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Barry was a cockney barrow-boy, and an unlikely partner for the gay, middle classed yuppie, Colin Russell. He was much younger than his middle-aged boyfriend and as such Colin's role was almost paternal. Barry was open about his sexuality to everyone except his volatile father — and when he was finally told he took the news so badly that Barry turned straight just to appease him — although he was never very successful at it.
Character creation and development Edit
Barry was one half of Walford's first homosexual couple. His boyfriend, Colin, had already been introduced to the show several months prior to Barry's arrival and he had proven to be an extremely popular addition to the cast. Both the audience and the residents of Walford had been kept in the dark about the fact that Colin was gay. This changed upon Barry's first scene on-screen, whereby the audience learnt that he had spent the night with Colin after picking him up the night before (off-screen) at a gay club.
Colin and Barry were two of the most controversial characters of their time — mainly because gay-orientated content was still relatively rare on prime time television during the mid 1980s. Gay characters that existed were usually farcical camp parodies, created purely for comic relief, such as Mr Humphries in the situation comedy, Are You Being Served?. Although EastEnders was not the first UK, televised soap to include a gay character — Channel 4's Brookside had that distinction — the portrayal of an openly gay male — let alone a homosexual relationship — on a prime time, pre-watershed BBC programme was unheard of before Colin and Barry's introduction. The licence-funded BBC held a far greater audience share than the commercially-funded Channel 4, thus public reaction to EastEnders' gay characters was much stronger and more widely documented in the British press.
Colin was a middle-classed, well-meaning, slightly uptight yuppie, so the makers of EastEnders decided that his partner needed to be in stark contrast in order to prevent him from becoming too rarefied (up until this point middle-classed characters had been relatively unsuccessful and had failed to fully integrate into EastEnders predominantly working-class community). Barry was scripted to be much more down-to-earth in comparison: working-class instead of middle-class; openly gay instead of 'in the closet'; loud and brash instead of shy and retiring and in addition the age difference between the two was substantial — Colin being roughly fifteen years Barry's senior. The actor Gary Hailes was chosen to play the role. Hailes was known to EastEnders co-creators, Tony Holland and Julia Smith, as he had previously attended auditions in 1984 for the role of Mark Fowler, but had been unsuccessful.
A relationship between Colin and Barry was quickly developed and the residents of Albert Square gossiped in hushed voices about the true nature of their friendship. In 1987 EastEnders was responsible for screening the first ever gay kiss in a UK soap, much to the outrage of the viewing public. A small kiss on the forehead, given to Barry from Colin, received a record number of complaints from angry viewers. In addition, the right-wing British press reacted with fury. They began a smear campaign, branding the programme "filth" and, for a while, dubbed the show "EastBenders". There were even questions in parliament about whether it was appropriate to have gay men in a family show when AIDS was sweeping the country.
Despite the initial negativity, the storyline had a powerful impact on public attitudes and the show's handling of Colin and Barry's relationship was deemed by many gay activists as something of a breakthrough. Not only did EastEnders brave the wrath of many viewers and journalists, but they also explored anti-gay bigotry through the characters in the show - most notably via Albert Square's local gossip Dot Cotton, who erupted into horror and ignorant self-righteousness upon discovering Colin and Barry's secret, and even spread rumours that Colin had AIDS. The episode featuring the kiss was watched by over 17 million viewers, and Colin and Barry remained on-screen for several years, accessing millions of viewers each episode — the gay community were finally being represented on mass audience mainstream television. Gradually, negative assumptions began to lessen, public opinion began to shift in Colin and Barry's favour and even Dot got used to the idea of having gay neighbours. Michael Cashman, the actor turned politician who played Colin, has commented: "This was a flagship BBC show, the most popular series in the country, and Colin and Barry were there day in, day out. The relationship wasn't sensationalised, and the public devoured it."
