Let’s talk about Chewing Gum
First of all, let’s not compare it to Insecure (which I also loved). It’s easy to say it’s the British Insecure/ Awkward Black Girl but if you really watch both you’ll see that comparing the two doesn’t do either series justice. Issa has her life together waaayy more than Tracey. The two face different issues and the styles of the show are different.
Additionally, there’s an added level of awkwardness one earns from being first generation immigrant.
Next, let me say that I wasn’t expecting to like the show at all. In fact when I asked a friend if she had watched it the only word she could come up with is “interesting”. But when I saw Michaela Cole (creator, writer, and star of the show) on Forbes Europe 30 Under 30, I knew I had to at least watch one episode.
After the first episode, I had cringed so much I wasn’t sure I could watch another but Netflix auto played and before I knew it I was on episode 4 . I’m not sure if Michaela and her co-writers made it lewd intentionally. When I watched interviews of Ms. Cole, it’s evident that Tracey is a form of Michaela. This may seem like a dumb statement but maybe she was trying to make it so relatable, she didn’t realize how uncomfortable some scenes were (what I gathered from watching/reading interviews).
Its hyperbole makes it relatable. For example, the African parent sex-taboo theme. If you’re the child of (conservative) immigrants you may agree when I say Tracey’s mom is not even hyperbole. Tracey’s mom is real life how some African (and/or religious, see April Kepner of Grey’s Anatomy) parents talk to their kids (read: daughters) about sex – “don’t have a boyfriend until you get married” (yes I typed that correctly). The show highlights the danger of not properly educating children (who grow up to be lost twenty-somethings) about sex. It somehow captures Tracey’s naivety to make us SMH & LOL at the same time.
Chewing Gum is also about the coming of age experience we all have as a twenty-somethings.
The show is centered around Tracey trying to loose her v card, but really we see her just trying to find herself. She stops going to church, moves out, gains confidence after an abusive relationship, and is generally trying to figure out life. Now, not all twenty-somethings are on a quest to be disvirgined but I think we can all relate to the journey and process of “knowing yourself”. Being twenty and “adulting” is hard – even more so when you’ve been sheltered your whole life. Tracey’s transformation from the beginning of the show to the end is subtle but evident – although she never actually “does it”. Which I actually liked. I would’ve been disappointed if she had gained confidence as a result of sex; so shout out to the writers for not being cliche 🏾🏾🏾
Overall I applaud Ms. Cole for being bold enough to share parts of her story. Again, based on the interviews I watched, it seems she doesn’t see the strangeness in it. She’s literally just writing based on her experiences and I genuinely believe that’s what makes it an excellent show – (almost) unfiltered representation. Season two is now up on Netflix for your binging pleasure.
Have you seen it? Comment below your thoughts on Chewing Gum.