Head of continuing drama at the BBC Kate Oates has said that while same-sex romances have become some of the most popular storylines in soaps, she is still “looking forward to the day when a same-sex kiss receives zero complaints”.
She told Radio Times: “There are so many obstacles and obstructions already built-in with a same-sex relationship because not all of society is accepting.
“There’s still so much homophobia in our society, and we’re glad to use our voice to try and change that. I’m looking forward to the day when a same-sex kiss can be shown on a mainstream soap and the duty log receives zero complaints – because then we’ll be in a much better place as a society.”
One of Eastenders’ most popular recent story lines is the relationship between Callum and Ben, who have been given the couple name ‘Ballum’. Viewers are hoping for them to end up together, as Callum struggles with coming out and still plans to marry a woman.
Oates said: “For some viewers, it’s as simple as celebrating representation. A lot of EastEnders fans are liking how comfortable Ben is in his sexuality and have commented that his approach to dating feels authentic, which I think is important.
“Likewise, Callum feels very believable as someone who’s come from a homophobic family and is struggling with his sexuality. So, both these characters really resonate with our LGBTQI audience.”
Same-sex male couples are most popular among straight women, says EastEnders writer.
However, same-sex romance is not only popular among LGBT+ viewers. Gay EastEnders writer Daran Little recently asked his Twitter followers: “Genuine question to my female #ballum followers. What is it about gay male relationships in soaps that speaks to you?”
One viewer responded: “As a straight woman I love men. Being able to follow two men in a relationship shows me a new intriguing side of men, a side I don’t see in my heterosexual relationship.”
“I personally love seeing men show emotion for one another, straight men are often portrayed as being strong silent types that hide their feelings, but with gay men we get to see then open up more in relationships,” said another.
Oates added: “I think a lot of viewers do have a natural sense of justice and therefore root for characters to overcome prejudice so they can be together.
“But when it comes down to it, the enduring and universal appeal of a well-told, well-acted love story cannot be underestimated.”