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Monstrous Aunties: the Rabelaisian older Asian woman in British cinema and television comedy

Tincknell, Estella



© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Representations of older women of South Asian heritage in British cinema are often assumed to do little more than reiterate familiar stereotypes. Yet some British comedy films and TV shows have carved out a space for more transgressive representations of aging Asian women. From Gurinder Chadha’s debut feature, Bhaji on the Beach (1993) to the ground-breaking sketch show, Goodness, Gracious Me and The Kumars at Number 42, a range of comic older female figures haveoverturned the conventional discourses around race, gender and age. Here, the dominant tropes are of the carnivalesque and the grotesque rather than the submissive and repressed. The confined and conventional Indian “Auntie” is thus transformed into a Rabelaisian figure of excess–a “jester” whose ritualistic violations of norms through “clownishness” forces laughter in response. This essay explores the intersectional relationships between British popular culture and comedy, British-Asian and diasporic identities, and the forging of new and potentially subversive tropes of ageing femininity. Arising from research undertaken through the Women, Ageing, Media network, the essay seeks to reframe and re-contextualise both the politics of gendered representation and the politics of ageing.

Journal Article Type Article
Journal Feminist Media Studies
Print ISSN 1468-0777
Electronic ISSN 1471-5902
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 16
Issue 1
Pages 1-16
APA6 Citation Tincknell, E. (in press). Monstrous Aunties: the Rabelaisian older Asian woman in British cinema and television comedy. Feminist Media Studies, 16(1), 1-16.
Keywords Asian, women, British, comedy, older women, carnivalesque, film, television
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