LAST night, a transsexual committed suicide. Not only did it happen on Coronation Street, a soap, but the mainstream audience was distraught: this was one universally loved transsexual. 10 million tuned in to watch her slip away.
Hayley Cropper (Julie Hesmondhalgh) has been dying from terminal pancreatic cancer since last year, and as her illness progressed, she worried that she'd start to lose control and lapse back into being Harold, the man she once was. So Hayley decided that when things got really bad, she'd take control and end things on her terms. That moment came on Monday night (ITV, 9pm).
Hayley is a rare thing in soap these days, a genuinely lovely frump who's embarrassed by confrontation and nastiness, who would never have a tawdry affair, or have drunk slanging matches in the Rovers. She was a moral compass.
The actual moment of Hayley's death is genuinely shocking, a real punch in the guts, stripped of sentiment or melodrama. It's brutal, visceral; she takes a desperate gulp of a huge glass of meds and chokes. Her beloved Roy puts his hand out to help, but she bats it away, and keeps gulping. The camera abruptly jerks away from observing the act, mimicking the audience, many of whom will have averted their eyes. It's a truly awful moment of real life horror, and that's how it should be.
Not everyone watches soaps. Some people think it's beneath them, presumably preferring to watch more worthy things like BBC Parliament, or the opera. (Fewer still have an interest in transexuals.) But there's room for soap, and the opera. Hayley Cropper's death is a reward for those of us who do watch soap operas. It delivers the kind of impact you can only get from investing in a character not just for years, but for decades. The pared back production style still favoured by most British soap (except for the gaudy Hollyoaks) leaves all the work to the actors and the writers. There's no elaborate direction with fast cuts, or intrusive background music to distract us. Coronation Street and EastEnders have their faults (most of which can be put down to network demands for bigger and more frequent explosive stunts) but when they're at the top of their game, nothing else on TV - on either side of the Atlantic - comes close.
> Gay man killed, and his husband critically injured in high rise Manhattan fire. 27-year-old Daniel McClung and 32-year-old Michael Todd Cohen were found in a stairwell near the 31st floor of The Strand condominium.
> Openly gay New York philanthropist Robert W. Wilson commits suicide. "A friend suggested that he jump into the courtyard of his apartment — a 'beloved, art-filled, $20 million-plus apartment overlooking Central Park' that he considered 'his refuge from a sometimes unfriendly city' — so that he wouldn't land on anyone. He apparently took her advice."
> London Mayor Boris Johnson's call for water cannon shows a contempt for the people. "Further evidence that police and government see the public as little more than dirt to be cleansed from the streets."
||| RUSSIA: The powerful Orthodox Church is demanding a public vote on banning. Meanwhile, Orthodox Deacon Andrei Kurayev claims he has been sacked as a professor at the Moscow Theological Academy for speaking out against what he says is a powerful "gay lobby" within the Church.
||| RUSSIA: Arkady Gyngazov, the manager of Central Station - Moscow's biggest gay club - seeks asylum in the U.S.
> UGANDA: "I write these words with a heavy heart, an inability to understand nor comprehend the actions of the Ugandan Parliament, and a sense of depression, following my rejoicing in response to the accomplishments of Nelson Mandela," writes Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell. "I share this as an 80-year-old African-American who was active in the Civil Rights Movement, as a Christian, and as one who had the honor and joy of being a participant in the film Love Heals Homophobia."
< Looking back at the art of Hugh Steers. "Painting in a spare style reminiscent of the American Regionalism painters of the '20s and '30s, Hugh Steers renders the mood surrounding AIDS in the '80s and '90s."
< Armistead Maupin calls time on his San Francisco chronicles.
|||Talking to Sean Strub - gay activist, the founder of POZ Magazine and the first HIV-positive candidate for Congress - about his memoir Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival.
||| "Trying to make categories is very American, very stupid, and very dangerous..." Why Gore Vidal refused to identify as gay. "Gore Vidal's refusal to identify as gay was consistent with a man who worshipped ancient Greece, but was out of step with the times in which he lived."
> John R. Gordon's writer's diary: that awful extra something. "We all know this: a story can make sense and be fairly true to life but who cares? We need it to have that elusive extra something for it to matter. Style is a part of it – a curiously large part – but style is ultimately only the byproduct of putting words down according to the writer’s own feeling for language in an attempt to convey the meaning he or she is trying to convey. This ultimately lays bare that cruel quality Truman Capote called 'lift': the awful extra something a writer either has - or hasn't."
||| DVD review: Undressing Israel: Gay Men In The Promised Land. "[It] sets out to challenge stereotypes about gay right in Israel, but does so in a rather basic way, coming across as much as an advert for Tel Aviv as a documentary."
< Queer as Folk's Gale Harold reflects on his iconic role, and on making love scenes real: "Kiss well and passionately, and move like you mean it."
< Abandoned prisons, in pictures. Left, Croatia's Goli Otok (Barren Island).
||| And finally, Keanu Williams bakes his parents an "I love dick" cake; Walter explains why it's time "to stop blaming white folks for the problems we are having"; Andrew discusses sperm banks; and Rogue "Marbie" Scott breaks down friend types...
"I would also like to take this opportunity to squash the persistent rumours about mysterious 'disappearances' and emphasize that rural and urban areas are now enjoying a life of harmony and peace. I'm sure you're glad to hear this. And I'm happy you're glad."