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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Across the Pond and Beyond: Little Mo Mitchell from EastEnders

WORD OF WARNING:  This blog entry is going to contain some video clips that may not be suitable for young ones to view.  They can be quite graphic and disturbing to watch.  You have been warned.

You see, part of the reason why I've grown to love international television so much is because they have more of a tendency to tackle controversial subject matter.  Whereas most American television shows shy away from controversy, shows from Britain, Australia, and even Canada have been more daring with the topics they cover on their programming.

Homosexuality.  HIV and AIDS.  Euthanasia.  These are controversial topics that have been broadcast on various programs across the pond.  And many of these plots have been written in such a way that really inspires emotional reaction.  Emotional reactions so strong that your heart breaks for the poor characters that have to go through that.

There's one show that I've discovered that had tackled all three of the subjects that I discussed above and more.  I suppose you'd like to know what show it is, don't you?

EastEnders.  Shocking people to the core since February 19, 1985.

EastEnders has garnered a bit of a reputation in its twenty-six year history.  As I said up above, they tackle a lot of controversial subject matter.  They diagnosed a character with HIV, and he was subjected to a hate-filled campaign by the owner of the local pub, claiming he was 'diseased'.  Very controversial, but at the same time it educated people that HIV was nothing to be afraid of.

They showed a longtime character agree to help her long suffering friend die.  At the time, euthanasia was a really touchy subject to tackle, but I thought the show handled it well.

And although we're years behind the UK schedule here in Canada, I hear that there's a very popular couple who happens to be the same sex, so it's nice to see that some international shows aren't afraid to showcase a gay relationship, even if it is still considered taboo here in North America.

I think I started watching EastEnders on PBS about six years ago.  So, that would be back around 2005.  The catch is that PBS is about seven years behind UK pace, so when I was watching in 2005, the episodes were actually from 1998.  I think the ones that are currently airing are from Christmas we're way behind.  Oddly enough, there's another station that also airs EastEnders from 2008 and onwards.

So, before I go on with this note, I should mention that I have only seen EastEnders up until December 2008 episodes, and have not seen any episode that aired between 2004 and 2007.  This will make my character spotlight seem a little bit skewered, as she happened to leave the show in the period that I have never seen yet.  But, it's just as well...her character was very big the first couple of years she was on the show anyway.

 But, enough babbling.  I'll introduce you to her right now.

Say hello to Maureen Slater-Mitchell.  Though, on the show, she was (affectionately?) referred to as 'Little Mo'.  You see, she was named after her maternal grandmother, who was also named Maureen, but went by the name 'Mo'.  So, that's how she came to be called Little Mo.

Two words can describe Little Mo.  Tragic heroine.

On the surface, it seemed like Little Mo had it all.  A home.  A husband.  A family who loved her.

Underneath that facade were many, many, skeletons.  Skeletons that caused Little Mo lots of stress and pain.

You see the above family portrait?  Well, it's Little Mo and her 'sisters'.  There's Little Mo in the pink.  Next to her is Kat.  Zoe happens to be right next to Kat, and at the end is eldest sister, Lynne.

But why is the word 'sister' in quotation marks?  Well...there was a little twist to this family tree.  It's like that Sesame Street song. of the Slater sisters was more like a Slater...daughter.  Apparently Kat got pregnant when she was thirteen and gave birth to Zoe.  The whole thing was a disaster when the secret was revealled, and it's such a huge story in itself that I'd need a separate blog entry for it.  The point is that Zoe had absolutely no idea that Kat was her mother...and neither did Little Mo.  If I remember correctly, Little Mo was absolutely hurt and furious that everyone in the family had kept it a secret from her, and she felt as if nobody took her seriously.

Of course, she didn't realize that at the time of Zoe's birth, Little Mo was only seven, and couldn't possibly understand what was happening.  It didn't matter though...she felt very hurt that her family didn't tell her.

I can relate to Little Mo in this case, because as the youngest child in my family, I sometimes felt as though I was left out of family discussions because of my age, and it really bothered me at the time.  There were instances in which I felt like maybe I wasn't a part of the family because everyone else in my immediate family was so much older than I was, and didn't know how I could make my voice heard.  It was a frustrating period in my life, but nothing I couldn't handle.

