Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s darkly comic limited series was a huge success, garnering a tremendous amount of praise and several awards, including an Emmys sweep. Fleabag isn’t just hilarious; it is an honest exploration of the ways in which human beings cope with negative feelings, especially grief, while still keeping a healthy dose of humor in it all.
As our society moves towards more humanistic values and a better understanding of mental health, the zeitgeist is filling up with protagonists that are openly flawed, creating a much more nuanced representation of human trial and error. This, among many other things, is what makes Fleabag shine. Fleabag may not be considered the most “wholesome” character to come out of 21st century television, but she is definitely one of the most relatable, therefore one of the most real.
Sometimes, you just have to. A lot of us have been in that situation where it seems like everything is out of your control, and stealing a spoon from a restaurant or a candy bar from the grocery store gives you a temporary sense of relief in the multi-vehicle car crash that is your life (too far? Not far enough, really). Fleabag’s stealing of the golden woman, a statue that her pretentious stepmother molded, is a recurring gag in the show, with the stolen object being passed around from family member to family member until it makes its way back into Stepmother’s hands, that is until Fleabag steals it again.
There are several interpretations as to the symbolism of the statue, and probably more than one of them could be applied, but it is definitely fitting that Fleabag stole the piece of work that was “incomplete,” ie missing a head. Small, rebellious actions like stealing are often used as a way to fill in for some sort of missing piece, a tiny but potent remedy to feeling “emotionally incomplete.” Frankly, we’ve all been there, whether when we were 17 or when we were 37.
Humor As A Defense Mechanism
With Fleabag, humor is everything. She uses it both as a coping mechanism and as a defense mechanism, a way in which to create a distance between herself and her family or any other acquaintances she might come across. Generally, a good sense of humor is more of a positive thing than a negative one, and it is what makes the show so enjoyable to watch.
In Fleabag, the humor intertwines with the drama in such a way as to perfectly mimic life, creating a viewing experience that is both gravely serious and outrageously hilarious. Some of the darker experiences of our lives involve a tremendous amount of humor, whether on purpose or not. After all, if you can not cry it out, you should laugh it out. Humor, especially dry and sardonic humor, as a fallback or an emotional safety net is very common and very human, being yet another example of Fleabag’s ability to relate to a wide range of people.
The story of Fleabag revolves around the titular character struggling to cope with the shocking death of her best friend, Boo (Jenny Rainsford). Their friendship is explored via flashbacks, and these flashbacks are vital to the emotional aspect of the show. The more we see of Boo and Fleabag’s relationship, the more we see just how hard it must be for Fleabag after losing her.
Female friendships are a special brand of love, just as bromances have their own special flavor, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s representation of the two platonic soulmates was unbelievably accurate. Sequences that show Boo and Fleabag shopping for clothes, getting drunk together, smoking weed, and working in the café they started together aid in building a solid foundation to their relationship. The bond between the two is unwrapped slowly, and it is very subtle, but no less heartfelt. Many women and their BFF’s can attest to the sincerity of these scenes, and they are one of the many things that make Fleabag so endearing.
Falling For Someone Who Is Unattainable
No one really wants to talk about this one, yet here we are. Whether it be because of an inherent need for self-destruction or just because the good ones are always taken, the point remains; it so often feels like we’re falling for someone who isn’t available.
There are probably fewer people who have fallen in love with a priest as Fleabag did (hey, never say never) but the feeling that is explored in season 2 of the show is one all of us who have felt heartbreak recognize. The feeling of putting yourself out there, after some deliberation, and ultimately getting rejected, is quite possibly one of the hardest things to endure, but it is something every human being goes through, and it is eternally relevant.
“We’re Bad Feminists”
We all want to believe that we are the ultimate example of our most treasured beliefs, but rarely is that the case. One of the funnier scenes in season 1 involves Fleabag and her sister, Claire (Sian Clifford), openly admitting to a stadium full of feminists that they would gladly give away five years of their life for the perfect body. Similarly, in the second season she states in a room full of Quakers (and one priest) that she worries she would not be such a feminist if she had bigger breasts. Truth hurts.
The insecurity of not living up to your own beliefs is extremely real, but few people actually talk about it. No one wants to see themselves as a fraud, but the truth is that it’s really quite human to not live up to your own ideals all the time, and it’s not the easiest thing to admit. Luckily for us, Fleabag has never shown much concern in what others think of her, so we can all relate to her on our shared undesirable characteristics.
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