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CASE STUDY: SITCOM AND GENDER Text: Absolutely Fabulous

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CASE STUDY: SITCOM AND GENDER Text: Absolutely Fabulous Rowe identifies the unruly woman by a physical presence which is both excessive and loose (she specifically focuses on Roseanne as the archetypal unruly woman), excess may also be represented through the behaviour, uniform and attitudes of the female characters. In this way, Feuer is able to develop the definition of the unruly woman as any character "exceeding the norms of femininity at the time the character was popular".xv1 The icon of the unruly woman has been interpreted by some academics as providing a space in which female transgression can be witnessed and celebrated, even while they seem to be part of larger social forces, which should contain them, such as marriage and family. Absolutely Fabulous clearly generates comedy from the excesses of its protagonists, and particularly by implying their distance from the values which they should display as woman or mother. In an episode from series 4, Small Opening, the programme opens with a tracking shot across an opulent living room set, characterised by its extravagant furniture and objets d'art. ...read more.


In this episode, a flashback sequence shows Eddie and Patsy taking a young Saffy to the park during the 1980s. Dressed in an exaggerated version of a New Romantic costume and played out to the soundtrack of Prince Charming by Adam and the Ants, Eddie and Patsy are fascinated by this unfamiliar environment. Ignoring Saffy, they take over the children's play area. However, their lack of experience is telling; Patsy is knocked out by a flying swing, despite being warned by Saffy that "it comes back again". After the flashback, Eddie confronts her daughter about the play that she has written, but her fears are not based, as we might expect, upon filial betrayal: "Saffy darling. Will you answer Mummy one question? How fat is the woman playing me?" Given that Eddie's relationships to her daughter and to her home are turned upon their heads for comedy, it is not surprising that Absolutely Fabulous plays a similar trick with the role of men within the narrative. Neither of the protagonists are shown to be dependent upon men or emotional relationships for their well-being. ...read more.


acceptance of her gender ambivalence is indicative of the text's refusal to 'punish' the characters for their unconventionality or to force them to return to more normal modes of behaviour at the closure of each episode. Feuer indicates the radical potential of this kind of strategy in offering a critique of femininity: "In this reading farce and ideological subversion count for a lot; the exaggerated excess of the characters make them radical. The fan culture that formed around AbFab would seem to indicate that many viewers identified with the bad mothers and therefore against the proper but dull daughter" The privileging of this kind of reading is even more pronounced in later series of the show, where Saffy increasingly becomes an unattractive, insular character, almost justifying her mother's treatment. However, it is worth considering to what degree the show's form contributes to the sanctioning of this value system. The heightened style, involving elements of farce and other obviously theatrical moments, distances us sufficiently from the text so that we can laugh at, rather than be shocked by, the excesses on show. Whether similar narratives would work in the more gritty, realist style of shows such as Roseanne is debatable. 3 textual analysis examples are: 1) Opening sequence 2) Park sequence and Father 3) Kitchen & guests ...read more.

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