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Too close for comfort: direct address and the affective pull of the confessional comic woman in Chewing Gum and Fleabag

Woods, F. (2019) Too close for comfort: direct address and the affective pull of the confessional comic woman in Chewing Gum and Fleabag. Communication, Culture and Critique, 12 (2). pp. 194-212. ISSN 1753-9129

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1093/ccc/tcz014


The 2010s saw a boom in television comedies, created by, written, and starring women, that exploring the bawdy and chaotic lives of protagonists who were experiencing some form of arrested development. These comedies sought to build intimate connections with their imagined audiences by crossing boundaries — social, bodily and physical — to produce comedies of discomfort. Drawing in part on Rebecca Wanzo’s consideration of ‘precarious-girl comedy’ (2016) I examine how two British television comedies intensified these intimate connections through the use of direct address, binding the audience tightly to the sexual and social misadventures of their twenty-something female protagonists. Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum (E4, 2015-2017) follows naïve and desperately horny black working-class Londoner Tracey in her quest for sexual experience, and Phoebe-Waller Bridges’ Fleabag (BBC Three, 2016-) documents an unnamed upper-middle-class white woman’s sharply misanthropic journey through grief. In both programmes direct address serves to intensify the embrace of bodily affect and intimate access to interiority found in the ‘precarious-girl comedy’ (Wanzo, 2016), producing moments of comic and emotional repulsion. Each programme uses direct address’s blend of directness and distance to different ends, but both draw audiences at times uncomfortably close to the singular perspective of their protagonists, creating an intensely affective comic intimacy.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:81363
Publisher:Oxford University Press


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