Martha Jane MacKenzie (née Stewart, previously Holden) is a fictional character from the Australian Channel Seven soap opera Home and Away, played by Jodi Gordon. Martha made her first on-screen appearance on 8 September 1988. She was originally played by Burcin Kapkin until her departure in 1989. In 2005, the character returned to Home and Away, played by Jodi Gordon. Gordon was a model and she took acting lessons before auditioning for the role. Gordon won a Logie Award for "Most Popular New Female Talent" in 2006 and she earned several more award nominations for her portrayal of Martha.
Martha was described as being friendly, feisty and fun loving. Martha's appearance has evolved through out her time in the show: she was initially a tomboy who loved sport, but she later became a stylish woman. Martha's storylines saw her surviving a helicopter crash, having an abortion and a miscarriage, battling alcoholism, being diagnosed with breast cancer and becoming a widow after her husband was shot. In a controversial storyline Martha worked as a pole dancer; the scenes were criticised by the broadcasting regulator for their content. Whilst playing Martha, Gordon was at the center of a number of personal scandals, which put her future in the show in doubt. In January 2010, it was announced that Gordon was leaving the show and Martha departed on 9 June 2010.
One of the most notable story lines for Martha was her secret life as a pole dancer and subsequent road into alcoholism. This was a result of her abortion and failed relationships with Jack and Ash Nader (Ben Geurens) along with her new relationship with Cameron (Cam) Reynolds (Ashley Lyons), who was leading her astray. The story line began playing out from the 2006 "cliffhanger" episode, when Ash reveals that he is married with children and leading a double life. Gordon branded Martha as ignorant to the situation she has got herself into: "I think she is so naive, she wants to believe that she's found a great guy and she keeps giving him second chances. She wants to make it work." Martha fails to cope with the situation, as Gordon describes: "It's this whole emotional roller-coaster that, if you don't deal with your life, can be terrible." Their relationship falls apart after Martha aborts Ash's child, causing Martha to begin her transition into a party girl. Gordon commented that "I think everyone in this show begins as a scruffy bum and gradually they turn you into a glamour puss.
Martha begins a downward spiral and is manipulated by new boyfriend Cam, who has a hold over her due to his power and money, and her vulnerable state - he "swept her off her feet". Cam always got the better of Martha because "The worse it got with her family, the better it got with Cam." O'Brien, who played Jack, said that he felt that Martha was trying to reinvent herself as a different person.
Gordon pointed out that Martha was not stripping, just pole dancing. Gordon took pole dancing lessons for a period of a few weeks funded by Channel Seven, and found the experience embarrassing and physically challenging. She found it hard dancing in front of her fellow cast members, commenting that "There's even one scene when all of the boys turn up at the club and they're looking at me – it's like having your mates seeing you half naked. It's not very nice, a bit intimidating but it's always exciting to have a challenging story line like that. It's worth while in the end knowing that you've put everything into it." Gordon believed that the storyline was a turning point in Martha's development, as she has to hit rock bottom to realise who she is and what she really wants from life.
After everyone finds out about Martha's situation, they try to stop her working in the club. Kate Ritchie who plays on-screen friend Sally Fletcher discussed how Martha would not take any advice from those closest to her and how Sally and Alf have to pick up the pieces for her in the end. She compared Martha's pole dancing to many real life experiences ordinary people go through. Sally's interference made Martha's situation worse, of this Ritche added: "It's been hard for Sally to realise and Alf as well, just that you just have to stand back and let it run its course and be there at the end." Of Martha's downward spiral and pushing her friends away, Gordon stated: "Now she's found herself in this hole, she ruined all these relationships with her family, her friends, Jack, everyone's trying to help her and she's really against everyone, she's in a really bad place at the moment".
The broadcast scenes proved to be controversial in Australia after broadcasting regulator ACMA felt the scenes featured sexual content. They noted that "ACMA determined that pole-dancing scenes contained in the programmes contained visual depictions of sexual behaviour, that their impact was higher than very mild, and that the episodes were not suitable for children to watch without supervision." Channel Seven defended the scenes and stated that where as most episodes of the serial are PG rated they would take extra care to inform viewers of G rated episodes and to include material more suitable for children. Two years after the storyline aired, Gordon was reported to be a regular visitor to strip clubs as a result of her earlier visits whilst filming the storyline.
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