Love Thy Neighbour: Amber Turner 

It’s fair to say that since her arrival on Ramsay Street in 2013 with her parents and younger brother Bailey, Amber Turner (Jenna Rosenow) has had quite an eventful time of it. She didn’t seem happy about relocating, and whilst her parents believed that she was missing her old school friends and her beloved horse back in Mount Isa, the all-knowing viewer could guess that it was more likely to be a boy she was pining for. Teenagers rarely enter soap land without a backstory involving love. And so it proved. But Amber wasn’t hung up on your average wholesome schoolboy. She had been secretly involved with Robbo Slade, a young criminal who had cajoled both Amber’s brothers into committing a robbery. This was why, we learnt, that we were yet to see Amber’s other brother, Mason, who was serving time in ‘juvie’ for said robbery, although their father Matt had put his police career in jeopardy by covering up Bailey’s involvement.

Amber was moping around and uninterested in her new surroundings, like, perhaps, any typical teenager who’d been uprooted against their will. However, we knew it wouldn’t be long before a girl with big blue eyes and long blonde hair would attract attention, and that Amber would settle into her new life. Once her past relationship with Robbo was revealed, more family secrets and turmoil ensued. Amber distracted herself by developing a crush on Chris Pappas, not realising that Chris was gay. Once Amber had learned Chris’s sexuality, the pair’s friendship survived and she accepted they’d only ever be mates. When the Willis family moved in opposite the Turner clan, we guessed that there would be a new storyline ahead for Amber. Brad Willis and Lauren Turner having once been young sweethearts meant that tensions were running high between the two couples, and what better scenario to add to the mix than for a teenage Turner to start dating a teenage Willis! Amber also struck up a sometimes-terse friendship with Josh’s twin sister Imogen. Imogen is an altogether more level-headed character, academic and career-oriented, like her mother. Imogen warned Amber that, as her brother was a potential swimming champion, his training would always come before any girl, and she didn’t want her new, naïve friend to get hurt.

Amber, however, didn’t give up on attracting Josh’s attention. But Josh was a rather arrogant character back then and, as Imogen had predicted, didn’t treat Amber very well. Amber frequently  endured dates cancelled at the last minute. Her dreams of becoming a photographer were dismissed by Josh, who saw his swimming career as far more important. Viewers were frustrated by Amber’s deferential attitude. We wanted her to stop being walked over and to stand up to Josh. The pair carried on dating, rowing, sort-of splitting up and making up, on such a regular basis that it seemed to happen as often as in Scott’s and Charlene’s infamous relationship back in the 1980s. The pair looked on as Josh’s dad Brad and Amber’s mum Lauren became involved in a search for a daughter whom Lauren thought had died and Brad never knew had existed. They looked on as the fallout continued with rows and recriminations, and as Matt Turner and Terese Willis found it hard to accept this new situation.

Life turns a new Paige

Suddenly discovering, in your late teens, that you are not your mother’s only daughter must be quite a shock: your position in the family has altered forever. When Paige Smith rolled up and finally revealed her identity, it was a huge change for Amber. Imogen and Amber now shared a half-sister, and Amber had to vie for her mother’s attention as Lauren got to know her firstborn, having been robbed of her entire childhood by an illegal adoption. Paige is a completely different character to Amber, and immediately stuck up a bond with half-brother Bailey. You can’t really blame Amber for feeling that her nose had been put out of joint. Previously, as an only daughter, Amber had been spoilt (as fellow Neighbours fans have frequently remarked).

The arrival of hippyish free spirit Daniel Robinson, nephew of Paul, sparked a new chapter for Amber. We could imagine that she might be more suited to Daniel with his happy-go-lucky attitude, but Amber wrestled with those feelings for some time. How could she desert Josh, who had since had his swimming dreams crushed as the result of an accident – a dare that Mason Turner had challenged him to? Her loyalty and sense of commitment seemed to rule her head until Daniel set up a dark room and as they bonded over their love of photography, they couldn’t contain their love for one another any longer. Typical of a soap storyline, this was further complicated by the fact that Imogen had meanwhile fallen in love with Daniel herself. Awkward.

One of the most poignant scenes involving Amber, for me, was the hug between father and daughter after Amber’s cheating with Daniel was discovered. Matt said exactly what any daughter would want to hear at that moment: that he still loved her, despite his disappointment at her behaviour. Matt was not an overly-demonstrative man with his children; he often had awkward conversations, as if he was torn between tenderness and tough love. Here, he showed his unconditional love for his daughter and it was probably more of a valuable lesson to Amber than if he’d shouted at her. Amber had made her parents sad; she and Daniel had not come clean with Josh.

Kaftans and fringed bags

Amber changed when she started openly dating Daniel. Not only in attitudes, but in her dress sense, which was remarked upon by many viewers. She began wearing tops that resembled kaftans, carried fringed bags, and became more interested in eco issues. Nothing wrong with that if you’re being true to yourself, but Amber is quite an impressionable girl, and I remember thinking at the time that she was probably just going along with what Daniel believed in.

Amber becoming brainwashed by Daniel’s ex, Rain, had worrying similarities to Amber’s mother’s time under the influence of a cult. Long-time viewers remembered how Amber’s grandad, Lou Carpenter had to rescue his daughter, Lauren, and now it seemed history was about to repeat itself. Again, the all-knowing viewer cringed at Amber’s naïvety, as Rain hypnotised her, urging her to give up on education and become part of a new eco-village, which Rain wanted to set up in Erinsborough. That Daniel also failed for so long to see what his ex was doing was alarming. Daniel is older than Amber, and had already been duped and dumped by Rain before, so why had he been so willing to let her into their lives? I was very relieved when this storyline finally came to an end!

