11 times Neighbours was actually pretty damn controversial

Neighbours isn’t exactly synonymous with sex toys, threesomes and revenge porn now is it? Perhaps it should be, as it has a pretty sordid past, and then there’s with Chloe, Naomi and Pierce gearing up for said threesome as we speak.

Oh bless us for thinking that Neighbours was a wholesome family show we could watch with everyone from our younger siblings to our grandmas. Remember coming home from school and tuning in to a bit of Newsround before Neighbours and Home and Away kicked in on BBC 1 at 5.10pm for an awesome hour of watching the glorious sunny climes and friendly faces as they faced the trials and tribulations of life in urban Australia?

Not a swear word was uttered, no violence was seen, drugs taken, you barely even saw any blood (remember Kate Ramsay’s shooting death where she somehow bled to death without bleeding?). It was just good clean fun. Or was it?

Actually, producers managed to squeeze in a hell of a lot of controversial topics, from blatant racism to revenge porn and sex tapes. Throughout its entire 35 year history, the producers have pushed things are far as they could go, and then some, even if we didn’t always notice just how WTF it got. And it got pretty WTF.

Speaking of, the show is about to have its first threesome storyline when Chloe, Naomi and Pierce consider getting kinky together when Chloe realises her attraction for Naomi and Naomi just can’t get Pierce out of her head, so they decide to just go at it, all three of them. I know right?! But believe it or not that’s not the most out there storyline the show has ever had.

1. There was a female stripper in the very first episode


Bear in mind this show aired at 6.30pm in Australia and in the mid 80s at the time, so this was a huge deal. Neighbours meant business from the outset! Daphne appeared in the first episode as a stripper at a bucks party. She was proud of her job, opting for the profession after deciding that if she had to suffer men’s unwarranted sexual advances at her secretarial job, she might as well change careers and make money out of it. She was confident, independent, proud of her body and not ashamed to use it to earn a living, but absolutely outrageous at the time and an absolute icon.

2. The show’s first lesbian kiss

When best friends Lana and Sky kissed back in the early Noughties it caused an total uproar. It was the show’s first lesbian kiss and garnered numerous viewer complaints as well as a mini media storm. Some fans of the show argued it ‘made homosexuality look cool’ and poor actress Bridget Neval, who was 19 at the time, received backlash for ‘glamourising’ it. Jeeez. Producers were forced to deny they were using the storyline to sensationalise it, and that instead were trying to show that the kiss between a same sex couple should be as unremarkable as between a different sex couple. In 2020 the two women returned to Erinsborough and got married at Lassiters as a giant finger up to those haters.

3. A traumatic baby death

In a show where even the word period cannot be used, drugs are never seen and rarely referred to, and swear words are a no no, having a baby die was a hugely controversial storyline. Sonya Rebecchi was carrying Mark Brennan’s surrogate baby when, after the shock of actually watching Toadie cheat on her over webcam with Andrea, she had a miscarriage at 20 weeks. At such a point in the pregnancy it meant she was far enough along to have to deliver the baby. It was harrowing, and the show had to be careful with their portrayal of the heartbreaking scenes – such as showing the empty crib where the baby would have been for poignancy where they couldn’t show a dead body.

Actress Eve Morey told me: ‘It’s the unspoken rule that if someone is going to lose a baby you don’t show them with a bump or anything like that. It’s almost like that’s too distressing, so we pushed it to a point she’s losing the baby at 20 weeks so she would definitely be showing. That I think made it even more real.

‘We couldn’t actually say it, but Sonya would have had to given birth. It would have been still born, and that is very full on.’

4. Revenge porn

Neighbours is nothing if not current, and in the day and age of camera phones, internet shaming and the very real issue of revenge porn, Neighbours decided to tackle this topic. In the wake of her tragic miscarriage, Mishti went on a night out drinking with her friends. She ended up taking a guy called Dilhan Ozdil home with her for a one night stand, who intended to steal from her. He later snuck out after taking money, and when Mishti, a police officer, realised what he’d done she decided she needed to arrest him. But then she started receiving text messages from him to blackmail her – they said he’d secretly filmed them having sex and that he’d upload it to the internet unless she dropped the charges. Eventually he did share it online and Mishti, putting her job in the police at risk, and she was even recognised by a member of the public from being in the video.

