I have recently binged on the two seasons of Chewing Gum currently available on Netflix, and I am smitten! It’s a very short and sweet binge-worthy gem produced and filmed in the UK by E4 (the same that brought us Skins, Misfits, and The Inbetweeners).
Chewing Gum is the brain child of Michaela Coel, who also stars as the lead Tracey. It follows the life of Tracey, her friends and family at a council estate in Tower Hamlets, East London. Two things first drew me to Chewing Gum: first, that it’s set in Tower Hamlets, where I myself was living up until four months ago, and seeing those red-bricked council estates brought back memories. Second, a short video I saw online with a scene from the season 2 that was just brilliant.
The dialogue is witty and fast-paced, with a very unique sense of humour that had me LITERALLY laughing out loud all the time. Especially the “sexuality” brought up by the series, it was absolutely hilarious. Coel’s delivery of her own material could not have been more perfect, she brings such life and “relatableness” to Tracey, so much heart, fun and sadness at the same time. Tracey is over the top, yet one can’t help but identify with the core message of what is happening to her. She is not an overtly likable or unlikable character on paper, and yet in just 12 short 20-minute episodes she ropes you in to care and cheer for her.
Congratulations are also in order to Susan Wokoma as Cynthia, Tracey’s reclusive sister, Shola Adewusi, Tracey’s very religious mother, and season one Robert Lonsdale, playing the lost Connor. All of these characters are also over the top in their own selves, but it all just somehow falls into place perfectly and the series does not get annoying (I do remember having complained about Girlboss’ over-the-topness… but there it did not work).
Overall, I can’t wait to hear if there will be a Season 3. Nothing has been confirmed as of yet, with Michaela Coel taking a breather with other projects for now, but hopefully they will bring these characters back to the screen soon. Definitely recommended!
It’s quite interesting that I watched this just after finishing Dear White People. In Chewing Gum, race as a theme is not even mildly as central, and is dealt with in a very deadpan manner. And I quite like that as well. Not bringing an overt political message can be political in itself, showing that no matter someone’s skin colour, we are all humans who share a lot of similar experiences in love, sex, family, and religion, for example. Which is very important given that dehumanising the “other” is what prejudiced people love to do. Both types of messages, Dear White People’s very political one, and Chewing Gum’s very humanistic one, are absolutely valid and important. Netflix’s selection is making for good food for the brain, I’ll say that!