Just Say No
Ellie Nightingale has been living a nightmare for the last few months. After learning her boyfriend cheated on her with her mother Marnie Nightingale, she decided to go wild and have herself a little fun. Unfortunately after drinking too heavily, she found herself taking Nick Savage home and waking up naked beside him. While he bragged about their steamy night together, she couldn’t remember a single thing – and that terrified her. Since that night she hasn’t been herself, she’s been drinking heavily, withdrawing from friends and even lashing out on boyfriend Freddie Roscoe. This last week he’d finally had enough and told his girlfriend it was time to come clean but he never expected a secret of this magnitude.
When the rape happened, I was a bit confused as to how to exactly describe the incident. There are far too many differences in terminology and definitions in the matter of sexual consent, thus making it even more confusing in a situation that’s likely confusing even on its own. By definition, rape occurs when one involved party does not explicitly comply to sexual activity. In this instance, Ellie was too drunk to tell Nick no and her yes (if there was one) would have been a little skewed. As the less intoxicated party, Nick should have recognized this and taken a step back when instead he persisted. At the time, Nick was new neighbor in the village so viewers knew nothing of him. Hollyoaks played that part perfectly, giving us someone that not only did we not know but we weren’t sure if we could trust. He seemed nice? The nephew of Dirk Savage who was pretty much the village uncle, totally lovable and kind to those who deserved it and Nick also was a well-trained nurse at Dee Valley Hospital. All those good points stacked up against the points that seemed so bad made for confusion, uncertainty much like in difficult cases like this. Who were we supposed to trust with the truth of that hazy night?
Over the weeks we learned that while Nick may be a nice guy, he’s also a bit of pig. The machismo he exudes at all times results in a lot of condescending behavior, put forth with his usual suave charm that no one really even notices they’re being played by him. His new girlfriend (and cousin by marriage!!!) Holly Cunningham has become like putty in his hands, bending to his every will because she’s afraid of losing him. Last week after finding a sex tape of Nick and an ex on his phone, he pressured Holly into filming one of their own. Upon the completion of the clip though, Holly deleted it as she felt uncomfortable with it only for Nick to secretly record her without her permission at a later time. In probably one of the grossest displays of toxic masculinity, he turned Holly feeling uncomfortable about having sex on camera into an argument. Blaming women in a general sense, Nick went on a tirade calling them wishy washy and untrustworthy because it would make him look bad in the long run. Weaker than ever, Holly complied and apologized as if she’d stepped out of line for not wanting to step out of her comfort zone.
Freddie and Nick are roomies and are for the much part buddies, so the former has no clue how much of an asshole Nick really is. Nor does he have any suspicion that he’d raped his girlfriend, a conclusion I came to very quickly as more and more of Nick’s true colors were shown. After lashing out at Freddie for prying too much as to why she never wanted to spend time at his house where Nick also lives, Ellie’s little brother Alfie Nightingale suggests that she writes down what’s been ailing her. Freddie no longer wants to put up with Ellie’s abuse. From punching to slipping and now throwing objects, Freddie’s been patient through every one of Ellie’s outbursts which is amazing to see. This was not the same womanizing Freddie we’d been introduced to, it’s plain to see he really cares about Ellie. That’s why when before she can show her written confession to her boyfriend and she tears it up, Freddie pieces it together to find out what’s been happening to her. The note was vague and made him wonder whether or not she’d terminated a pregnancy or cheated but it soon comes out she’d been raped.
It broke my heart to see Freddie’s heart breaking for Ellie. Charlie Clapham can be a bit of a ham sometimes, but his “vibrant” facial expressions sold the scene of his discovery extremely well. It wasn’t just his eyes that were crying but every bit of him, all for Ellie whom he felt like he hadn’t been able to protect. Feeling guilty, Freddie lashed out too until he spoke to his sister in law Nancy Osborne about rape. She was a survivor herself and advised him to stop making it about himself and to help Ellie in any way she needed, patiently supporting her instead of blaming himself for something that was neither his fault nor hers. To help Ellie, they decide to go out for a normal night on the town like before her attack but it’s quickly interrupted by Nick and Holly who are out on an anniversary dinner.
In one of my favorite scenes of this last week, Freddie figured out just who was behind his girlfriend’s attack. Ellie literally turned into a statue when Nick came in, just the sound of his voice making her skin crawl and Sophie Porley sold that icky feeling. In a fit of rage, Freddie called Nick out and charged him, telling the entire restaurant just what the creep had done to Ellie. Unfortunately after that big climax the scene ended but what a high note it was! If I was in that restaurant, I think I would have jumped in with Freddie to take down Nick. He’s been walking around the village as if nothing was wrong, even bad mouthing Ellie every now and then, using his anti-women rhetoric to prove what he thought was a point. It’s really time for him to get his comeuppance.
Hollyoaks has taken amazing care of such a sensitive subject. I cannot rave enough about the pacing of this show’s storylines; they give everything a good amount of time to marinate before it all boils over. It’s just such great storytelling but also amazingly important as the issue of sexual consent continues to grow. Unfortunately this is the world we live in where awful things like this happen to women and men each day, so telling these stories responsibly and realistically is so crucial. I’m sure Ellie’s struggle has helped viewers realize that maybe lashing out because of that pain isn’t the best way or that it’s okay to open up to loved ones. Hollyoaks has even been partnering with different sexual assault help groups, a simple and profound way to get out the good message but to also promote their show. I really wish the US soap operas still kept up with the social pulse of the world, it’s the only way they can hope to regain the relevancy they once had.
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