UK soap Hollyoaks premiered 20 years ago, growing into a television touchstone with a revolving cast and sometimes hysterically overwrought melodrama.
One thing the show has not skimped on (especially over the last decade) is gay representation, with same-sex romance and hot button issues (gay domestic violence, homophobia) a large part of the landscape.
The show’s gay visibility was first noticed internationally eight years ago, when legacy character John Paul McQueen struggled with his sexuality, eventually came out, and began a relationship with best friend Craig.
After Craig left, the show hit its stride with J.P taking up with a hot smoldering young priest named Kieron, which began one of its greatest storylines, involving J.P.’s evil secret brother, who offed Father Kieron with – wait for it – poisoned beer.
RELATED: Hollyoaks Update: Farewell Camille
After that heartbreaking anguish, J.P. left the show, with he and Craig getting a literal sunset ending. It was one of TV’s most memorable gay moments.
The show has continued to present its gay characters front and center, with J.P. returning in 2012, and the character of Ste (and the actor who plays him, Kieron Richardson) coming out and enduring a violent relationship with the abusive Brendon.
More recently, J.P. and Ste improbably fell in love and then broke up. Ste was then diagnosed with HIV and took up with a 17-year-old named Harry, who was a student in teacher J.P.’s class. (It’s just drama, drama, drama with these gays.)
But all of this inclusion has taken its toll on Hollyoaks executive producer Bryan Kirkwood, who tells the The Daily Star “We get told off all the time for being too gay and having too many gay characters. I don’t think you can be too gay, frankly. The idea that people object to two boys kissing is really bizarre to me.”
When you compare what European shows like Hollyoaks are doing with American soap operas, it’s pretty appalling. Gays on U.S. daytime dramas are either nonexistent (the CBS soaps), barely there (ABC’s General Hospital) or purged (NBC’s Days of Our Lives).
As controversial as some of Hollyoaks’ gay storylines are, at least their gay characters exist.
Here’s the latest sample of what Hollyoaks has to offer. In a recent episode Ste and the now 18-year-old Harry were caught snogging by the latter’s dad – who told Ste “Everyone you’ve ever been in a relationship with has had their lives ruined by you!”
It’s funny cause it’s true. Enjoy the soapy goodness.