sorted out – and, trust me, it will be.

“Everyone knows he raped Carla and he shouldn’t get off. As an actor you have to justify him but he’s a monstrous character.”

Before it was announced that two outcomes had been filmed, rumour had it that Frank would be found not guilty, but by way of comeuppance, the rapist would be murdered by a Street resident later this year…

And it all got me thinking about whether our soap operas are, rather subtly, promoting vigilantism, or if by seemingly letting criminals escape the justice system, but later having them get some kind of ‘payback’, they’re just reflecting real life?

Because of course, as unpalatable as it is, in real life, criminals do often walk free when pretty much everybody is convinced of their guilt. Take the OJ Simpson case for example.

And if Frank is found not guilty – when we of course know he did in fact rape Carla Connor (Alison King) – is his pending murder his ‘payback’ or comeuppance for his crime? And if so, is it agreeable or acceptable to murder someone for being a rapist?

I should at this point mention that I am – reasonably – sane, and do of course realize that soaps are fiction, not real life, and therefore aren’t to be taken literally. But that said, I have always believed that TV in all its forms does have a subliminal effect on viewers, however subtle, so I don’t think we can dismiss such issues in such popular shows.

But moving on, you might also recall that several years ago, Carl King (Tom Lister) murdered his dad Tom (Ken Farrington) by pushing him out of window on his wedding day. And of course, he’s never faced prosecution or indeed, anything resembling a vigilante reprisal for his crime. Not yet anyway.

More recently, it was revealed that Zak Dingle (Steve Halliwell) was the attacker who left Cain Dingle (Jeff Hordley) for dead. And again, as yet, there’s no sign of justice being administered, unless you count Zak being somewhat marginalized and tut-tutted at by the villagers who know what he did.

So, what do you think? Should soaps always but always see criminals getting criminal justice – not vigilante justice – or is fair and appropriate to reflect the real-life fact that many criminals do evade official justice?

Let us know!

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.