Chewing Gum & the working class

I’m a classy woman with a little bit of hood and a lot of God in me. I am not being sacrilegious; however I praise the sitcom Chewing Gum. It is a British series set in a London counsel estate aka the projects. It is written by and starring Michaela Coel. Coel plays Tracey, a religious, Beyoncé and sex obsessed 24-year-old virgin. While watching, I thought of the novel White Teeth, by Zadie Smith.  The novel focuses on the later lives of two wartime friends and their families in London. Both bodies of work deal with race, class, multiculturalism and sex. They are funny, dry and sarcastic and these are the type of narratives I enjoy most.  Gimme some more!

Sense of Humour

British sense of humour is so dry and sarcastic; brimming with self-deprecation. Comparatively, North American humour tends to be more slap stick.  I appreciate an American sense of humour  in podcasts instead on TV or mainstream film. Performers cannot rely on exaggerated physical activity.  You have to hold an audience with content and delivery only.


Even though Tracey’s  experiences in Chewing Gum are shaped by her race, gender and social class; it is her self-deprecation that I find the most funny. In White Teeth we get multiple perspectives and each character is critical of the environment they live in. This novel was written in 2000 and it still funny and relevant. I am not limited to entertainment with characters and or performers that look like me.  For example, The Full Monty  tells the story of six unemployed men, four of them former steel workers, who decide to form a male striptease act. Bridgette Jones Diary is about 32 years old, single, very accident-prone white woman worried about her weight and finding love. It’s the comedic devices-puns, innuendo and intellectual jokes that cracks me up. Even if you’re not black, as a woman you can relate to Tracey’s sexual and dating dilemmas.



The depiction of the working class

The poor don’t exist in mainstream American sitcoms anymore. We are not all rich or middle class. We don’t all live in pent house apartments in major metropolis cities. Living in public housing is not always depressing or stressful. There needs to be a nuanced complexity in the portrayal of the working class. I don’t agree with  many of the ideologies in these sitcoms; however at minimum, the working class existed.

  • All in the Family
  • Roseanne
  • Married With Children

The white working class don’t exist anymore much less the black working class in sitcoms.  Here are a few sitcoms that portray everyday black people. Until Chewing Gum I don’t recall seeing this type of representation.

  • 227
  • Sanford and Son
  • Good Times 

Chew on This

As a woman of colour, it helps to have white teeth while I smile and cope with the micro-aggressions.

Micro aggression: The term was coined in the 1970s by Chester Pierce, an African-American professor of education and psychiatry at Harvard University, and it refers to the slights, putdowns and invalidating remarks that racial minorities experience every day when interacting with people who unknowingly engage in implicit racism.

Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer, chews and swallows at least 35 pieces of gum a day. I wonder, is this his coping mechanism to deal with micro-aggressions and the working class?   Ricky Gervais eloquently explained that comedy is not your conscience taking a day off. It is not a departure from real life.  Many of us swallow things we shouldn’t.


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