East Enders is a long running soap opera from the BBC, set in the gritty east end of London. It has been running for so long, that I remember watching it when I was a student in London in the late ’80s. Now I stumbled across the an article with spoilers for the ’22 season, one of which was that a character has a diagnosis of male breast cancer and is struggling with sharing it with those closest to him.
I have of course lost track of the characters or the story, but I tentatively and cautiously applaud that this plot line, even if very minor, is included. I am cautious because I hope that they get it right – for example, calling it breast cancer and not chest cancer, which they obviously already have.
Popular culture vehicles can be more effective at spreading information to a wide audience than public service announcements or social media. In addition, through a fictional character, the complexities and emotional issues can be explored. It is not the cutting edge of information sharing, but it is an important way that such information can become integrated into the worldview of a larger group of people. My hopes are that this story in East Enders will de-stigmatize male breast cancer, making it easier for real world Stuarts to speak to their loved ones, should they receive such a diagnosis.
In the meantime, my thanks to the BBC& the writers and producers on East Enders. Maybe we will see something similar across the pond soon?