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‘Fleabag’: A Humorous Portrait of Grief and Loneliness

“You know, either everyone feels like this a little bit, and they’re just not talking about it, or I’m completely fucking alone.” –Fleabag

Oof. Maybe that’s a little bit too much of a realistically depressing way to start an article. But then again, I just had to begin with, in my opinion, the quote that so accurately captures not only the soul of the show Fleabag, but also a perpetually ignored truth.

After recently binging both seasons of Fleabag in one night, I was so moved that I abandoned the previous article I’d been brainstorming to write this one. The show’s brilliant writer, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who also acts in the show, plays a woman reeling from the death of her mother and recent loss of her friend. It deals with themes such as guilt, grief, loss, disillusionment, feminism, depression, and loneliness. Fleabag explores emotional and sexual relationships with a vulnerable honesty reminiscent of reading a stranger’s diary. While Waller-Bridge creates colorful characters that are quite unlikeable, let alone lovable (however relatable they may be), she also employs the breaking of the fourth wall to lure us deeper into the mind of the main character, whose name is never revealed. 

What makes this show even more special is the amazing writing of Waller-Bridge, which elicits a poetic semblance and strong emotional responses while also retaining a wickedly funny wit. Perfectly-timed breaks in the fourth wall further the humor by taking advantage of Waller-Bridge’s expressive features, where a mere pop of the eyes or a quick quip is just as hilarious as a well-written punchline. 

The balance between humor and depressing subject matter was executed flawlessly, leaving me laughing one minute and tearing up the next. For example, towards the end of the first episode, the main character tells her father in a moment of vulnerability: “I have a horrible feeling that I’m a greedy, perverted, selfish, apathetic, cynical, depraved, morally bankrupt woman who can’t even call herself feminist,” to which he responds, “You get that from your mother.” It’s a poignant scene that at first makes you chuckle, but then elicits a feeling of despair and sympathy for the main character. Waller-Bridge executes this difficult feat again and again without being cringey nor preachy. 

At other times, it felt like Waller-Bridge beautifully articulated all of the complicated and painful feelings that I’d experienced yet could never express coherently. In another moment of vulnerability, she says, “I want someone to tell me what to wear. What to eat. What to like, what to hate, what to rage about, what to listen to, what to joke about. I want someone to tell me what to believe in, who to vote for, who to love, and how to tell them.” She poignantly expresses this sense of having no direction and craving of a clear map of what to do to make life easier, a feeling I believe is not so alien to other people. I could analyze this quote forever, but I think you get the gist.    

I’m eternally grateful to this show for reminding me that I’m not alone, and that’s why I highly suggest you watch it. I’ve realized that I’m surrounded by self-righteous people who look down on anything that isn’t their perception of “being a good person.” Fleabag refutes this ideal and opens up a conversation about loneliness and depression by realistically showcasing a woman’s journey in dealing with life. I’ve noticed that people try to make you feel ashamed about having these feelings or even blame you for how you deal with them. I find that these are usually the same people who spout foo-foo bullshit about life. And I can guarantee you that Fleabag is not foo-foo bullshit. So, I suggest you plunk yourself down, flip on Fleabag, and get in on this important conversation that Waller-Bridge has started. Because at the end of the day, we all have a bit of fleabagginess in us, so we might as well talk about it. 

 

Savrene is a third-year cognitive science major. She can be found exploring new places, with her nose in a book, listening to music, binging her latest favorite tv show, and spending time with friends and family.
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