Michaela Coel wrote her autobiographical play Chewing Gum Dreams when she was in college. The story reflected her life growing up in Tower Hamlets and trying to navigate womanhood while still being faithful to the big man upstairs. The play would go on to inspire the hit E4 program Chewing Gum, which celebrates life's uncomfortable moments.
24-year-old Tracey is trying to navigate womanhood and realize her potential of being the next Beyoncé. And the first step is to lose her virginity, but her uptight Christian boyfriend and suffocating religious mother are holding her back. On her journey of self-discovery, she realizes the real world isn’t as cozy as life in Tower Hamlets makes it seem.
The most defining trait of Chewing Gum is without a doubt the shows creator and star, Michaela Coel. Coel has created a television program that is bold, original, relevant, and absolutely bloody hilarious. She takes common political topics - sex, religion, and race - and tells their stories from her unique perspective. She brings what are, quite frankly, stale topics back to life by modernizing them for our current world. She effortlessly challenges societies stereotypical thinking of these topics with laughter and ease. She doesn't preach about the virtues of religion or the ecstasy of romance. She simply lays the world out bare of us to reflect on and laugh about, which is completely refreshing in today's overly preachy television.
Coel continues to shine with her brilliant performance as Tracey. It's evident that Tracey is a character that is very near and dear to Coel's heart. She understands and grasps Tracey's complex emotions that are buried underneath her comical surface. She is able to capture every emotion emanating from Tracey with just the smallest gestures. You can read a million things about Tracey in just one look, which is incredibly hard to do.
Chewing Gum is a raunchy, hilarious, pertinent program that speaks for the modern age. It captures beautifully the uncomfortable moments that make us cringe, but that also makes us who are.