Eventually, Little Mo got over it too, which was a good thing.  For, her biggest challenge was yet to come.

As mentioned before, EastEnders is a show that tackles a lot of controversial subject matter.  And Little Mo probably had one of the more controversial storylines that ever took place on the show.

Little Mo was a victim of domestic violence.

It was odd at first because when Little Mo debuted with the rest of the Slater family in September 2000, she couldn't stop gushing over how much she loved her husband Trevor.  You could tell in her eyes that she had nothing but love for this man, even though we never saw him on screen.

But then Christmas came, and Little Mo's eyes revealled a different feeling.  Fear.

This was just the beginning of a nearly two year long storyline.  (And, people thought American soap operas dragged on and on)

This storyline had all sorts of twists and turns to it.  Little Mo tried to leave Trevor, but Trevor came back and begged her to take him back.  Then she would go back to him, he'd hit her again, and she'd leave.  It was a very vicious cycle.  A cycle that Little Mo desperately wanted to break, but Trevor kept breaking her down over and over again.

It wasn't until she met Billy Mitchell that things started to go for the better for her.  She and Billy became firm friends, and soon Billy found himself falling for Little Mo.  Little Mo really started to like Billy too, but her fear of Trevor really prevented her from leaving him.

As fate had it, Billy had discovered that Trevor was cheating on Little Mo with another woman and had gotten her pregnant.  Little Mo refused to believe Billy at first, but she soon found that Billy was telling the truth.  And with Billy and the rest of her family behind her, Little Mo started to find her backbone.

I tell you, I was cheering right along with Little Mo when she did that.  In that split second, she told Trevor that she wasn't going to take him using her anymore. 

Unfortunately it didn't last.  Shortly after that, the news about Zoe and Kat came out, and as a result of it, Zoe ran away from home.  Zoe had managed to get in contact with Little Mo when she found herself in a sticky situation, but devious Trevor deleted the message, and Kat and the rest of the Slaters turned against her as a result of it.  But Little Mo was conflicted.  She really wanted Zoe to come home, and actually went to visit Zoe begging her to return, but at the same time, she knew that Trevor didn't like it.  In actuality, Kat and Zoe's secret was revealled BY Trevor as an attempt to blackmail Little Mo into coming back to him.

That's how sick Trevor was.

Things got worse as Christmas approached.  Not so much for Kat and Zoe.  They ended up reuniting with each other, and Little Mo had decided to pop over to the Slater house to celebrate Zoe's homecoming and Christmas at the same time.  As it happened, Little Mo lost track of time and forgot that she had promised to be with Trevor for Christmas dinner.

The below scene you're about to see is incredibly disturbing to watch, but in order to say what I want to say about this blog entry, it's one that I feel that I have to show, or else you won't know exactly what Little Mo was up against.

Christmas 2001 wasn't a very happy one for Little Mo.  She was abused by Trevor to the point where at one point he actually raped her.  To make matters worse, Zoe developed a case of pneumonia from being on the run, and Kat squarely blamed Little Mo because had it not been for Trevor erasing the message, they could have found her before she got sick.

Little Mo was really starting to lose it.  She was at the point where she was so sick and tired of taking abuse from all sides.  She just wanted to put an end to it.  On New Years Eve, Little Mo and Trevor got into yet another argument, and Trevor was getting ready to attack Little Mo physically once again.  This time, Little Mo fought back.

She grabbed a nearby iron from the kitchen and smashed Trevor's head with it a couple of times, knocking him out cold.  Upon first glance, Little Mo believed that she had killed Trevor, and she immediately tried to look for her family to help dispose of Trevor's body.  When they got back to the house, they found that Trevor was nowhere to be seen.

Trevor meanwhile had survived, but decided to turn Little Mo into the police, and she was arrested.  Despite testimony from the Slater family, Billy, and even Trevor's mistress (whom he also abused), Little Mo was found guilty, and was given a sentence of eight years for attempted murder.

Told you she was a tragic heroine.

