Neighbours is attempting to normalise polyamory – but is the show's portrayal accurate?

·4-min read

Neighbours spoilers follow for UK viewers.

Romance is blossoming in Erinsborough, only it's not the type of love we're used to seeing in Neighbours.

Ever since Amy Greenwood returned to Ramsay Street, drama has surely followed her – from her rivalry with Roxy Willis, to her fantasies about Ned Willis in that cowboy hat, she's been an eccentric whirlwind of a resident.

However, things are about to heat up in a unique way, with Amy, Ned, and Levi Canning becoming the first polyamorous relationship to air on Neighbours.

Australian fans have already seen the scenes unfold, but for UK fans this development is still in its infancy, with Ned and Levi only just starting to get into their rivalry over Amy.

Photo credit: Fremantle - Channel 5
Photo credit: Fremantle - Channel 5

Despite there being a wait before the UK sees this threesome become official, the interest around the storyline is palpable.

Never one to shy away from embracing the rich tapestry of lifestyles, the decision to include polyamory isn't just a logical progression of the show, but a welcomed way of embracing inclusivity.

Nevertheless, while this is definitely a step in the right direction, questions about the accuracy of its polyamory portrayal are already being asked.

Arguably, the concern comes from the way Amy, Ned, and Levi's relationship has, and still is, developing.

Photo credit: Fremantle - Channel 5
Photo credit: Fremantle - Channel 5

So far, UK audiences have watched as Ned and Levi have started to casually date Amy, with both of them desperate to impress her. Their need to be the "best man" has created the typical love triangle we've become accustomed to seeing in soaps.

However, that predictability quickly moves from jealousy fuelled rivalry to the beginning of a polyamory relationship after Ned and Levi admit their feelings for Amy. The intricacies of this reveal have (mostly) been well received, and yet trepidation within the poly community still lurks.

The caution that some viewers are feeling comes from the element of persuasion seemingly involved with this development – both Levi and Amy aren't sure about taking this step, whereas Ned is all for it. Although it shows a discussion of options that are rarely seen, there's the issue that the two parties aren't as keen on the idea, yet still go ahead with it.

Partnered with this, you also have the uncertainty of why Ned is suggesting such a dynamic – does Ned genuinely think this relationship is right for them or is this about avoiding potential rejection?

Photo credit: Fremantle - Channel 5
Photo credit: Fremantle - Channel 5

Poly relationships aren't the black and white caricature that those outside of the community believe it is, they're valid experiences that have the same depth and complexities of monogamous relationships.

Unfortunately, many TV shows fail to translate this onto our screens, with most poly romances portrayed as confusing episodes of promiscuous fun. Ultimately, this spreads misinformation and holds polyamory back from being normalised.

To try to combat any stereotyping that may take place, Neighbours made sure to include its characters discussing the difference between thrupples (relationships with three people in them) and polyamory (desiring intimate relationships with more than one partner, but having the consent of all of them). By taking the time to explain this important distinction, the show is allowing its viewers to become familiar and more educated about what polyamory really is.

However, a brief discussion on the sofa about whether Amy, Ned, and Levi should give it a try isn't enough to truly set the groundwork for revolutionary inclusion. If Neighbours is to deliver accurate representation, then it needs to avoid opting for the all too easy conclusion of depicting polyamory as experimentation waiting to go wrong.

Photo credit: Fremantle - Channel 5
Photo credit: Fremantle - Channel 5

"TV shows often use poly as a salutary lesson, a weekly plot point, or a way to help characters strengthen their monogamous relationships," shares London based polyamorous blogger Exhibit A.

"Someone will experiment with poly, it'll ultimately go wrong, and they'll realise that actually, they were happy with monogamy all along. That's annoying.

"Poly relationships break down all the time, in the same way monogamous ones do – it shouldn't be (and in real life often isn't) a trigger for someone to abandon it altogether.”

If Neighbours is to really cement itself as being for diversity, then it needs to treat this developing storyline with the respect it deserves. Therefore, if Amy, Ned, and Levi ultimately fail as a relationship, there needs to be a nuance to the situation rather than relying on polyamory being the catalyst.

To use polyamory as a throwaway plot device, never to be taken seriously or given the chance to flourish, won't only do the characters a disservice but its audience as well. Not ignoring how it could strengthen the notion that the show lacks diversity both on and off screens, an accusation most recently seen in its racism investigation.

For now, though, Australian and UK viewers will have to wait and see whether this relationship has the staying power of Susan and Karl Kennedy. Currently, there are more positives outweighing the negatives, but as any diehard Neighbours fan knows, that can change instantly.

Neighbours airs on weekdays at 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Channel 5 (UK) and Mondays to Thursdays at 6.30pm on 10 Peach (Australia).

Read more Neighbours spoilers on our dedicated homepage

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