I Watched Coronation Street’s Lesbian Storyline and I Liked It

While gallivanting about Manchester two weeks ago (a fabulous experience which I will detail in full at some point in the next few weeks), I kept hearing things about Coronation StreetCoronation Street, I now know (having obviously watched the documentary and read its entire wikipedia page), is a soap opera set in a fictional town called Weatherfield (according to Wikipedia) and filmed in Manchester (which is where I thought it also took place). Its first episode aired on December 9, 1960, making it the longest-running soap opera in the entire universe.

I was aware Coronation Street featured a lesbian storyline, as news about the show frequently pops up on the dozen or so read-throughs of relevant queer news I conduct daily. However, because I am busy and because it’s a soap opera, I never looked into it. My experiences with soap operas are limited to the teevees in various waiting rooms inevitably tuned in to As the World Guides my Light and All My Children or whatnot.

But, because I was abroad and couldn’t figure out the television in my hotel room and Sophie & Sian were going to be in The Pride Parade, I turned to the internet to provide my background noise and nightly lullaby. I turned to Sophie & Sian.

Conveniently, their entire storyline — including storylines of characters preferably involved in their respective worlds — are available on YouTube with all the other parts of the show cut out. I watched up to January 2011 on SophieSianFan’s channel and from January up to the present on SophieSianTube.

sophie and sian communicate via telepathic foreheads

I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to ruin anything for you, as I expect if you’ve not already seen it, you’ll dutifully watch it after you read this. Furthermore, as I’ve seen not one minute of this show aside from Sophie/Sian ’09-’11 and the documentary 40 Years of Coronation Street, all my feelings are best qualified as “my vague impression of who these people are” rather than “actual facts about who these people are.” You know how we do in America. Ignorant, etc.

So, briefly — the story belongs to Sophie Webster, an absent-minded, mouthy and amusing 16-year old who looks cute in a puffy coat and stores wells of emotional neediness beneath an alternately defensive or gullible exterior. She’s self-sufficient, if often naive, and she’s smart too, but not book-smart. It’s easy to relate to Sophie — her fumbling adolescence, while obviously overdramatic, rings true and feels honest. Apparently Sophie was born in 1994 and was played by two other actresses before Brooke Vincent took the role at the age of ten, but obviously I didn’t watch back that far.

Sophie lives with her insufferable self-involved parents, Sally Webster and Kevin Webster, who spend all of 2011 having the same excruciating argument over and over again. To be fair, Kevin seemed tolerable enough for the first year or whatever, like a high-strung, slightly-more-reckless version of Burt Hummel, but Sally got my goat from the get-go. If Roseanne’s Mom, Patty Chase and Maxine Fortenberry had a book club or a Wiccan Circle of Evil, Sally Webster would be the fourth member. Oh also at some point Sally gets cancer. Womp WOMP.

surprise they look unhappy

Sophie’s other housemate is her delightfully air-headed sister Rosie Webster. Rosie is an ambrosia salad of personality, containing fruity layers of Hilary Banks from Fresh Prince topped off with Phoebe from Friends, minus ten years and plus a British accent and a giant rack.

Next up is Sian Powers, the best friend turned girlfriend. She’s basically the drummer for Josie & The Pussycats but with more plaid and homosexuality. I remained petrified throughout that Sian would leave Sophie because sometimes Sophie was very little bratzie.

The lesbian storyline has been well-done and avoided several potential trope-holes. The chemistry between the two girls (who are best friends in real life) is abundant enough, but that’s not the only reason. See, despite inconsistent levels of scripted girl-on-girl action, Sacha Parkinson (the actress who plays Sian) is fucking determined to SELL IT.

She’s like a teenaged sex kitten with radar-eyes for Sophie, so even when they’re talking about drywall, every muscle in Sian’s body is in tune with Sophie’s, like she’s this madly specific secret coy sometimes-pouty master-flirt.  I think that’s how Shane does it, she gives you the impression that she is paying such close attention to everything happening in your body — every breath/movement/hesitation/advance — that you inevitably end up giving yourself to her because how can you not. Under such circumstances. She’s practically already inside you as it is. And everyone likes to be the center of someone else’s attention.

via fuckyeahsophiesian.tumblr.com

My number one feeling about Coronation Street was the same feeling I’ve recently felt during Pretty Little Liars, Glee, Degrassi and Skins — jesus lord have mercy, the world is turning on its very axis, apparently these days lesbians can come out and not get killed in a ‘car accident’ or return to her ex-boyfriend two weeks later. Yes, shit happens, but not like the shit that used to happen.

They’re just so sweet and normal-seeming (considering), right? They’re so cute on the couch cuddling! This is the world we live in!