While Little Mo was sent to prison, Trevor decided to take out his anger on his mistress, and on one such occasion, the mistress ended up in the hospital.  By then, the mistress had given birth to Trevor's child, and Kat and the rest of the Slaters decided to take care of the baby while she recovered.  When Trevor barged into the Slater home to get his son back, Kat ended up getting in the way, and Trevor attacked her before getting arrested by the police.  Kat made a deal with Trevor though.  Trevor could avoid jail time if he retracted the abuse charge that got Little Mo sent to prison.

When Little Mo was released, she was emotionally scarred, but through the support of her family as well as a budding relationship with Billy on the horizon, things were finally going Little Mo's way.

The climax of this storyline happened on Halloween night in 2002, when Trevor kidnapped his son and Little Mo and held both of them hostage.  Trevor was determined to make Little Mo pay for everything she had done.  His plan was to throw gasoline all over the Slater house and then light the place on fire, killing everyone inside the house.  What Trevor didn't count on was Little Mo's prison stay making her a lot less fearful of him.  I couldn't help but include this scene, because this truly was Little Mo's finest hour.

Well okay...except for the part where the house actually went up in flames, Little Mo really did a lot of people proud.  She stood up for herself and let Trevor know that he couldn't hurt her anymore.  She was done being abused by him, and it was time for her to live the rest of her life the way SHE wanted with people who DID love her.

Little Mo survived the fire, as did Trevor's son.  Trevor...not so much.  Would you believe that when he died, Little Mo actually wanted to plan a funeral for him?  Eventually people convinced her that the person she should be mourning was the fireman who died trying to save her, instead of the husband who did nothing but hurt her, and she ended up marrying Billy two months later.

Of course, as I later researched online, the wedding of Little Mo and Billy wasn't one that lasted, and Little Mo herself left the show in 2006.  I haven't seen these episodes yet, so please don't spoil too too much. 

The main question one has to ask is...why did it take two years for Little Mo to decide that she wanted to be free of an abusive son of a bitch like Trevor?

Because Little Mo was bullied for so long, in some of the cruelest ways possible.  It's only natural for someone like Little Mo to have such low self-esteem about herself when one is bullied and humiliated every day.

While I thank my lucky stars that my experiences were not nearly as traumatic or devastating as what poor Little Mo had to endure...I know exactly how she felt.  I was humiliated and bullied by quite a few people.  They called me names, beat me up, made me feel so ashamed of myself.  I literally lost about a decade of my life because of what some of those people put me through because I was so ashamed to show myself on the street.  I didn't even really like talking about what I went through at the time because I thought that if I told anyone that the bullying would get worse. 

The thing that Little Mo and I realized a little late in life is that nobody is worth getting abused on a day to day basis.  All Little Mo really wanted was to have a husband who loved her and honoured her.  Instead she ended up with an insecure coward who thought that by beating her, she would stay with him.  Eventually, Little Mo realized through her romance with Billy and the support of her family that she was far better off being alone than being stuck in a relationship where she was constantly getting her heart broken.

I would try almost anything to be friends with people in grade school.  I even went as far as letting the so called 'cool kids' bully me and tease me just so I could be acknowledged by someone.  I was pretty insecure about myself to begin with, and having constant name calling and abuse directed towards me did nothing to erase that insecurity.  It did the opposite actually.

The more I tried to be nice to some of those kids, the meaner they treated me.  I'd offer to share my cookies with them at recess, and they repayed me by washing my face out with snow during a chilly January recess.  But when you're a kid, you just want so desperately to be accepted by people that you just sit back and take it, hoping that they'll grow out of it, or that they'll see that you're strong and then they'll like you.

It took me almost eighteen years to have my Little Mo moment.  It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I realized that I had wasted so much time on those pathetic losers because I let them get to me.  It hasn't always been easy to forget what they did...some of the stuff they did should really have been considered criminal behaviour as far as I'm concerned.  I am getting better at handling it.  I'm now starting to realize that I'm not as pathetic as they lead me to believe for so many years.  In actuality, I think I might have come out of this better than they could ever have hoped to be.  Because while I might not have as much money as they do, or live in as nice a place as they experiences with them have made me realize that I shouldn't settle for anyone.  I should search for the best people for me to be around, because I deserve the very best.


Everyone deserves the best things in life for them.

Even Little Mo Mitchell.

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