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MEET THE SOAP ROGUE MODELS; Education experts say that characters like these are increasing disorder and violence in schools.

Byline: Clare McVey

An education expert has blamed soap characters for the increase in bad behaviour in schools. Lifestyle Editor CLARE McVEY profiles some of the troubled teens from our best-loved soaps to find out why they might be leading kids astray.

SOAP operas are just a bit of harmless fun, right? The characters never swear and although the plots are always absurdly complicated and over-dramatic, at least the time they go out means they're safe viewing for kids.

That's not the case, according to an education expert who says he believes watching EastEnders, Brookside, Coronation Street and Emmerdale has led to an increase in disorder and violence in schools. 'These shows teach young people nothing except that poor relationships and violence are part of everyday life,' says Ralph Surman of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

'I see many youngsters whose behaviour now mirrors soap characters.'

Producers of the shows argue, of course, that they are just reflecting real life situations faced everyday in Britain.

So which characters in our favourite soaps are the culprits? Take a look at the following motley crew and decide for yourself.

Character: Emily Shadwick

Played by: Jennifer Ellison

Soap: Brookside

Age: 17

STORY: Wildchild Emily and her boyfriend Tim have caused no end of trouble in Brookside Close.

Following the death of both her brother and dad in a massive gas blast, apparently crazed by grief Emily went on a one-girl crimewave in the neighbourhood.

Her dad had been in a compromising position with his mistress Susannah Morrison at the time of the blast - and Emily blamed Susannah for his death.

In revenge, she persuaded Tim to steal Susannah's car and torch it - then she posted cards around the Close portraying Susannah as a prostitute.

She also ran up debts buying clothes on her late father's credit card, broke into a neighbour's house and ran off to Blackpool for the weekend where she tried to seduce a travelling salesman. When she was confronted about her behaviour, everyone was drawn in by her tearful innocent act.

The truth only came out when a video camera was inadvertently left on, recording a heart-to-heart with Tim in which ironically she said she wanted to turn over a new leaf.

They went on the run but in the end she let Tim take the rap for her and he is now serving time. While he's been away, she's got into modelling and was persuaded to have topless pictures taken.

Track Record:

Theft, shoplifting, libel, credit card fraud

CHARACTER: Andy Sugden

PLAYED BY: Kelvin Fletcher

SOAP: Emmerdale

AGE: 14

STORY: Having come from a broken home where his dad was an armed robber, Andy was taken in by kindly Jack and Sarah Sugden who sent him to the same school as their own son Robert.

He had problems fitting in right from the start, hitting Donna Windsor, getting suspended and playing truant.

In a strangely touching but misguided attempt to help his adoptive father out of financial strife, Andy set the barn on fire - hoping it would give Jack a big insurance payout.

Instead, the inferno killed his adoptive mother Sarah, who was in there at the time.

Recently, he's been hanging around with bad boy Cain Dingle, who has been encouraging him to shoplift and break into houses.

And, of course, his guilty secret has resulted in more tragedy. Jack has been standing trial for Sarah's murder.

Track Record:

Manslaughter, arson, theft, shoplifting

CHARACTER: Sarah

Louise Platt

PLAYED BY: Tina O'Brien

SOAP: Coronation Street

AGE: 14

STORY: Over the past year, Gail and Martin Platt's daughter Sarah Lou has turned from a stroppy schoolgirl in to a gymslip mum. When Gail realised that her 13-year-old was throwing up, she wondered if it was anorexia. Instead, she found that a one-off fumble with a schoolboy meant Sarah Lou was about to make her an unwilling grandmother.

Since giving birth to Bethany in the summer, Sarah Lou has been struggling to come to terms with her teenage mum status.

At first, she expected to be able to leave Gail holding the baby - but she has now taken responsibility for Bethany when she gets home from school.

She's found it tricky trying to keep up with her schoolwork but motherhood has other drawbacks at this age.

A normal teenage social life of dancing, dating and sleep-overs is out.

And all the lads reckon that as she's had a baby, she must be an easy lay.

Track Record:

Under-age sex, gymslip pregnancy

CHARACTER: Janine Butcher

PLAYED BY: Charlie Brooks

SOAP: EastEnders

AGE: 18

STORY: The youngest daughter of Frank Butcher has always been a troublesome little madam.

She arrived on Frank's doorstep, having run away from Manchester where she had been living with her sister.

Frank could never quite see her for what she was and Janine was always able to use emotional blackmail to get her way.

She appears to have left school with no qualifications other than in lying, tricking and manipulating her way round Albert Square. Having unleashed her personal brand of customer service on the residents while serving cups of tea at the cafe, she is now working with Terry.

After alienating herself from most of the Square by being promiscuous and spiteful, she's trying to buy friends by throwing a party. She has also pretended to be pregnant and recently she's taken to stealing from Terry.

TRACK RECORD

Lying, trickery, emotional blackmail, sleeping around

CHARACTER:

Martin Fowler

PLAYED BY: James

Alexandrou

SOAP: EastEnders AGE: 16

STORY: Martin seems to have got into numerous scrapes, all of which have given mum Pauline plenty of excuses to nag.

He's ended up doing cleaning duties at the pub for his part in the after-hours party and has been in trouble with the law for petty theft.

But all that was small fry compared to getting involved with Nasty Nick Cotton, who gave Martin various hard drugs, much to brother Mark's disgust.

As if that wasn't enough, Sonia admitted that Martin had been the father of her surprise baby.

While she had decided to give Chloe up for adoption, Pauline had other ideas, and tried to railroad an unhappy Martin into fighting for custody of his daughter.

When Martin wondered why the baby would need a mobile for her cot, Pauline should have known she was on to a loser.

Track Record:

Under-age sex, drugs, theft

CHARACTER: Sol Patrick

PLAYED BY: Paul Danan

SOAP: Hollyoaks

AGE: 19

STORY: Sol has built up a firm reputation as a teenager from hell but his problems seem to stem from his parents.

First his dad died, then he discovered that Jill was not his real mother. Jill remarried but he clashed with his stepdad, pub landlord Jack, and ran away from home eventually living rough and meeting a prostitute.

The wayward teen had just agreed to return to the pub when he discovered Jill was dying of a brain tumour.

It was another blow for him and he took his anger out by getting in to fights and arguing with everyone. Just for good measure, he went through a phase of joy riding.

Now he's got together with Jess the ex-hooker and the pair are living together. Just as things are looking up for him, Jess's pimp brother Steve came back to get her. After a scrap, Steve ended up unconscious and the pair faced a grilling.

Violence, joyriding, runaway

What do YOU think? Are soap teens setting a bad example - or simply reflecting real life?

Are there any soap characters you think should be banned? Do any set a good example?

Write to Soap Teens Debate, Sunday Mercury, Colmore Circus, Birmingham B4 6AZ.

Or send your e-mails to Clare_McVey@mrn.co.uk
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 25, 2001
Words:1291
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