Alessandra Petrina

Where Would you Fit the Coconuts? The Reinstatement of Sexual Stereotypes in a Mock-Biopic

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On 9 May 2016 BBC proposed the first instalment of Upstart Crow, a mockbiopic of William Shakespeare written by Ben Elton and starring some of the best comic actors of British television. The timing was impeccable: the series appeared as the planet was united in celebrating Shakespeare, riding on the back of a high number of academic and semi-fictional biographies, which had re-opened controversies on Shakespeare’s life and on the authorship of the plays, and called into question the nature of biography as a genre. Upstart Crow could meet the audience at different levels and work on the assumption that the composition of the individual plays was closely interlaced to different biographical phases. Here I explore the treatment of sexual stereotypes in the series. The mixture of academic and populist makes such allusions especially difficult to deal with, since they are not located within a firm ideological agenda, but feed on the ambiguity that pervades the whole series.

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