Funny Old Girls: Representing older women in British television comedy

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Abstract

This essay considers representations of aging women in sitcom - such as The Golden Girls (NBC 1985-1992) and Annette Crosbie as Margaret Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave (BBC 1990-2000) – in order to establish how aging femininity is policed through sitcom’s accounts of proper and improper behaviours for older women. The debate then examines the transvestite performance of age and femininity, both by male actors cross-dressing as women and by young female actors cross-dressing as old women. Examples include Harry Enfield and Kathy Burke’s performances as the ‘Randy Old Ladies’ from Harry Enfield and Chums (BBC, 1994-1997), Catherine Tate as ‘Nan’ in The Catherine Tate Show (BBC, 2004-2009) and Brendan O’Carroll’s performance as Agnes Brown in Mrs Brown’s Boys (BBC, 2011- ). These more radical and outrageous accounts of older women in television comedy offer on the one hand a liberating and transgressive vision of aging, but also tend to reiterate cultural stereotypes regarding age and femininity as ‘inappropriate’. The essay examines how television comedy embodies and exposes cultural ambivalences about older women.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAgeing, Popular Culture and Contemporary Feminism: Harleys and Hormones
EditorsImelda Whelehan, Joel Gwynne
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherMacmillan
Pages155-171
Number of pages272
ISBN (Print)9781137376527
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2014

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