Coronation Street: A defence of John Stape

Ok, I know John Stape is a lying weasel who spends way too much time feeling sorry for himself and plotting John Stape close upnasty schemes. But, at heart, he is a high school teacher who loves to teach. He likes to read and likes to talk about literature and teaching. He’s not pining to write the great English novel. He isn’t wishing he were teaching at university level or at some fancy school. He loves teaching English to ordinary kids in ordinary schools.   He’s not pompous in his knowledge or interests, nor too well-read. He is an ordinary guy with a BA in English who got a teaching degree.

There aren’t that many of them on soaps, you know – people with arts degrees, teachers, people who enjoy being well-read. On Coronation Street, Ken is all those things. But for years, he’s also been whining about it – he wants to do more!!! And Deirdre – well, you’d think reading the Guardian or whatever paper it is Ken prefers is the weirdest thing on the planet. She’s constantly moaning about Ken having his nose buried in “his” papers or watching nature programming. Maybe she ought to put her nose in his paper once in a while. Knowledge and awareness of the world isn’t a bad thing for you, Deirdre.

At least Fiz appreciates John’s love of teaching. Maybe, as Deirdre recently suggested, it would wear off over the years (assuming, for the moment, that John didn’t continue doing stupid things). But leaving out his stupid actions and their consequences, even if Fiz doesn’t share his intellectual curiousity, she respects him for having it.

No one else on the street really cares about much outside their own little world. Yes, there are a lot of people like that in the real world but that doesn’t make it the apex of human accomplishment.

Carl Hutchins, Renaissance man

Carl Hutchins, played by Charles KeatingOn American soaps, there occasionally have been characters interested in the arts and literature. I think of Carl Hutchins, from years ago on Another World. Cultured, refined and erudite (and also English) – he’d have made Audrey swoon! He also was a millionaire, lived in a mansion full of artwork, and had connections with the big-scale criminal world. Not, by any stretch, your average English teacher.

And that’s what John Stape is. Take away the propensity to fall for overly-developed students like Rosie Webster and an apparent lack of understanding of the common English word “no” and you’ve got a regular guy who likes to read and also enjoys transmitting his knowledge and passion for literature to others. That’s admirable, and rare in Coronation Street and all the other serials.

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