A cultural phenomena of its own, Coronation Street has been recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running soap opera television show, having been broadcast since December 1960. It has amassed a huge and dedicated following, with fans eagerly tuning in to the characters and storylines set in the working-class industrial North of England.
A recent addition to the sprawling cast was character Nina Lucas, as played by actress Mollie Gallagher who has her own unique identity and appearance in keeping with the goth style of her character. Nina is a long-lost, suddenly-discovered soap-opera-trope style relative of beloved veteran character Roy Cropper, as played by David Neilson.
Nina is a proud Goth, impeccably attired in Victorian, skull-motif and mourning-themed clothing with the recognizably stark, monochrome makeup that the subculture is associated with. I’m impressed that the production staff of Coronation Street have crafted an appearance that is unique, familiar and yet without being comedically overblown.
More than that, the writers have carefully researched the subculture and what defines out interests and passions. In this video, Nina explains her identity to Seb (Harry Visinoni) and touches on several foundation stones of goth such as Anne Rice, The Cure and bats!
This is a delightful contrast to the woefully inaccurate or misrepresented experiences that entertainment creators crowbar into ‘spooky’ characters in fiction, especially comparatively lightweight productions such as soap operas.
In an admirable move, the production staff reached out to the community for guidance and explanation to root Nina’s character in fact, not speculation and stereotype. They approached Dr Claire Nally, an Associate Professor of English at Northumbria University with a specialisation in subcultures who has written before on the Goth subculture. She provided detail on the musicians, books, movies and other creative icons that make goth more than just a set of spooky clothes!
In more serious news, they have also approached another expert for advice on formulating a storyline that will impact Nina and Seb very seriously. Dr Sylvia Lancaster is the Chief Executive of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, which was established after Sylvia’s daughter Sophie was attacked for her goth style, and passed away from her injuries in 2007.
It was thankfully an isolated, albeit horrific incident – and it has understandably left an indelible mark on the goth subculture as a community. I expect it will resonate significantly with audiences who are familiar with the tragedy when such similar circumstances appear on their screens. Whilst Sophie and her boyfriend were attacked by strangers, Nina’s character knows her assailants – but both Nina and Sophie are from the same part of England which will add an additional level of painful similarity to this storyline.
Media coverage has already been widespread, linking the murder of Sophie Lancaster to the experiences on the show – and giving Sylvia and the producers a platform to talk frankly about how abuse and harassment can escalate to horrific extremes.
I have faith that the responsible writing of the Coronation Street staff, combined with the authority and compassion of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and Mollie Gallagher’s very capable skills will deliver the upcoming storyline with both the shocking impact and sensitive performance required. They’ve already portrayed a goth character as far more three-dimensional than many have managed before.