This week marks the 25th anniversary of Hollyoaks’ first appearance on Channel 4 and to celebrate, the show will see the return of some old favorites.
There will also be blackmail, a proposal, the discovery of a corpse and potentially a divorce for the village’s favorite couple.
For a tea time soap, Hollyoaks has never shied away from tackling hard-hitting or controversial stories.
The show has garnered praise for its portrayal of real-life issues, gender, sexuality and mental health, child abuse and far-right extremism.
Ahead of Friday’s anniversary, here’s a look at 10 of Hollyoaks biggest plots.
1. Male rape
Male rape has been discussed twice in Hollyoaks.
In 2000, Luke Morgan, played by Gary Lucy, was attacked by another football player.
Her rape was initially a soap opera and made national headlines. You could say it’s still Hollyoaks’ most famous screenplay.
At the time, producers were working with rape support groups.
This is something they did again in 2014 when teacher John Paul McQueen, played by James Sutton, was sexually assaulted by one of his students.
2. Drug trafficking in the counties
County lines are the term used when drug traffickers in cities recruit young and often vulnerable people to transport and sell illegal drugs in small towns and villages.
They are often drawn to the promise of money, but it can turn violent and dangerous with no way out.
The storyline was introduced late last year and saw Sid and Juliet dragged into the business by Sid’s cousin Jordan.
The couple have now sold drugs in the village and recruited young children to join them.
Hollyoaks worked with the Children’s Society to develop the plot and highlight how the issue can affect an entire community.
3. Hannah Ashworth’s Anorexia
Emma Rigby won a British Soap Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Hannah Ashworth, who suffered from anorexia and bulimia.
Her character lived with the disease for years onscreen, garnering praise from mental health charities for her awareness.
As part of her story, a friend of hers, Melissa, died of a heart attack due to a lack of food.
It was the first time that a British soap opera killed a character from an eating disorder.
4. Ste and Brendan’s abusive relationship
Ste Hay, played by Keiron Richardson, and Brendan Brady, played by Emmett Scanlan, were part of a love triangle in which Brendan abused Ste, fueled by his struggle to come to terms with his sexuality.
Before the plot developed, Richardson came out publicly on This Morning.
He said: “The script is relevant to certain situations in my life and if I can maybe help people who are going through the same thing then that is a bonus.”
The plot was also used to highlight the issue of male victims of domestic violence.
5. Lisa Hunter’s Self-Injury
In the early 2000s, Gemma Atkinson played Lisa Hunter, who self-inflicted herself after being bullied by Steph Dean.
It was the first soap opera to feature such a plot, with Lisa hiding what she was doing from family and friends.
Self-harm has since been covered several times in Hollyoaks.
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6. The ecstatic death of Natasha Anderson
In 1995, the national press covered the death of a teenage girl called Leah Betts, who died after taking an ecstasy pill on her 18th birthday.
Less than a year later, Hollyoaks broached the issue of drugs when Natasha Anderson’s character, played by Shebah Ronay, spiked her drink at an 18th birthday party.
She collapsed and died on the dance floor.
Hollyoak’s storylines have often echoed real news.
In 2009, a controversial storyline had two characters who lived under aliases after being convicted of killing a child when they were younger.
It was deemed too similar to the murder of James Bulger and was subsequently scrapped.
7. Far right extremism
In 2019, Hollyoaks explored the threat of far-right extremism across Ste.
As Ste was a gay figure, the movement focused on a new trend of recruiting minorities and not on the white, straight male stereotype.
It started with the death of her half-sister during an operation. Ste believed that a Muslim doctor was responsible and that made him an easy target.
He was even more vulnerable because he was losing his job and his house around the same time.
Again, the soap opera responded to what was going on in the UK at the time and worked with Prevent and ExitUK helping people escape extremism.
8. Anita Roy skin whitening
In 2009, Anita Roy, played by Saira Choudhry, was racially abused by Gaz Bennett.
As a result of the bullying, she began bleaching her skin to make it appear white – making Hollyoaks the first soap to address such a scenario.
Speaking to Newsbeat at the time, Choudhry said: “It’s really tough and the deepest thing I’ve ever read.”
9. Jason Costello
Hollyoaks was the first British soap opera to feature a character who suffers from gender identity disorder.
Introduced to the public as Jasmine Costello, the character identified as Jason.
The role was played by Victoria Atkin, who met with transgender teens to research the character.
10. Steph Cunningham’s Cancer
In 2010, Steph Cunningham was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Steph, played by Carley Stenson, had ignored her symptoms and ended up needing a hysterectomy.
As with many other storylines, the producers – and Stenson – were hoping to raise awareness of this issue.
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