Barry remained on-screen as a full-time character until 1988. His character was used to highlight many other gay issues, such as homophobia, gay legal inequality — the legal age of gay sexual consent (which at the time was 21 instead of 16 as it is today) — and most notably the hardship that many young gay men face when "coming out" to their parents. The plot saw Barry forced into "outing" himself to his father, who reacted badly, and this subsequently led to Barry living the remainder of his stay in Walford as a heterosexual in order to appease him — thus highlighting the pressure to conform that many young gay people face. Although the scenes where Barry was disowned by his father (as a result of his sexuality) were filmed, they never made it to air. In an interview featured in EastEnders Handbook by Hilary Kingsly, Michael Cashman expressed how sorry he was that these particular scenes were cut, although no reason for their exclusion was given. As such, Barry's confrontation with his father occurred off-screen. Eventually, the differences between Colin and Barry became too great for them to overcome, they split and Barry left Walford for a job on a cruise ship, but returned briefly in February 1989 to aid the departure of Colin.
Barry was first seen in November 1986 as a young man that the gay graphic designer, Colin Russell, had picked up at a bar and spent the night with. That same day, Colin was extremely shocked to discover Barry working on Bridge Street market, selling records and various other paraphernalia. Barry's family name carried serious clout around Walford as they had a somewhat thuggish reputation, and everyone knew they were a family that wasn't to be messed with. The more 'worldly' people on the Square knew that Barry was gay, however his family did not and Barry hoped his father in particular would never find out.
Relationship with ColinEdit
Barry was quite pushy in comparison to the shy and retiring Colin, and made it clear that he was keen for a relationship to develop between them. Although Colin was not ashamed of his sexuality, he had chosen to keep it from his neighbours in Albert Square, and so he was a little apprehensive about the speed at which their relationship progressed. He had little say in the matter however, as by December Barry had announced that he wanted to move in with him. Barry moved all his belongings in without discussion — including his goldfish, Gloria — and he and Colin lived under the guise that they were merely flatmates.
Barry and Colin were polar opposites of each other, and their cohabitation proved awkward because of this. Things got worse when Barry started keeping the company of the local villain, Nick Cotton. Nick had been an old school friend of Barry's older brother. It transpired that Barry had served time in prison in 1983 after he was caught stealing a car. Nick and Barry were soon up to no good, drunkenly joyriding a car and crashing into Ali Osman's mini cab. Colin was left to pay for the damages. Barry offered Nick a place to stay, much to Colin's dismay, and he tried to get rid of his unwanted house guest by divulging the nature of his relationship with Barry. Nick was stunned, but even this didn't get rid of him. While Nick regularly grumbled about the presence of "poofs" on the Square, he gladly took advantage of Colin's hospitality and repaid him by stealing and pawning his property and getting Barry involved in various other criminal scams. Colin, ever the diplomat, put up with all of this for Barry's sake, but finally, after learning that Nick had attempted to pimp Mary Smith and had stitched Barry's brother up for a crime he'd committed, Colin threw him out.
This was not the end of Colin and Barry's problems however, as when the local gossip, Dot Cotton, took on the job of cleaner at their flat, she was mortified to discover that they were sharing the same bed. She resigned in disgust, proclaiming that "AIDS was God's punishment for homosexuals" and she then rushed to Dr. Legg's to get an HIV test — fearing that she'd contracted the disease because she'd drunk from one of Barry's coffee cups. Soon the whole Square knew, and several bigoted residents, like Pete Beale and Tom Clements, began shunning Colin and Barry as a result. Gradually, even Dot got used to the idea of having gay neighbours and the animosity lessened.
In June 1987, Barry's older brother, Graham, made an appearance. Fearing his reaction, Barry tried to cover up the fact that he was living with another man in a homosexual relationship, but was shocked when Graham admitted that he already knew. Meanwhile, Barry's selfish behaviour was causing yet more problems in the relationship. After turning 21 he began to spend much of his spare time partying with his friends and ignoring Colin. Barry was often inconsiderate and slobbishly untidy, which irritated Colin and much arguing ensued as a result. Barry managed to ruin Colin's attempts at getting work, he rarely paid his way and he continuously tried to make Colin jealous — even kissing a woman in front of him. His game worked to his detriment as Colin became so jealous that he wanted to know where Barry was at all times. As the year wore on it became apparent that the differences between them were too great to overcome.