5. The first ever Australian TV gay marriage

This is one of my absolute favourites – In 2018, Australia finally legalised gay marriage, so Neighbours responded by airing the first ever gay marriage on Australian TV. Yass Neighbours! It was beautiful, it was emotional. Controversial to those who may still have been on that whole ‘glamourising homosexuality’ train of thought, but hopefully they’d have long since stopped watching Neighbours by then because quite frankly they don’t deserve it.

6. The little blue box of sex toys

Neighbours does also like a bit of comedy with its controversy, even if it does make you vom a little into your tea time sausage and mash. A few years ago producers introduced the idea of Susan and Karl’s ‘little blue box’, AKA their box of sex toys. Given they’re like our telly parents, we did not need to know they have any kind of sauciness going on, let alone a potential box of nipple clamps and butt plugs and god knows what else. The blue box has made many a comedic appearance through references, like when Susan and Karl decided to play dress up and Susan appeared as a sexy cheerleader. But more recently, the box made an actual appearance when Hendrix found it and finally lifted the lid. Poor lad will never be the same again.

7. Kyle and Amy’s sex tape leaked

In a similar vein to the revenge porn, Kyle and Amy found themselves caught up in a web of controv that served the purpose of highlighting the sexism women face when caught in a sh*tstorm like the leak of a sex tape. The couple enjoyed a night of passion at Lassiters, only to discover someone had secretly hidden cameras all over the joint. The video was later leaked to a newspaper before hitting the internet, threatening Amy’s career. Kyle on the other hand wasn’t the least bit affected and was even congratulated over the video. Nice work from the producers showing the double standards and addressing the very differing stances people have of men vs women caught up in a sex scandal.

8. Julie accused her Chinese Neighbours of eating her dog

An absolute WTF moment of Neighbours’ past – Julie was a controversial character on a good day, but the moment she delved into some casual, nay, very blatant racism she managed to out do even herself. When her dog went missing and her Chinese neighbours fired up the barbecue, her mind immediately leapt to assuming that the Asian family must be chowing down on her four-legged pal. Stir Fry Fido. Thankfully her family were on hand to tell her what a vile, intolerant racist she was and she was forced to grovel an apology to her kind and tolerant neighbours.


9. Teachers bonking their pupils

Neighbours seems to love an illegal teacher/pupil relationship. Rachel Kinski fell in love with her teacher Angus after lying to him that she was a uni student. By the time he found out, their feelings were too strong and he couldn’t stop himself. Served him right then when he was hit with a six month jail sentence.

Libby also boned her student, although he was 18 at the time.

And then of course there was the whole Finn/Xanthe thing that nearly ruined the poor teenager’s life, and saw her move away from Erinsborough to try and shake off the past.

10. Susan miscarried her daughter’s baby

This one seemed particularly out there for the time but was a huge step for the soap in tackling big storylines in the confines of a G rated show. Libby couldn’t have another baby after her tragic bike accident, so Susan offered to do it for her. Susan got pregnant, much to the chagrin of both her own husband Karl and Libby’s husband Dan who were against the idea from the outset. It resulted in Dan and Libby’s divorce, and tragically, Susan had a fall and suffered a miscarriage. The actors at the time praised the show for tackling such a sensitive subject of an older woman becoming a surrogate.

11. Zeke found his sister in a porn magazine

Well this one was all a bit effed up – Zeke Kinski came across his sister Katya’s picture in a porn mag. Not literally, I might add. The show might push boundaries but it hasn’t gone quite that far. He found the image after Toadie told him about some dirty magazines in the loft. Zeke opened a copy of ‘Ambrosia’ and realised he recognised the centrefold. Scarring. Katya later revealed she’d turned to porn mags to pay for a drug habit. Zeke then used the images to make himself look cool to the football team at school by pretending he hung out with porn models. Classy.

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