WATCH THIS RIGHT NOW: CHEWING GUM ON NETFLIX
The second season of Chewing Gum is out on Netflix!
Haven’t watched Season 1 yet? Thinking of taking the 132-minute plunge to get caught up? Not sure if it’s something you should do? Here are Five Reasons Why You Should:
1. EVERYONE SHOULD EXPERIENCE THE BRILLIANT WEIRDNESS THAT IS MICHAELA COEL
You know how too many cooks spoil the broth? You won’t get any of that cloudy, bogus broth with Chewing Gum. The semi-autobiographical series, which centers around braided-pigtail-wearing shop clerk Tracey Gordon, is all Michaela Coel, and Chewing Gum is Coel’s very own sour-apple signature broth.
The sitcom started off as a one woman show Coel did for a college project, and was apparently a lot darker and more dramatic than the Netflix show that became of it. The darkness is still there though. And Michaela’s emotional intensity is as gripping as it is hilarious.
Coel’s character Tracey is twenty-four, a virgin, and always on the verge of losing it- in one way or the other. She periodically breaks the fourth wall to let us know what’s going on in her head (as though every pulsating fear and desire wasn’t dancing all over her face) and for someone that hasn’t had sex, she’s extremely physical.
How much is autobiographical? Coel told Adam Buxton in a podcast last year that some bits are basically lifted directly from her real life. Like the time she went into a drugstore to get a morning after pill following a dry humping incident that occurred the previous night. She genuinely thought she could get pregnant.
It’s not so much her sexual naiveté that’s funny (Tracey, like Michaela, was raised by an extremely Pentecostal Ghanaian mother); It’s the various fronts she puts on in an attempt to disguise it. And the lengths to which she goes to overcome it.
At the start of Season 2, Tracey is STILL a virgin. I won’t tell you whether she is or isn’t by the end of Season 2, but does it even matter after all the shit she’s been through? Hard to say. But more than likely, yeah. For Tracey, it does.
2. FRIENDSHIP, THE YIN-YANG THEORY, AND THE HUMAN SEXUALITY SPECTRUM
Candice is Tracey’s blunt and ballsy best friend since childhood. In Tracey’s words, “Candice is like the buffest girl I’ve ever seen on the whole of my estate, but she’s got learning difficulties…. so I can be best friends with her and I’m not jealous or anything.” Unlike Tracey, Candice is definitely not a virgin. She knows all kinds of things about sex. And relationships, and fashion, and hair, and make up. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Candice isn’t a super-girly Cher Horowitz kind of makeover-giving friend. On the contrary, most of her character traits are stereotypically male, or so John Gray would have us believe. (John Gray is the author of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” btw, and for the purposes of this review I invite you to accept generalizations about gender with an open mind and also to pretend that our ideas about the fundamental psychological differences between the sexes have remained the same since 1992 when that book was written).
Like I was saying, Candice is definitely “the guy” in her relationship. Her boyfriend, Aaron, finds it necessary to explore and express his feelings, whereas Candice is more interested in getting to the point of the matter. Aaron quotes Eckhart Tolle, whereas Candice makes dick jokes. Aaron treats sex as a sacred act, whereas Candice wants to get slapped and have her hair pulled. But wait- is wanting to get manhandled Martian or Venusian? Oh right, the spectrum.
When it comes to Tracey, Candice wants to see her friend succeed. She pushes her to take action when needed, and she puts forth a lot of effort to try to help Tracey get a respectable sex life going. But the two women have such different styles. The phrase “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else” comes to mind, as we watch a bizarrely clueless Tracey routinely botch Candice’s well-meaning instruction. Candice giving Tracey sexting lessons, for example, is a recipe for disaster. If a “blow-job selfie” isn’t already cringe-inducing, wait until it’s Traceyfied.
Ola is Tracey’s other best friend, the Titus Andromedon to Tracey’s Kimmy Schmidt. He is a Nigerian diva and a “quadruple threat” (That’s singer, dancer, fashion icon and full time bad bitch). Ola’s happy to be there for Trace when she needs him, no matter what. But he sometimes gets waylaid by his own affairs.
And while we’re on the subject of Kimmy Schmidt, the parallel is worth noting. Tracey and Kimmy have a ton in common. Starting with their outfits.
Which brings me to the third reason to watch:
3. THE AESTHETICS
Shout out to Production Designer Lucy Spink for “Chewing Gum’s” visual concept. Every scene is gorgeous. The colors, the intricate layered patterns- who’s that one painter? Klimt, is it? Well done. Let’s give it up for Costume Designer Lynsey Moore as well. Nice work, Ladies.
4. LEARN NEW BRITISH STREET SLANG
Words get tired, bruv. Do you know what I’m sayin? You’ve gotta get new ones, blad.
Talking like a working class Londoner is FUN and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably just trying to get you to stop talking like that. Maybe they’re jealous, or embarrassed for you, I don’t know. But don’t let that stop you. Take it from Tracey: no matter how awkward you’re making everyone feel, you can always go a bit farther.
5. THE GODS
Early in Season 1, there’s a scene when Tracey prays to an effigy of Jesus hanging on her wall. “Dear Blessed Savior” she begins, “I need the courage that you had to tell them you were the son of God.” She continues as the camera pans to the poster of Beyonce hanging beside it. “And I need the strength that you had to make the switch from R&B to hip-hop when they doubted you.” If Tracey’s faith in Jesus is tested throughout the remaining episodes, her faith in Beyonce is not.
In the same podcast alluded to earlier, Coel tells Adam Buxton that she was quite religious as a teen but that when she “went to drama school, it didn’t last.” She goes on to explain that she “was rubbing up really close with people that weren’t Christian” and that “none of the stuff [she] had learned was making sense, which was that these people need help.” She had learned in Church that she was supposed to help these people, but she was finding that they were the ones helping her. “I was making friends,” Coel says, “friends where I don’t need to help you, I just like you.”
That accepting inclusivity and celebration of diversity is really what Chewing Gum is all about. Tracey, like Michaela, doesn’t renounce JC, she just embraces Beyonce too. You get the impression that Tracey’s “mixed lot” of friends on the estate are Michaela’s drama school friends- all different shapes, sizes, and sexual orientation. “We stick together” Tracey decrees “like chewing gum on concrete.” And isn’t that what JC and Beyonce have been preaching all along?