Miranda and Miranda: Feminism, Femininity and Performance

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Abstract

The multi-award-winning actor and writer Miranda Hart has become a star of British comedy television, with roles in Smack the Pony (Channel 4 1999-2003), Nighty Night (BBC 2004-5), Hyperdrive (BBC 2006-7) and Not Going Out (BBC 2006 - ) before launching her hugely successful sitcom, Miranda (BBC 2009- ). This paper examines Miranda as an example of contemporary comedy stardom with reference to her onscreen personae. Miranda Hart’s self-named sitcom depicts an eccentric klutz who frequently addresses her audience, breaking the ‘fourth wall’ and apparently offering access to an autobiographically-inspired comedy script. Yet away from her ‘Miranda’ performance, Hart has asserted that little of the series is autobiographical, contradicting the intimate authenticity of her sitcom self. Hart also appears on panel gameshows and chat shows, in addition to her ‘straight’ role as Chummy Brown in Call the Midwife (BBC 2012 - ). In this paper I discuss the strategies and traditions which Hart’s work calls upon, looking back to Victoria Wood, Beryl Reid and Joyce Grenfell. In Frances Gray’s Women and Laughter she writes of the character comedy tradition in Britain and the States, proposing that it offers examples of ‘the female reconstruction of humour that is gaining momentum’ (1994: 160); yet Miranda has been attacked for its middle class, white worldview. Does Hart’s work continue a tradition of comedy by women which exposes the contradictory demands which heterofemininity makes upon real women or does it endorse heteronormativity by asserting the distinction between performer and performance?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTwenty-First Century Feminism
Subtitle of host publicationForming and Performing Femininity
EditorsClaire Nally, Angela Smith
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherMacmillan
Pages119-139
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781137492852
ISBN (Print)9781137492845
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015

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