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Emmerdale boss Iain Macleod: Angry backlash to Robert cheating has made us rethink portrayal of bisexual characters

Robert Sugden, Aaron Dingle

Emmerdale's producer addressed vociferous complaints about Robert and Rebecca's affair at a Royal Television Society Event

Emmerdale series producer Iain Macleod says the backlash surrounding Robert Sugden’s cheating has forced the soap’s production team to reconsider how they portray bisexual characters on the show.

Earlier this year, Robert slept with Rebecca White while husband Aaron Dingle was in prison – prompting complaints from some viewers that the show was perpetuating the myth that bisexual people are promiscuous.

Speaking at a Royal Television Society panel discussion, called LGBTQ in Soap: Job Done?, Iain said: "We took the view with the character of Robert that his sexuality was low on the list of things that were most interesting about him. He's devious, manipulative and self-serving and has been since birth.

iain macleod

Emmerdale producer Iain MacLeod


"But he recently cheated on his partner and we've got a very angry backlash from certain portions of our audience that feel like that we've pandered to this incorrect perception that bisexual people are somehow promiscuous or untrustworthy.

"It's a really good example of us, as an editorial team, forgetting people's sexuality and having this attitude of, 'We can tell any story we like about anyone'.

"But actually, this has been an interesting exercise in checks and balances. It's forced us to reassess how do we deal with characters, and should we consider their sexuality more prominently when telling stories?"

Robert's fling, which resulted in Rebecca getting pregnant, has since driven a wedge between Robert and Aaron. And next week, the much-loved couple, known as #Robron by fans, will be shown living apart.

Iain added: "I still feel like you should reserve the right to have a bisexual character do something scurrilous if that's consistent with their character and if it's truthful. But actually, certain portions of our audience haven't agreed - so that’s interesting."

Alison Slade
Alison Slade

Alison Slade has over 20 years of experience as a TV journalist and has spent the vast majority of that time as Soap Editor of TV Times magazine. 

She is passionate about the ability of soaps to change the world by presenting important, issue-based stories about real people in a relatable way.

There are few soap actors that she hasn’t interviewed over the years, and her expertise in the genre means she has been called upon as a judge numerous times for The British Soap Awards and the BAFTA TV Awards.

When she is not writing about soaps, watching soaps, or interviewing people who are in soaps, she loves going to the theatre, taking a long walk or pottering about at home, obsessing over Farrow and Ball paint.