Every time I started to feel weird about watching a soap opera, there’d be a Jessie J song in the background, and then everything would suddenly feel like an L.O.V.E Song.

*I’m aware there are some unsavory spoilers regarding the future of Sophie & Sian. I hope you understand that I am too new to this to process such devastating information at this time.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2685 articles for us.

26 Comments

  1. PS – Coronation Street is a really really gay soap – it has also had a transgender character, Hayley, for yeeeeears (to the extent where her transgenderness hasn’t even been mentioned for about two centuries), and loads of gay men too, including two who are adopting/have recently adopted (sorry Corrie fans, I’ve been a bit out of the loop the last few years!). Corrie rocks!

    The evil right wing Daily Mail newspaper recently ran a horrible article about “Is Coronation Street too gay”. I think Corrie deserves a medal for this!

  2. I used to watch all the sophie and sian parts on onemorelesbian[dot]com. I had a Sophie and Sian marathon the day I came across it, which is also the day I came across autostraddle because there’s an autostraddle link on that website, My life has never been the same since. <3

  3. I’ve caught clips of the show. Their accents are incredibly thick, huh? I’m sure after watching a little bit I’d get used to in, but going in cold turkey, I was unable to understand a lot of words. And I am someone who watches British programming fairly regularly — I’m just a lot more used to London accents than the ones Sophie and Sian have.

    Maybe when I’m ready to embark on a new TV watching experience I’ll go start to finish. Degrassi and Pretty Little Liars are on breaks. All My Children (and our adorable lesbo couple Minx) will be ending very shortly. So maybe I should soon. Soaps are always harder. With a show like UK Skins, it’s pretty easy to just watch season three and four and see the whole Noami/Emily storyline. Soaps don’t really have seasons or episodes — how nice of the YouTubers to do all the work for you.

  4. If anyone wants to watch episodes from past seasons you should visit corrieclassics’ channel and to watch episodes from this season you should go to newCorrieEps’ channel on youtube.

  5. Riese, well done touching on how Parkinson uses physical language to convey the emotional and sexual attraction Sian feels for Sophie. The importance of such usage of physical language is crucial and is a staple of the better depictions of same sex teen romance. I also find both young women and the writers, in collaboration, have done a sharp job presenting details that allow a full comprehension of the romance. By adding these details, the portrait of the romance is full and complex.

    You touched on Sophie’s bratty behavior which is, in my opinion, fairly authentic for many a person that age. What is fascinating is how Sophie’s bratty behavior is incorporated into the dynamic between the two women. When Sophie’s bratty acts and jealousy becomes too much, it is a the cause of a significant rift (unlike most shows which would go the easy cliche of one of the girls having an attraction for a boy). The show, in other words, makes the split organic feeling – a split based on attitude.

    Instead of a simplistic dynamic, both women display specific forms of tenderness (has anyone ever had their hair played with as much as Sian plays with Sophie’s), caring, responsibility, etc. Sophie takes on a dominant role when making love. The two sex scenes show Sophie as the top and Sian being submissive. Even there is complexity as Sian’s worries about being discovered by Sophie’s Mom are overcome by a need for Sophie to make love to her. If Sophie is played as delightfully carnal, the character of Sian has her own authentic take on desire (shy, embarrassed at times and yet loving it). However when the girls run away from home it is Sian who becomes the protector, the tough one who works hard to provide for the far more vulnerable acting Sophie.

    Such complexities to the roles in a romance are common in real life but seldom portrayed as thoughtfully on tv. With Sophie and Sian, the dynamic feels authentic because the creative team is invested in it being as real as possible.

  6. I stumbled onto this storyline in the middle of the night via youtube in December and have been hooked ever since. The british are clearly more enlightened than writers and viewers in the states because I haven’t ever seen any of the nonsense we have to deal with here in the states. And yes the unsavory rumors are true.

  7. Dammit, I followed your links and am on my second day of viewing… Hooked! I do like Sophie and Sian, but in general, this seems much better than American soaps: the characters are much more realistic and less over-the-top, and the storylines seem far more believable. Sidenote: does Sophie’s dad remind anyone of like, an older Collin Ferrell? Something in the eyes, I think.

  8. Yeah and magiclovemuffin (I almost wrote magicmuffinlover until I double-checked) mentioned the accents… incredibly thick. I swear, I only understand about half of this show but I seem to be following it ok… 🙂

  9. I took Riese’s advice and watched a marathon of this. I just wanna say THANK GOD for subtitles. I literally could not follow what was happening if I walked away or pulled something else up on my screen because of those accents. The subtitles were a big help. I’m at the part where they just got together. It’s good so far.

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