Emmerdale, formerly known as Emmerdale Farm, is dominating right now. With its infectious blend of humour, hard hitting story lines and iconic ‘ships, it is steamrolling ahead of its peers. Last year the soap saw a change in the ranks with producer Ian Macleod departing to take on Coronation Street and Kate Brooks, Laura Shaw and Jane Hudson sharing the role of Emmerdale’s leading ladies behind the camera.
Now, I am not the kind of person who goes shouting about feminism from the rooftops or waging a war against the menfolk, but in my opinion, it is the Women of the Dales who have made the show shine in the past year. Soaps have been criticised a lot in the last 12 months for being too dark and for covering stories that maybe make us feel uneasy, but a lot of it is needed to help us understand certain aspects of modern-day society.
There is, however, a way of telling the story properly. Although certain situations don’t necessarily suit humour or light-hearted touches, it is important the whole story is told. We need context. For us to absorb the context we need a break in the hard-hitting stuff even for just a few moments. This is where Emmerdale is getting it spot on: there is balance and it is exactly what we need.
Emmerdale: unafraid to reflect the good, the bad and the ugly of real life
In the past year we have seen staple characters cover hard hitting plots, such as Charity Dingle with her historical abuse case, Chas Dingle with the loss of her unborn child, Graham with his addiction battle, and many other big stories that have captured our attention. They have also introduced Ryan Stocks who has ataxic cerebral palsy and a trans character in Matty Barton, both of which have settled in to the Dales with such ease and a rather impressive fan base.
Then there are the solid ‘ships. The relationships we get more invested in than our own. Fictional people, living fictional lives that completely take over our real ones. We watch and watch again clips on Youtube, edit gifs and debate endless on Twitter with other shippers. I know a lot about this because I am one of these people.
The two major contenders for Emmerdale are Robron and Vanity. That is Robert Sugden who is married to Aaron Dingle and Charity who is dating Vanessa Woodfield. I am currently swooning over Vanity. The power couple. The ones who were put together as an experiment back in 2017, an unlikely pairing which has matured with time and tenderness. Charity has softened whilst still maintaining that quick wit we all know, and Vanessa has become more of a force within the cast. Their storylines have been a pleasant mixture of heartbreak, trauma, love and humour. The perfect combination, exactly what we want.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know full well that that it isn’t just the powerful females in the soap making a force on our televisions but in a time where equality as at the forefront of the media it is great to see an example such as this where females are subtly becoming the iron rod. Without it feeling like Emmerdale are trying to fill a quota or become politically correct, the team behind the award-winning soap drama are casually pulling in some of their big forces and make us listen. And how could you not do that with a family like the Dingles?
Amongst the infamous clan are Charity, Chas, Faith and Debbie, strong willed women who don’t take any messing with. And what makes them more formidable? Their ability to mix strong emotion with humour. It really is that simple. In the hardest of times we still see a glimmer of hope in their hilarity. We recently witnessed Charity’s proposal to girlfriend Vanessa. Whilst Charity agonised over it there was also a degree of humour that made us root for the answer to be yes. It was a tear jerker, a stomach cruncher and a huge relief all rolled in to one. This is what Emmerdale are doing best right now.
— R҉a҉c҉h҉e҉l҉ ҉W҉o҉o҉d҉ (@racheljanewood) January 17, 2019
It isn’t just their ability to portray emotion and humour that makes these ladies stand out, but I also feel their characters are the most developed across the serial drama. Take Charity for example, a character which has graced the soap for almost 20 years in glorious fashion; she has gradually grown as a person. We have seen her open, truly love and allow herself the chance to be honestly happy. It hasn’t been sudden – we’ve seen how it has happened and now we are in a new phase of the character. She still has the same old quick wit but as a human she has matured.
Then there’s the likes of Chas, another character who has been through a lot on the show but her development as a parent, landlady and friend has really shone. Even Rhona has developed as the years have gone by. It’s all subtle growth and it has worked wonderfully.
So let us hear it for the ladies of Emmerdale. The people who are supplying us with endless entertainment and joy every evening. From the team behind the scenes to the actors we see on the screen.
2019 truly is Emmerdale’s year and I can’t wait to see what they have to offer on International Women’s Day.
Which of TV’s formidable females are you admiring right now? Join the conversation and let us know @KettleMag