Fleabag: How to Capture Love on Camera

Twelve episodes. Twenty-six minutes or so each. Time passes by quickly when I watch Fleabag. Nevertheless, this short series has taught me a lasting lesson on love.

Created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the comedy-drama intimately follows the life of Fleabag, a dry-humored woman secretly coping with grief, as she navigates complicated relationships with family members and sexual partners. Fleabag often breaks the fourth wall as a form of narration, developing a bond with the audience who has personal access to her internal thoughts. 

Paradoxically though, we realize from these breaks how disengaged she feels from the people in her life—and even from herself. While having sex with a man, Fleabag notices that he has just lost his erection. She stares straight at the camera and confidently explains with disappointment that her sexual partner must be in that stage where he is falling in love with her, and so he is panicking because he is confused about his feelings. When he begins to talk about his emotions the next day, Fleabag looks at us suggestively, signaling that he is about to confess to her. She is moved by how passionately he says that he is in love—until he specifies that he is in love with someone else. Hiding her embarrassment, she tries to act cool about it, but we know that she is actually humiliated by misreading the situation.

Via Tenor

While watching the series, I think about how Fleabag breaking the fourth wall represents the distractions inside of our minds and the potential for misunderstanding. She speaks to us because she is afraid to relive the memories of her deceased friend that are frequently playing in the back of her mind. Living in the moment is difficult for Fleabag when she gets caught up in her own head. She makes assumptions about people that are sometimes far from reality and holds back from sharing her honest emotions. Because of that, there is a disconnect between events as they unfold and how she perceives them. We can relate to her because we have thoughts that we run away from, too. Like her, we know the disappointment of failed expectations and the messiness of deciphering human interactions. 

Since we understand the hardships of forming healthy relationships, we also appreciate the people who show up for us and are fully present when they are with us. That’s why Fleabag falls in love with the character only know as the Priest. They meet for the first time at a family dinner because he will officiate her dad’s second marriage. While telling us that no one has asked her any questions so far, she is startled when he unknowingly interrupts her to ask about her job. In her pursuit to sleep with him, she genuinely develops feelings for him because he is attuned to her presence and emotions. When he attempts to ask about her personal life, she deflects his questions, telling us how annoyed she is of him. He catches on, though. The Priest asks her what she is doing when she stares at the camera, claiming that she seems to disappear when he wants to know what is underneath the surface. When they finally have sex, Fleabag stays focused on him. She motions for the camera to be put away, closing us off from this deeply intimate and meaningful moment.

 

Via Giphy

Fleabag illustrates how alienated we can feel from ourselves and other people. We are often lost in our thoughts as we try to make sense of the world. As a result, misunderstanding and miscommunication are possible. But the show reaffirms through Fleabag’s relationship with the Priest that love heals loneliness. Whether it is platonic or romantic, love lets us connect with each other and embrace every aspect of ourselves. Love has you floating in the clouds while keeping you grounded in the present.