Emmerdale: #vanity – a true love story?
They’re the last of Emmerdale’s ‘super couples’ but Vanessa Woodfield and Charity Dingle – #Vanity as named by fans – are more than just a love story according to The Emmerdaily contributor @IShipVanity
When Vanessa Woodfield (Michelle Hardwick) inadvertently locked herself in the Woolpack cellar with Charity Dingle (Emma Atkins) ready to give the publican a piece of her mind, sparks flew and attractions simmered. Charity, ever the one to seize upon a weakness, kissed a stunned Vanessa who wilted under the superpowers of the Woolpack owner minus the cape.
What seemed to be a flash in the pan frisson was quickly brought to the boil. For on the face of it, the ingredients were wrong and incompatible with creating a Emmerdale power-couple. The bossy Charity – haunted by her past, always choosing power and wealth over real tangible love; Vanessa – always struggling deep down with her sexuality, making all the wrong moves even with her best friend in the world Rhona Goskirk (Zoe Henry).
In reality, Vanity should not work but opposites attract and when they do, not only is it surprising but offers a real refreshing narrative. It is over and beyond the powerful and moving narrative of healthy middle-aged LGBT representation on screen. Dig far beyond the surface and you will find that Vanity is more than just a love story.
It’s about unconditional support, acceptance and safety of two people at odds with their past and struggling to see a future free from past trauma. From the outset, Vanessa and Charity played a game of cat and mouse with each other, afraid to commit and fearing the odd string in any potential relationship. They could be found doing the walk of shame from Tug Ghyll or secretive meetings in the Woolpack.
Charity’s past came back to haunt her after Tracy Metcalfe’s (Amy Walsh) harassment court case evolved into the younger woman helping front a subsequent police sex worker campaign, headed by Charity’s childhood abuser DI Mark Bails (Rocky Marshall). The blossoming relationship hit rough water as Charity poured out her soul and the past she has worked so hard to suppress dealing a hammer blow for a shocked Vanessa. Confessing that Bails not only sexually assaulted her but trafficked the then 14-year-old Charity.
Charity’s abuse has defined her life, why she craves wealth and an inability to parent her children, even using them as pawns to sell off. Behind all the bravado, she has a real vulnerability that is not always too far from the surface. Putting on a front, believing herself incapable and “not worth any better” the trauma Charity went through as a child spilling over into adulthood. Seeking justice rather than being the one in the dock was a traumatic experience for her.
Through the unwavering support of Vanessa to stabilise a situation firmly out of control, she found someone who for the first time in her life wasn’t judgmental, not out for monetary gain, someone she trusts. That is critically important and why it’s more than just a love story – it’s about Charity finding that one person that truly understands “the code” and has helped reconcile her past. Something has always been at the core of her actions – scheming, the marriages of convenience, what she could get out of it, Charity not once experiencing the true love she craved.
Vanessa support was almost bordering on the “annoying” to coin Charity’s assessment of her other half. She never gave up on her no matter how tough it got. Where others would have wilted under pressure, Vanessa almost thrived under it. To have a partner by Charity’s side that could stand the pressure even when given an “out” is profound. It’s easy to assume anyone could not sustain the pressure the situation bore. It shows the reality that many abuse survivors go through and how out of the love and care of a partner can overflow into something far more important a sense of safety that Vanessa gives Charity.
Whilst on the flip side of the coin, we have seen Vanessa struggle to accept her sexuality. The braveness of coming out so far in the distance and the undercurrent of village gossip since she arrived in the Dales. It was brought into focus after Charity “outed” the future Mrs Dingle to her nearest and dearest on a “date” with Daz Spencer (Mark Jordon). Declaring they had a fling the night before but it did shake the vet to her core. Forced to accept after seemingly years of making the wrong romantic decisions that she was in fact a lesbian!
Even being set up on dates by her sister Tracy, Vanessa found through her relationship with Charity a newfound fearlessness in being in a same-sex relationship. As if by some degree of osmosis Charity’s traits were rubbing off on her. With the Woolpack landlady Vanessa found that acceptance and safety, even if Charity tried her patience. Vanessa was able to be honest with herself for the first time in her life. Not afraid to hide finding safety and her own equilibrium in life. It’s a powerful narrative to portray that through acceptance of yourself viewers can see a healthy even if at times turbulent relationship prosper. And boy has their relationship prospered so much so Charity Dingle, the queen of non-committal, put a ring on Vanessa’s finger.
There has been a sense from the Dingle’s in the past that Charity’s relationships and marriages have been disastrous leading to unparalleled approval from her family of Vanessa. The Dingles see Charity with someone who is a positive figure and will support her and the couple even got accepted by Vanessa’s family including late father Frank Clayton (Michael Praed) that Charity for all her past faults is a positive influence on her. Then seeing Charity finally settle down and sharing parental responsibilities with Vanessa to their blended family including granddaughter Sarah Sugden (Katie Hill). Their relationship has created a strong family unit that frankly if you were to say to Emmerdailians five years ago, Charity and Vanessa would settle down in domestic bliss. You’d swear story-liners were smoking Doug’s pot!
When Emmerdale creatives had the brainwave to bring two characters that should not work together, they created something truly special. It redefined one of its most acerbic characters in Charity Dingle, finally at peace after years of being unable to move forward due to past trauma. Bringing acceptance to Vanessa and the power in the knowledge she finally is able to have the freedom of expression in her sexuality possibly for the first time in her life. Vanity is more than just a love story but a bastion of hope for others struggling with past trauma and deep rooted and immovable notions of doubt of who they are.
As Vanessa and Charity write a new chapter in their life story together at Jacobs Fold, it demonstrates they have finally come full circle after going on an epic journey Micheal Palin would be proud of. The road ahead maybe rocky and fraught but they seemingly get stronger with every challenge put in their way, for what was meant to be a moment of fleeting passion has turned out to be a defining story for the two characters now in better places. They have found love and acceptance and a safe place to be themselves! All that’s left is a simple “I do!”