How is gender discussed in Absolutely Fabulous? Essay
Absolutely Fabulous presents us a world in which misrule is allowed to continue and in which the inverted order of power (i.e. one in which women are allowed to have a significant degree of power) is allowed to continue, to be normalized. The show sets the entire issue of the inversion of power in terms of gender within the context of comedy. It also explores the two main female characters, Edina and Patsy, whose roles disrupt traditional engendered rules of power. Edina and Patsy, violate some traditional expectations that we have of the feminine, but play in more sophisticated and ambiguous ways.
In some respects a domestic sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous satirises the matriarchal household of fashion P.R. executive, Edina and the women around her, including her unruly best friend, Patsy and long-suffering daughter Saffron. Because Absolutely Fabulous remains an unusual example of a peak-time situation comedy written by women, with a predominantly female cast and a specific address to a female audience, it provides rare viewing pleasures of self-recognition and humour to women. In addition to having feminist concerns at the core of its structure and themes, it stresses the artificiality surrounding “womanliness,” and celebrates gender as a complex social and cultural construction.
The characters predominantly female but are coded as unfeminine. Edina appearance is not someone who is considered as a mother but more of a spoilt teenager. She is plump and always striving to be slimmer and her movement is extremely non-feminine as she strops and staggers through her drug and alcohol abuse something which is not associated with middle aged woman. Edina is not the typical stereotype as she is not delicate. Edina is vein and the anti thesis of maternal, as she doesn’t seem to care for Saffron’s needs and feelings. She is pivotal in the portrayal as a mother.
Once again patsy is not the stereotype of a feminine representative as she has loud verbal outbursts, which are coarse, vulgar, violent and blunt. Her appearance is almost wooden and eccentric. Her appearance and personality is extremely grotesque. Her language is unexpected for her age as it contradicts what we would expect as she uses random vulgar language and occasionally street language as she is trying to fulfil her youthful persona by applying excessive making and taking al sorts of drugs.
Patsy is almost coded as a male as in the episode “Small Opening” Patsy is asked by the grandmother to bring up a cupboard up the stairs, which is a masculine association. In saffron’s play Patsy is represented by a drag, again providing the image of unfeminine. At the end of this episode Patsy hits the actor playing the drag in a masculine way saying ‘that’s alright mate’. Even Saffron describes her as a ‘piece of flint’. Both Edina and Patsy create humour through their unfeminine role as together they are hysterical and each other’s alter egos.
In contrast to Edina and Patsy, Saffron and the Mother are coded as feminine because they are both maternal and need emotion affection and are dependent on other people whereas Edina and Patsy are not. Saffron’s appearance is plain and maternal as she is the opposite of her mother and a clear role reversal is evident as there are many scenes when Saffron is looking down at her mother and telling her off for her teenage antics. Saffron and the mother are sensitive to each other and their surroundings. They are both always seen in the kitchen, which is a strong feminine representative.
The way in which the male gender is represented in the episode “Small Openings” is that Edina’s ex-husbands are scared of her, as they need to be forced to see her, as they fear her personality. The men seem to be conservative which contrasts Edina character, as she is extremely childlike. One particular ex-husband of Edina is extremely weak and incompetent, as he needs the strength of a strong woman to take control of him as his new wife has decided for him to become a Rabbi and makes his decisions to speak and sit. The physical contrast is especially humorous as he is comically small compare to his new wife again emphasising the woman’s strength. This particular scene shows that the women are unstable and have monstrous tempers showing the power of their personality.
The gender discussed in Ab Fab is going against the stereotype, which make the sitcom so funny. The grotesque representation of Edina and Patsy just add to the breaking of typical stereotypes and makes the abstract situations more comical. Ab Fab is just woman behaving badly and breaks all the rules that make the gender representations so unconventional and slapstick.