Coronation Street likes its drama to take place on the famed cobbles.
However this week the drama has taken place off the cobbles. Actor Chris Fountain who played Tommy Duckworth in the soap has had his contract terminated after posting a series of highly misogynistic and derogatory videos online wearing a Halloween mask under his rapper alias ‘The Phantom.’
The media understandably went into a frenzy of outrage and condemnation. Fountain released an initial statement when the clips came to light and then a further statement after his sacking in which he expressed regret at “the hurt caused to many people including those in a vulnerable situation.”
I think ITV were absolutely right to sack Chris Fountain. As a soap actor he is in a position of responsibility and notoriety. Every move he makes is scrutinised by the public and Coronation Street as a television programme has a largely female fan base.
The lyrics were stomach churning; about raping a b***ch on her birthday and stabbing her with a used needle, as well as punching them. The fact he was doing it under a pseudonym suggests abject stupidity. This is not some teenager in the back of his bedroom trying to be cool. Instead this is a 25-year-old man in the public eye who should know better.
Like it or not the public eye brings with it responsibility and life under the spotlight In Fountain’s case he clearly knew what he was doing was wrong. Hence he used a pseudonym. It was almost like he was escaping his public profile and this was his naughty devil may care side of his personality coming out.
These videos sadden me greatly, especially when you consider the impact of Carla Connor’s storyline with Frank Foster. Coronation Street has always had a sense of justice and truth towards women. It is hard to of another example that could be more at odds with that sense.
You have to wonder to yourself what Chris Fountain was thinking when he uploaded these videos. Did he genuinely think it would be possible to conceal them from the public gaze forever?
We need to look at the wider context of this as well. There is no doubt we have a cultural problem with misogyny right now. Stories of journalists receiving abuse and even bomb threats on Twitter have dominated the media over the past few weeks and rightly so. What we are dealing with is a group of men who absolutely see women as lesser beings to themselves, maybe even not human at all. I have no doubt that Fountain’s video is a by product of that and somehow relevant to that discourse. We need to show perpetrators of such vile acts that this is not acceptable, in wider society, or when in a high profile television soap opera.
Nobody is beyond reproach when it comes to misogyny, and violence against women. Nor is anybody exempt from the potential to commit it. However we can all try to do better and we must. Also; what about what women think themselves. A caller to LBC 97.3 this afternoon talked about rappers rapping about “a certain type of woman.” But oddly enough, women do not get a say. They are objectified in the worst way, and de-humanised. That is unacceptable. There is no gradation of woman; one who deserves abuse and violence and the other who does not. No woman deserves it.
The producers of Coronation Street did exactly the right thing. They are to be applauded for their swift action. If they hadn’t sacked Chris Fountain they would have been open to accusations of condoning or being ambivalent to misogyny. They have shown real leadership at a difficult time for them with criminal allegations facing two of its stars Michael Le Vell and William Roache who play Kevin Webster and Ken Barlow respectively.
The most chilling aspect of this is that it makes you wonder what the person is really like and whether views such as that expressed by Fountain in the offending video are their own views or whether they are for dramatic or artistic purposes. One thing is beyond doubt; whichever of the two it is Chris Fountain will now have plenty of time to reflect.
Just as there has been an upsurge in the amount of misogyny in society, there has been a tandem upsurge in people fighting back against it. At every turn society is showing that misogyny is not acceptable. That gives me hope.
Unfortunately for Chris Fountain, this is not soap acting. This is reality. He has paid the ultimate price with his career. Something to think about.