The United Kingdom is often assumed as a nation of poise, elegance, and grace. Watch Chewing Gum and your perception of Britain might shift a little. If you’re the kind of person who thinks How I Met your Mother is funny, Chewing Gum is probably not for you. In fact, you might be disgusted by this show, and I totally understand. Parts of Chewing Gum can be revolting to some people, but you know what? Chewing Gum might be the cringiest yet funniest British sitcom that has ever been produced in the 2000s. There, I said it. The badass Michaela Cole did everything for this show: produced, directed, wrote the script, sang the soundtrack, acted, and even chose the casts. The brilliancy and genuinity of Michaela Cole, who is considered a minority in the U.K filming industry, are well-reflected throughout the show. No wonder she received a goddamn BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for this! If you watch or read Michaela’s interviews, you’ll know that she’s humble. In one of her interviews (read: here), Michaela talked about how doing interviews is the easiest part of her job as a creator. She said:
“This is the easy day, the day where it’s just: chat to people, put on some clothes, boom!” Coel explains, gesturing to the hairstylist packing up her things from the shoot they just finished. “I got a free wig—hello. Come on!”
Growing up, Michaela used to be a devoted Christian who thought drinking alcohol was a sin. As a teen, Michaela went to an all-girl Catholic school in East London, making her the only black student there. At first, she never planned on being a performer. Michaela wrote a poem, and her friends like it, then boom. From then on, Michaela decided to pursue an acting career by going to a drama school (obviously her journey wasn’t that easy). During her years in drama school, she realized how little opportunity of acting she could do with her appearance (skin and all). Dramas in the U.K mostly centered around 17th-19th centuries, in which actresses/actors mostly are Caucasians with blue eyes and blonde spaghetti hair. Feeling out of place, Michaela decided to create her own drama, calling it “Chewing Gum Dreams”. In 2014, one of British television called E4 decided to sponsor Michaela into making her very first TV show, Chewing Gum, which has run for 2 seasons. Michaela might be successful now, receiving BAFTA, popularity, and all. Nevertheless, her creative journey isn’t nowhere near short. For 11 years, Michaela did everything, from poetry to singing. She dropped out from school, kept pursuing her dreams and enduring failures, to the point that she could finally graduate by the year of 2012. To the point that she could invent Chewing Gum!
The premise of Chewing Gum is to illustrate the everyday life of middle-class citizens living in estates (in Singapore it’s called HDB, while in Indonesia it’s called rumah susun; a cheap living areas provided by the government in the form of “apartment” buildings). The main character of the show is a 24-year-old girl Tracey Gordon (played by Michaela Coel herself), who is eager to lose her virginity despite her strict Christian upbringing. First season of Chewing Gum follows the relationship between Tracey and her religiously-inclined fiance named Ronald, who is mentally abusive towards Tracey. In a derogatory tone, Ronald criticizes Tracey’s appearance by saying things like, “You have lips the size of a boat. Two boats, that crash into each other, killing everyone”. Although she keeps being drenched in the foul words of her fiance, Tracey does not care a tad bit. All she wants is to finally lose this sacred thing called virginity, you see. Ronald refuses her request by sternly reminding Tracey that God condemns sex before marriage, and she should be ashamed of even bringing out such taboo topic. When Tracey decides to break up with him, Ronald proceeds to persuade Tracey’s sister, Cynthia, into marriage. Knowing Ronald’s deceiving intention, Tracey tries to warn her sister about Ronald’s sexuality. Spoiler alert, Ronald turns out to be gay as hell and commits adultery. One time, Cynthia (Tracey’s sister) sees Ronald doing anal right after joining a bible-reading seminar — that basically sums up everything, isn’t it? At the end of season 1, Tracey finally finds herself a boyfriend, Connor Jones, who’s white, unemployed, and still lives with his mother. At the end of season 1, Tracey is kicked out by her African mother due to having a white boyfriend. Below shows a particular scene when Tracey is escorted by 2 burly security guards after swearing off a little boy for giggling.
When people think this show can’t get any funnier, Michaela Coel proves them wrong. Personally, season 2 makes me laugh even harder than any other show I’ve ever watched. I’m truly baffled at how Michaela can get all of these ideas and wrap them into some sickly authentic humor. Season 2 starts off with Tracey ending her second relationship. Connor is rather hurt by her decision, but he moves on by dating a stable, 40-year-old white woman. Dating older woman has its own perks for Connor, he can live comfortably in a fancy apartment although unemployed. Feeling extremely jealous of his new girlfriend, Tracey lies to Connor that she’s currently dating the famous rapper Stormzy. Her best friend, Ola, tells Stormzy that Tracey is dying from a chronic disease. Stormzy then reluctantly visits Tracey with a bouquet of flower.
One funny episode from season 2 is Just Need Some Company, when Tracey and her friends visit a whole-ass sex club. Tracey’s cousin has always had a problem with climaxing, but he ejaculates right there in the club’s swimming pool. It’s just impressive how Michaela Coel reiterated such a disgusting scene into a comedic-worthy situation. Another episode called Orlando follows up a story of Tracey having to take care of a puppy. She ends up babysitting a puppy named Orlando, owned by a seemingly legit photographer. Orlando turns out to be a popular dog among porn websites, with it having to do things that make Tracey sick. This photographer exploits Orlando for the use of explicit content, which leads Tracey to steal Orlando to be given to a better owner (with much improved morale). This particular episode cracks me up, because I just can’t believe that there is such a thing as “dog prostitution” (as Tracey calls it) — there really are lots of weirdos out there with their kinky shit. I just can’t believe she makes an episode based on a porn-star dog. I just can’t
Chewing Gum also touches the topic of cultural appropriation, in which an episode elaborates how a white man fetishizes Tracey for her race. The show is intended to be comedic, but there’s one genuinely sad scene where Tracey’s mother, a devoted Christian, has to face the fact that her religious seminar is taken down by the authority. She works so hard for her little Christian seminars, promoting them around the neighbourhood although no one cares. All in all, Chewing Gum isn’t for those of you who are disgusted by intercourse. I mean, come on — the actual premise of the show is a devoted Christian black girl who’s on a journey to lose her virginity, to become sexually liberated. Of course there will be some sex scenes. For me personally, I did cringe at some of the scenes, but I just skipped those parts all the way up to heaven babe. I just watch this show for the laugh. As I’ve said before, Chewing Gum is based on Michaela’s environment growing up. It’s gotta be real as hell — a pure comedy gold — funny shit based on real ass situations and individuals, even some of the casts are her real life friends.