Gay Storylines on British Television Far Ahead of the U.S.

Kate Anderson

While American daytime TV audiences have been avidly following the ground-breaking romance between gay teenagers Luke Snyder (Van Hansis) and Noah Mayer (Jake Silbermann) on and night time audiences have cheered the out Kevin Walker’s (Matthew Rhys) relationships on Brothers & Sisters, across the pond British soap fans have been following their own gay storylines for much longer.

US television has never seen anything quite like the fan reaction Luke and Noah’s teenage romance has produced on ATWT, the first American soap opera to depict a fully realized romantic gay male coupling as an integral part of the show. In the UK, however, gay storylines in soap operas are nothing new. In fact, from EastEnders to Emmerdale, gay characters have been a fundamental part of UK soaps for the last two decades. (Unlike US daytime dramas like ATWT, the majority of British soaps are broadcast at night.)

One of the most popular gay storylines of late has been on Hollyoaks which differs from its competition both in the time it is broadcast and, until recently, its gay content. The show has never been shy when it comes to controversial storylines, which is particularly noteworthy since it airs well before the 9:00PM watershed (the cut-off point for UK programs intended for family viewing) and reaches a younger audience than do other soaps. However, the show has had a poor record when it comes to gay storylines.

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