When it comes to girls and young women characters there appears to be an odd belief that there are few examples of them in comedy, specifically examples who could be held up as comedic role models. I seem to have some extra time on my hands right now and rather than rearrange my wardrobe I have decided to dedicate an essay each to the fictional girls and young women who deserve more recognition for their comedy.
Tracy Beaker won my heart when I was eight years old and first read The Story of Tracy Beaker. On my first reading, I completely fell for everything Tracy told me. I believed her mother was off busy being glamorous somewhere and making sincere plans to come and pick Tracy up from the Dumping Ground ASAP and that she’s sent the Monster Gorilla Boyfriend packing.
I spent the next few weeks trying to convince my parents that it would be great to have a foster sibling (which I fully expected to be Tracy Beaker) and was very disappointed to learn there wasn’t room for a third child and that even if there was, there was a lengthy vetting process and the child would not be Tracy Beaker.
Tracy is irreverent and, at 10 years old, reckons she already had the world pretty sussed. She certainly would have run rings around 10-year-old me. It would have been easy to just portray Tracy purely as a cynical and damaged child but author Jacqueline Wilson made her like everyone else, complicated. She’s been through a lot but Tracy has childlike desires for things such as Mcdonalds, Smarties and birthday cake.
Similar to the previous characters I have written about in this column (Daria, Anastasia, Helga), Tracy refuses to be moulded into what society wants her to be, an easy child. An easy child is an easy to ignore child. Tracy can’t afford that. One of the lines that always made me laugh was Tracy’s response to her autobiography questionnaire: “[If I was] yelled at I would: yell back.”
While Tracy can be hostile as a self-preservation technique, she is kind at heart, for instance when they bump into each other sneaking about one night, she shows weedy Peter what to do with his urine-soaked bed sheets so that none of the other children will make fun. In fact, apart from when they are mean to her (Justine Littlewood I am looking at you), Tracy isn’t that mean to her peers, but she does enjoy making patronising adults squirm.
As a child already shunted around the care system, Tracy knows her age and looks count against her and that life is no fairy-tale for girls like her who don’t have long blonde locks and a passive demeanour. Which is why Tracy is so brave and takes her chances, such as when writer Cam comes in to visit, Tracy makes sure she stands out. Fortunately, Cam sees the humour in a lot of Tracy’s behaviour and thought process, even if she fails to be glamorous like Tracy’s mum, Cam is present and consistent – in the book at least.
Considering Tracy has so little, it’s heartening, though unsurprising that she holds on tight to her autobiographical writing style. When her social worker Elaine reads Tracy’s unflattering account of a previous foster mother and how she’d seek revenge, she tries to encourage her to write nicer things instead of “spoiling it.” Tracy responds: “it’s my life and it hasn’t been very special so far, has it, so why shouldn’t I write any old rubbish?”
And what 10-year-old hasn’t fantasised some bogey-based punishment on the adults who have in some way wronged them? If ever a character deserved a tube of smarties and a birthday cake all to herself it’s Tracy Beaker.
If you have a character you’d like to suggest for this, then tweet me @funnywomened
Read why Daria Morgendorffer is a comedy icon here!
Read why Anastasia Krupnik is a comedy icon here!
Read why Helga Pataki is a comedy icon here!