Issa Rae's web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (2011–13), initially posted on YouTube, and Lena Dunham's Girls (HBO, 2012–) are examples of the precarious-girl comedy in the new millennium. These sitcoms depict women experiencing a prolonged girlhood produced not only by the greater economic insecurity that middle-class women have been facing post–Great Recession but also by a variety social factors that generate feelings of immobilization and isolation. Abjection is often a principal sign of these characters' precarity—they inhabit spaces where they often recoil from others and vice versa, and their constant association with that which is considered gross (like dirt, vomit, and feces) is habitually a sign of what emotional and economic insecurity has wrought. However, race makes a critical difference in the treatment of abjection in these two shows. While Girls is a study in the classic psychoanalytic account of abjection, often depicting its protagonist as a dehumanized object full of disappointed drives, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl humorously blends the historical weight of black abjection with other kinds of abjection, so that the abjection its protagonist uses to define herself is not one determined by the history of white supremacy. These programs hinge on immobility as a mode of being. Depicting female subjects who will never entirely escape abjection, these shows also highlight racial and class-based differences in the embrace of not only this twenty-first-century form of comedy but also in modes of self-fashioning in neoliberal times.
Rebecca Wanzo; Precarious-Girl Comedy: Issa Rae, Lena Dunham, and Abjection Aesthetics. Camera Obscura 1 September 2016; 31 (2 (92)): 27–59. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-3592565
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