Wednesday, 17 December 2014


So her coming two Christmas Specials will be the last we see of Miranda Hart's sitcom character. She's done three hugely successful series and I think she's bowing out at the right time. For me, the last series was looking a little bit worn out. She's a very idiosyncratic character, not one which readily adapts to a team of writers, which is how US sitcoms keep going for series after series. And there's only so much shelf life in falling over and raising one's eyebrows at the cameras, however winningly she does it. And she's aware of the no. 1 rule of sitcom: "the main character tries to learn and then they always go back to where they were." Hart goes on: "As a woman and a feminist, I hate the thought of her not coming into her own as she gets older."

However sympathetic I am to this sentiment, it worries me. It's tough enough for women to get on in comedy without the burden of feeling their characters have to be positive women. Like David Brent, Basil Fawlty or Patsy Stone, Miranda isn't an icon or banner, she's a great comedy character. Do we think Brent, Fawlty or Stone will ever "come into their own"?

Much worse was the attack on Miranda in today's "Independent" by Fiona Sturgess. "Hart's character," she says, "conveys the message that, deep down, we women are all neurotic, incapable of behaving like sentient grown-ups and deserving of pity."

Comedy characters are nearly all dysfunctional and inadequate. If they weren't,they wouldn't be funny. Nobody ever said that Homer Simpson conveyed a message that all men were useless, childish and incapable of stringing two thoughts together. Why do some feminists pile on the pressure for women performers to do more than create brilliant comedy? It seems that female comics face a double whammy: first to overcome the prejudice that women aren't funny and, on top of that, to pass a feminist test in presenting acceptably positive images of women.

Good luck, Miranda. You've brightened our TV screens and you've made us laugh. That's plenty.

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