When Daniel fell out with his uncle, Paul Robinson, over his relationship with Amber, stormed out and took up residence in his car, the idea that Amber would be happy living in a car with her boyfriend was laughable. How long would she last without her hair straighteners and her hot bubble baths? Not long, as it turned out, after a frightening ordeal when the car was attacked by louts. Amber, in many ways, was in love with love. She continued to convince herself that she was ready for marriage and settling down, but I wanted to scream at her: What’s the rush? The rush was, of course, the family objections the pair faced to their union. Matt and Lauren felt Amber was too young, Paul believed that his nephew was just a dreamer who fell in and out of love at the drop of a hat. (You couldn’t help but wonder, however, how five-times-married Paul felt justified in having his say!) The rush towards marriage for Amber was also about the familial tensions between the Turners and Willis’s. She wanted to branch out on her own, and was searching for something that she would feel in control of. Her mother had been young when she’d married Matt, she’d reasoned. Which leads me to wonder: was Lauren wary because she had her own regrets, given her increasing closeness to first love Brad? Daniel wanted what his own parents, Scott and Charlene had created, but  he seemed to lack their practicality. They married young, but had already established their careers, whereas Daniel seemed to be drifting aimlessly.

Well – what a surprise!

Neighbours scriptwriters certainly get the most out of the purpose-built well set. This time, they found an especially creative use of the well – to trigger the cancellation of Daniel and Amber’s wedding. With Imogen barred from the ceremony after it was revealed that she was in love with Daniel, he wanted to do everything he could to convince Amber that Imogen’s love for him wasn’t reciprocated. Using his best romantic inclinations, (i.e. making a rash and ill-thought out decision) he determined to go in search of a pearl ring that a Robinson ancestor had thrown down the well when suffering from a broken heart. Even Imogen didn’t see this as an especially daft idea, given her desperation to prove to Amber that she and Daniel had her blessing in marriage. So, on the morning of the wedding (as you do) off went Daniel and Imogen down the well, expecting to quickly locate the lost ring, which had been lying there for donkeys’ years. Daniel thought that Amber would see the ring as a proof of his devotion. Of course, the ring would gleam in the dark, despite the years of being encrusted in mud. A quick polish on Daniel’s cheesecloth shirt and it would be as good as new.

Meanwhile, what was Amber to think? Her fiancé and former best friend had disappeared on the wedding day. I can’t think of any other conclusion that I’d have come to other than that they’d eloped. But this is where my sympathy for Amber starts to wane a little. Of course, it would be heartbreaking, and traumatic for her to believe she’d been jilted. But it probably wasn’t very sensible to allow Josh into her wedding suite at Lassiter’s, in order to ‘comfort’ her. Viewers were largely unaware at the time just how far the ‘comforting’ had gone. However, it didn’t come as a huge surprise when Amber, having since reunited with Daniel and reconciled with Imogen when she realised the truth of their vanishing act, revealed that she was pregnant. Oh dear, Amber. She’d just lost her father, and now she was faced with a huge dilemma of whether to reveal to Daniel that he might not be the father of her baby.

To Amber’s credit, the truth about the baby’s paternity emerged when guilt overcame her and she confessed to Daniel. You had to feel a little admiration for Daniel’s intent to stick by Amber, once the paternity test results were back. And yes, a lot of anger at Josh, whose smug smile made you want to slap him. But then again, Josh had been cheated on by these two in the first place. It got messier when the unborn baby was revealed to have a life-threatening condition, congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) which would need surgery. Arguments between the Turner and Willis families continued. Amber was adamant that she would raise funds to have a pioneering – though risky – in-utero operation in America. This met with opposition from Josh’s parents. There was so much going on at the time, between them all, that it is hard to decide who had whose best interests at heart. Ultimately, and somewhat predictably, Amber ended up single, with Daniel finally accepting his romantic feelings towards Imogen. And Josh, overly keen to be involved in his baby’s life, became confused about his feelings for Amber, to the extent that he faked an online identity on a CHD support site on which Amber was chatting. Not such a good move, Josh. Already there was enough deceit to weave a million spider’s webs. Amber wasn’t impressed by this stunt.

We saw Amber go into premature labour during the Erinsborough school fire (well, you wouldn’t expect anything less dramatic, would you) and of course, once rescued, Doctor Karl was on hand to oversee the emergency caesarean. Baby Matilda came through her operation in what might be record time, with seemingly few complications, and suddenly we caught a glimpse of a robust-looking rosy-cheeked tot coming home to familial turmoil.

Quite a few of us had read that Jenna was intending to leave her Neighbours rôle for pastures new, so Amber’s departure from Erinsborough wasn’t surprising. Nor was it surprising to learn that she had secured a great job in Public Relations with the CDH Foundation which had supported her during her pregnancy. People in Erinsborough seem to get unmissable opportunities in the employment market with apparent ease, Amber being no exception! Conveniently, the job was in Brisbane, where gran Kathy and brother Bailey live. There was opposition from the Willis side of the family, but Josh had been struggling to bond with his daughter and despite initial attempts to persuade Amber he should move to Brisbane with her, he let go and, currently, we have no idea whether he will play any rôle in Matilda’s life in the future. Nothing seems to end neatly for the Turner or Willis families. So, mum and baby have gone, leaving Lauren with just one child out of four close to hand. I can only conclude that this is a good move for Amber. She will no doubt be a capable mother, but whilst some have argued that her actions are selfish, taking a grandchild and daughter away from so many of her family, it’s probably the only way she is going to make her own way in life. Who knows, maybe one day she and a grown Matilda will return and give some good advice to their feuding clan! Until then, so long Amber, and good luck with your next acting move, Jenna!

© Carol AnnWood
January 2016


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