In November 1987, Colin — after getting on the wrong side of the gangster organisation known as The Firm — had his flat broken into and vandalised. Colin decided to bring in the police, but they were more concerned about Colin's sexuality than catching the vandals. They started questioning him about how long he and Barry had been co-habiting and they eventually asked Barry's age, leading a nervous Colin to lie that Barry was 22. When the police went to question Barry they asked him to confirm his age. Unaware that Colin had lied, Barry gave his true age, 21, and so the police deciphered that Barry was only 20 when he started living with Colin. This meant that Barry had been under the legal age of consent for a homosexual when they began cohabiting, and so the police felt it was their duty to inform his mother about his sexuality and also threatened to prosecute Colin (in 1987 the legal age of sexual consent for homosexuals was 21, not 16 as it is today). Barry's mum was disturbed by this and feared that his father would react violently if he was told. Eventually, Graham persuaded Barry that he had to tell his father before he found out from someone else. Barry did so on Christmas Eve 1987. He took the news extremely badly, threatening to disown him unless he changed his ways. Barry became increasingly distant towards Colin and on New Year's Eve, they finally decided to end the relationship after spending one final night together.
Living a lieEdit
Barry began 1988 a supposedly changed man. He began living life as a heterosexual, not because his sexuality was really changing, but because the pressure to conform was just too much for him.
He moved into Ethel Skinner's vacant flat above the doctors surgery — cheekily borrowing a months rent from Colin — and began dating a girl named Judy, much to Colin's dismay. He also took a keen interest in starting up a mobile disco with Ian Beale, and continued to pressure Colin for money in order to do so. Colin began to realise that he was being used, but put up with it in order to remain close to Barry. Barry and Ian hired the disco equipment from the petty criminal Darren Roberts and had several successful events, leading them to think that they could make it into a profitable business so they decided to buy the disco equipment from Darren. They did so, but immediately regretted it, because soon after all their equipment was repossessed. It transpired that Darren had neglected to inform Barry or Ian that the equipment was on Hire Purchase, and after failing to meet the repayments, the finance company took it all back.
Meanwhile, Barry managed to fall out with his landlord and downstairs neighbour, Dr. Legg, after continuously playing his loud music at all hours. Dr. Legg got so annoyed that he evicted both Barry and Ian — who was temporarily living with Barry at the time after falling out with his parents.
With nothing left for him in Walford, Barry decided to take a job as a DJ on a cruise liner in July 1988. Colin was deeply upset to see him go, and allowed him to repay off his vast loan in instalments, knowing full well that he would never see a penny from him. Colin tried to move on with his life, but could never quite forget Barry.
Barry returned briefly in February 1989 on the exact day that Colin — who was now suffering from early stages of Multiple Sclerosis — was leaving Walford. Colin had been living with another man named Guido Smith and had planned to depart without saying goodbye to him. However, he was stalled by Barry's sudden arrival, which led to Guido catching him and Barry together. An emotional scene ensued and Colin then departed, saying a particularly heartfelt goodbye to Barry. Barry and Guido then went for a drink to reflect on Colin, and Guido — hurt by Colin's obvious affection for his ex-boyfriend — informed Barry that he was the love of Colin's life. Barry remained oblivious to the effect he'd had on Colin. Barry has not appeared since.
- ↑ Brake, Colin (1995). EastEnders: The First 10 Years: A Celebration. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37057-2.
- ↑ "Gay TV Characters", RainbowNetwork.com. URL last accessed on 2006-12-30.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Smith, Rupert (2005). EastEnders: 20 years in Albert Square. BBC books. ISBN 0-563-52269-0.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Smith, Julia; Holland, Tony (1987). EastEnders - The Inside Story. Book Club Associates. ISBN 0-563-20601-2.
- ↑ "EastEnders star turned MEP to hold gay marriage", Pinknews.co.uk. URL last accessed on 2006-12-30.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Without prejudice", The Guardian. URL last accessed on 2006-12-30.
- ↑ "Gay weddings on The Archers!", Outfront. URL last accessed on 2006-12-30.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Kingsley, Hilary (1990). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN 0-563-36292-8.