Saturday, November 10, 2012

Branningapalooza: What's in a Name?

Oh, please ... stop trying to justify, apologise, drum up excitement for the arrival of two characters on EastEnders who are just fucking Brannings by any other name.

I'm talking about Ava and her teensprog Dexter, daughter and grandson, respectively, of Cora the old Lag ASBO Granny drunk, whom Lorraine Newman seems intent on establishing as a matriarch on the show.

Ann Mitchell is a good enough jobbing actress, but she's like an even more drunken (and less likeable) version of Angela Baddeley's Mrs Naugatuck from the 70s sitcom series Maude.

On the Digital Spy soaps forum at the moment, yet another argument is raging about how Ava, Dexter, Cora and even Saint Tanya of the Fat Ass and Thick Ankles, cannot possibly be related or even associated with the Branning Brand. Louisiana, the latest erudite troll with a couple of brain cells to emerge from the woodwork, tries to rationalise how separate the families are by making an analogy of Lou Beale, saying she was not a part of the Fowler family.

Sorry, Louisiana, back to the bayou for you.

In point of fact, the Fowlers were part of the Beale brand. Lou lived with Pauline, born a Beale, who had married a Fowler. Of Lou's six grandchildren, only two had the name of Beale - Ian (from Pete's second marriage) and Elizabeth (from Kenny's). Three were Pauline's children - Fowlers, but still a part of the Beale dynamic. Her oldest grandchild, David Wicks (Pete's son), used his stepfather's surname. But they were all associated with the Beale brand. For a time, after she first returned, Pat was associated with that dynamic and retained an association with it, as did Kathy Beale Mitchell, via their sons.

There is such a thing as "extended family." If you don't understand that concept, look no further than your own Royal Family.

Cora is Tanya's mother. To say Tanya "isn't a Branning anymore but a Cross," is like saying Barack Obama is a lame duck President having just won re-election. Tanya's heavily invested in the Branning brand and has been since she was a teenager. She wantonly broke up a marriage in order to secure that surname. She's slept with two Branning men, married one, been unfaithful to and with him, borne him three children. Even when she lived with and married gormless Greg, she was still a part of that association by virtue of her children. In fact, she sought to involve Greg in the dynamic, in order to have more of an excuse to interact with Max.

When she married Greg, she slept with Max, and now she's living with him again. If you want to nitpick, let's say technically that Tanya is not even a Cross. She's a Jessop and still uses Greg's surname. But she lives, breathes and considers herself a Branning.

Cora is a Branning satellite and, thus, a Branning by extended family. The reason the unknown daughter and teener grandson are being brought in is varied. First, there's a valid social history to be explored here - an attitude that's historically important and really needs addressing in a social context.

Cora gave birth to a biracial child in the 60s, when interracial relationships were not the norm and were frowned on by some parts of society. The fact that the tranche of shallow-minded people to whom the show panders today are unaware of this was made evident when it was revealed that Ava Anderton was going to be biracial. People just didn't understand why Cora gave her baby away when she did.

Before the casting of the character was announced, if viewers had watched and paid attention to the nuances and subtleties of Ann Mitchell's delivery - especially in her scenes with Rudolph Walker - it was easy to surmise that (a) Cora's daughter wasn't dead, but had been put up for adoption and (b) that she was biracial.

But, instead, the sheeple people had their heads turned by vaslev37 leading the charge for Sharon being Cora's daughter, even to the point of advocating wiping six months of storyline from 1992 and a significant part of Sharon's backstory.

The mind boggles.

Another reason that these characters were added, from a Branning perspective, is that it adds a rainbow hue to the Brannings as a whole, even though the biracial aspect was prevalent before with Billie Jackson and with Morgan King Butcher Dixon Whatevedayoftheweekitiswhoever. Billie was never touted as a part of the Branning tribe (due to old Jim's racism which got retconned along the way). Besides, he died shortly after returning again. And the Brannings did everything but cross the street whenever one of the Jackson Butchers came around. Bianca's unreconstructed chavviness reminded them too much of their white trash roots.

So watch this space. The Brannings are going rainbow, by virtue of their extended families; and when Max's Eastern European secret wife and child show up, they'll be an international entity too - going global. 

And, once again, if one wished to nitpick, we could say that Ava and Son are not part of the Cross family as well. She was adopted, and until this discovery, for all intents and purposes, she and her son are Hartmans.

But what's in a name? asks Shakespeare. That which we would call a rose would smell as sweet. Also, if it looks like shit, smells like shit ... it's shit. Cora's been absorbed into the Branning dynamic. She has three grandchildren who are Brannings, eats her breakfasts there, kisses Jack on the cheek and counsels Derek. Ava will be Tanya's sister and will be someone on whom Cora can focus once Tanya takes her break which really isn't a break but a departure. Dexter also gives her a new direction in that she'll have a grandson with whom she'll interfere. 

(Another warning: Dexter's arrival is another addition to the dreaded latent adolescent dynamic. He could be a replacement to make up the numbers since Annannee's departure, or he could herald the departure of another manchild - Tyler or Turdhopper, perhaps? Either way, he's not needed and not what EastEnders needs.)

Whatever the route, these characters are part of the Branning fold and as much associated with them as are the Butcher Jacksons. This is just a clever ploy by a Branning-obsessed production team seeking to give the viewer as many Brannings-by-any-other-name as is humanly possible.

Before paring down this abominable family, maybe Lorraine Newman should initiate the process by sacking Simon Ashdown, the main Branning-shipper and their propagator. After all, as the Greeks say, a fish stinks from its head.

Speaking of which, here's a hint for Louisiana to follow:-

Update: Take a gander at the kid they've cast as Dexter and tell me of whom he reminds you:-

Here's a hint: Put a funny little goatee beard on him and you have Ray Dixon. Now, knowing EastEnders, what are the odds that as much as Ava is the longlost sprog of Granny Goodwitch, what's the betting that Dexter is a forgotten byblow of Ray?

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