By Ellie Spenceley, Second Year, English
Nearly 15 years since The Story of Tracy Beaker (2002-2006) ended, Dani Harmer is back on screen to officially reprise her role as the iconic Tracy Beaker in a new show, My Mum Tracy Beaker, which is expected to premiere in early 2021 on BBC. The show will follow the life of Tracy Beaker’s 12-year-old daughter Jess as she navigates life living on a council estate. It should be seen as a continuation of the original show, rather than Tracy Beaker Returns or The Dumping Ground, considering that Tracy did not have a child in these spin-offs. The show is based on the Jacqueline Wilson book of the same name, which was published in 2018.
The news has spread a wave of nostalgia amongst noughties kids across the country who watched Tracy navigate the trials and tribulations of living in a residential children’s care home. The spirit of Tracy Beaker has never truly left any of us – whether you’ve attended QUIDS IN PRZYM nights where Dani Harmer has attended and heard the crowd go wild as the show’s original theme tune blasted through the club, or listened to Stormzy’s ‘Superhero’ and heard a rendition of the song in the outro, it is clear that we all have a space in our heart for Tracy. Catchphrases such as ‘bog off’ became characteristic of the early 2000s children’s television zeitgeist, with some parents forbidding their child from watching the show due to fears that they may adopt the same stroppy, misbehaving attitude of The Dumping Ground’s favourite terror.
But what will Tracy be like as a single mother living on a council estate, raising a child of her own? It will be interesting to see how her upbringing in the care system possibly affects her relationship with her daughter, and whether she brings across any of the characteristics she was known for in her childhood into adulthood. Talking to The Sun, Dani Harmer expressed her excitement at the news that she was to be bringing her character back to life: ‘I’m a fan myself and want to know what happens next and where this journey takes her’.
Harmer is also a mother herself, to four-year-old Avarie-Belle-Betsy, who she had with boyfriend Simon Brough, so the role will have some personal resonance for the actress, as she said she knows ‘how much [motherhood] changes you’. Fans of the original show will know that Tracy Beaker had her own struggles regarding her mother, who she was convinced was a glamorous Hollywood actress who was coming back to whisk her away at any moment. The 2004 film Tracy Beaker: The Movie of Me showed the partial reality of this fantasy, although it is unclear how the events of the movie fit into the show’s timeline, given that it was not discussed in the show.
Following the announcement of the franchise’s return, discussion has risen surrounding the potentially classist implications of having Tracy Beaker grow up to be a single mother living on a council estate. The idea that living in a children’s home predestines you to have future relationships break down is one that many people have expressed discomfort with, whilst alternate interpretations have suggested that the show is simply portraying a realistic account of the institutionalised disadvantages that the UK class system perpetuates.
The question of whether previous shows in the franchise present a realistic representation of residential care is one that has always sparked debate, since the young target audience has meant that realities were not always represented authentically. Regardless, author Jacqueline Wilson, speaking to The Guardian, said that through her iconic character she has done ‘all sorts of work with the fostering network’. She acknowledges that because the books and shows are aimed at children, you can’t ‘include the whole reality’ and that ‘being a child in care is no picnic’, but that despite this she has contributed to an increase in visibility for looked-after children. At the very least, it made young people aware that not everybody has a stable family that they can rely on, and that there are children in society without a permanent home or parental figures.
Like Harmer, long-time fans of the show are waiting in eager excitement to see what happens next and where Tracy’s next journey will take her. Whilst the show won’t premiere until next year, all episodes of The Story of Tracy Beaker, Tracy Beaker Returns (2010-2012) and The Dumping Ground (2013-) are now available to stream on BBC iPlayer. Why not relive your childhood in anticipation for the next instalment?
Featured: BBC / Giles Park, IMDb, Sky Arts
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