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Eras of Ailsa's characterisation

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  • 2 months later...
On 06/03/2022 at 18:11, nenehcherry2 said:

Several other fans and I have commented on how Ailsa's personality changed over time. 

What do you all think? Is Ailsa consistently written and /or portrayed from your perspective? And what "eras of Ailsa" (if any) exist in your viewership of the series?

Eras of Ailsa for me (not exactly night into day seachanges, more umbrella categories):

88 - mid 89: 80s Ailsa is politically conscious in a left-of-centre of way with strong opposition to commercial enterprises which impact the environment (such as the Macklin development). She is generally a warm, extroverted, community-focused woman with clearly defined morals and a real passion in helping underdogs like Bobby. Ailsa relates to teens very well, almost an Aunt figure, and seems to look for their company. But she isn't used as a "Mum" at this point, that is very much reserved for Pippa. She doesn't suffer fools like Roo very gladly. Judy portrays Ailsa with a lot of self-confidence and delivers her lines in a General Australian accent. And she is down to earth, examplified by her chewing gum and throwing bags at Lance and Martin. A difficult to offend type. Streetwise and suspicious but sees the good in everyone. And, most important, has central storylines of her own. Bevan Lee and co clearly liked Ailsa! I am convinced that had they stayed (who knows? Perhaps they'd intended to bring back Graham as Duncan's real father!). 

Late 89ish - late 94/early 95: What I define as "Middle Ailsa". Nice and mumsy. Neither introverted or extroverted. Something changed when Bevan Lee left and the next lot took over (though her leaving the store and switching to the diner started the shift). The new leadership team progressively saw Ailsa as a foster Mum of sorts (the scenarios for bringing the kids in became progressively more forced over time) but, with the "mothering focus" on Pippa, Ailsa just seems to have 1-2 (not truly fostered) kid with her at any one time, so most of her contribution to episodes at this point seems really to be serving coffees in the diner. She is characterised as nice and ordinary (with the occassional snooty side) but isn't as "out there" with her views as the first year or so although still has that mistrust with the likes of Dodge, Nathan and Morag. Gets on fairly well with the teens but definitely more "controlled" interactions than cooler 80s Ailsa. Community focused but that really gets lost in focus once Pippa is recasted (they make Debra's Pip the character everyone goes to with problems with Ailsa as backup). No big storylines between 89-95, more a mere supporting type. As this era progresses, Judy changes the physical mannerisms in her delivery to reflect this lesser focused Ailsa and her accent becomes slightly more cultivated. Lots of "Oh Alf, really Love!" sort of lines and moaning about being busy (especially when Alf goes away every year so Ray can do panto!) 

Late 94/Early 95 - 00: Ailsa in this period is very inconsistent and all over the place in characterisation! She can be downright cold and nasty at times and very aloof, with the kids especially (I see the start of the shift here being not wanting to take Curtis in at first and full-on by the time Laura arrives). Introverted to the point of avoiding interacting with many characters and often socially awkward. Quite the opposite of mumsy. The accent becomes even more cultivated and she becomes more conservatively dressed and centre right in ideology, often approaching Celia level Right! But in the next episode, she can be just like "Middle Ailsa" again, serving coffees with a smile. However, starting with the breakdown, she does start to get central storylines again. However, these stories make her seem like a victim or deranged. It felt like Russell Webb and his team were aiming to bring back darker, tougher 80s Ailsa to a degree but got it all wrong. To the point that she very often comes across as a judgemental, prickly old witch. She does have kids living with her like in the previous era but her chemistry with them (Curtis especially) is nothing near as warm as what she had with say Blake or Sarah. 

So what are the consistencies between these periods? For me, there are few. Perhaps the main one is Ailsa's sixth sense with "baddies" (though by the time Quinn comes along, she takes that way too far) as well as being anti-violence given her history.


What does everyone else here think? Is Ailsa one woman for you? Or several women? 

That is a beautifully written argument that you set out! I very much agree. 

To take it further, am I the only one who thinks that Alf and Ailsa weren't suited? Certainly after her breakdown in 1995 Ailsa tells Alf that she doesn't love him. She quickly backtracks on what she said, but her initial sentiment felt the more truthful. 

I just get the feeling that after everything they had gone through, that yes Alf was hard working and at heart a decent guy but Ailsa felt she had compromised with him. He wasn't the man to stimulate her intellect, or excite her passions. 

Alf and Ailsa remind me a bit of Mr and Mrs Meldrew from One Foot in the Grave. So whilst Alf and Victor Meldrew's upsets and temper tantrums were amusing to the audience (I say this as someone who loves Alf), you can see their wives were being ground down by their antics. It's like okay you might have a genuine reason for being boorish but you're still being boorish.

If Ailsa went though those stages as you say, then I think a lot of the reason is that Alf hadn't gone through any stages at all.

Perhaps a brave move might have been for the couple to divorce at this point (1996/1997) and to have Ailsa be written out and for her to take Duncan with her leaving Alf to find a new love. I'm sure Judy would have been happy to have obliged considering her writing career.

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Alf and Ailsa were like chalk and cheese but I think they worked well together. They weren't young when they got together and I think they both recognised that they were very different people.

Let's say they had split up - is there any character from the early years who you would've paired Ailsa up with?

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29 minutes ago, cymbaline said:

Alf and Ailsa were like chalk and cheese but I think they worked well together. They weren't young when they got together and I think they both recognised that they were very different people.

Let's say they had split up - is there any character from the early years who you would've paired Ailsa up with?

I think she would have been the one to have been written out with Alf staying. I don't think it would have worked if they both stayed or Alf had gone. 

I seem to remember she got close to her classmate in Italian lessons she took perhaps in 1996. He really liked her and I think Ailsa was tempted. Alf of course didn't understand her interest in this learning or yearning for culture. 

So no, no character that I can think of. They would have needed to have written a new character for her much as Michael was written in for Pippa. 

But as I say, Pippa leaving the bay by 96/97 might have been the most realistic option if they had have split.

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