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“How is these kids meant to make it out the ghetto now?” Community cohesion and communities of laughter in British multicultural comedy

Ilott, Sarah (2018) “How is these kids meant to make it out the ghetto now?” Community cohesion and communities of laughter in British multicultural comedy. Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 53 (2). pp. 211-222. ISSN 0021-9894

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Abstract

This article uses readings of Mark Mylod’s Ali G Indahouse, Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block, and Chris Morris’s Four Lions to argue against a political trend for laying the blame for the purported failure of British multiculturalism at the hands of individual communities. Through my readings of these comic films, I suggest that popular constructions of “community” based on assumptions about cultural and religious homogeneity are rightly challenged, and new communities are created through shared laughter. Comedy’s structural engagement with taboo means that stereotypes which have gained currency through media and political discourse that seeks to demonize particular groups of young men (Muslims and gang members, for example) are foregrounded. By being brought to the forefront and exposed, these stereotypes can be engaged with and challenged through ridicule and demonstrations of incongruity. Furthermore, I suggest that power relations are made explicit through joking structures that work to include or exclude, meaning that the comedies can draw and redraw communities of laughter in a manner that effectively challenges notions of communities as discrete, homogeneous, and closely connected to cultural heritage. The article works against constructions of British Muslims as the problem community par excellence by using multicultural discourse to contextualize the representation of British Muslims and demonstrate how the discourse has repressed the role of political, social, and economic structures in a focus on “self-segregating” communities.

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