Freshly subscribed to Amazon Prime, naturally, the first thing I did was to check out Fleabag, a popular British television series I’d heard so much about. And now, after binging the show for two days straight, I’m here to answer the big question: What is the appeal of Fleabag?
Please be mindful that this article contains spoilers for the show Fleabag. This article may also contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase using these links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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- What’s Great about Fleabag
- The Misses
Fleabag is a British comedy-drama television series that premiered on BBC Three in the UK on 21 July 2016 and on Amazon Video in the US on 16 September 2016. Created, written, and played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the titular character, Fleabag is a dry-witted, troubled, and sexually-active woman living in London.
The show is based on Waller-Bridge’s 2013 one-woman play of the same name and follows Fleabag as she navigates her life, relationships, and her own mental health. Following its release, the show has become a cult classic, due to its sharp writing, dark humor, and relatable protagonist, as well as inspiring a plethora of both unofficial and official merchandises such as Fleabag: The Scriptures (2019), containing the the first and second seasons’ filming scripts, as well as the original stage directions and Waller-Bridge’s exclusive commentary.
What’s Great about Fleabag
What Fleabag does well, it does it in a way that’s almost unprecedented. It speaks of Waller-Bridge’s skill as a writer, showcased by the twists and turns that we get to see in the show.
Breaking the fourth wall
Breaking the fourth wall is a common storytelling technique in which a character directly addresses the audience, acknowledging that they are fictional and part of a play or television show. This can be used for comedic effect, to create a sense of intimacy with the audience, or to comment on the action in the story.
Some people enjoy this technique because it can add an extra layer of humor or meta-commentary to a story, while others may find it distracting or disruptive to the narrative.
Fleabag employs this technique throughout all of its two seasons, each consists of six episodes, without it being distracting or disruptive to the flow of the story.
In fact, as I watched the show I found myself looking forward to her little commentaries as they provided just the right amount of spice to the narrative as well as an extra insight into the character. It was as if Fleabag was a personal friend, and she was recounting her personal life story to me.
Throughout the series, Fleabag‘s fourth wall breaking serves to create intimacy between the audience and the character, allowing us to get to know her better as she reveals her thoughts and feelings. Additionally, it helps emphasizing the themes of the show, such as loneliness, grief, and love, by allowing us to peek into the character’s psyche and her struggles.
Witty dialogue refers to the clever and humorous exchange of words between two or more characters in a literary work, film, play, or other form of entertainment. It often involves clever wordplay, double entendres, and puns, and is used to add humor and levity to a conversation or scene as well as reveal character traits and add depth to the characters and their relationships.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag is known for her sharp wit, clever one-liners and irreverent sense of humor, which she often uses to deal with difficult situations and emotions. The show has gained a loyal following for its sharp writing and relatable characters, and Waller-Bridge has received widespread acclaim for her performance as Fleabag.
Another scene I really enjoyed was when Fleabag heard a stranger screamed, “Slut!” to which she turned around and answered, “Yeah?”
OK, that isn’t really a dialogue.
This one is: When the priest asked Fleabag why would she believe in something awful when she could believe in something wonderful, she replied, “Don’t make me an optimist. You’ll ruin my life.”
Dark humor, also known as black humor, is a form of humor that focuses on the absurd, the grotesque, and the disturbing. It often uses irony, satire, and sarcasm to make fun of sensitive or taboo subjects, including death, disease, and violence. Dark humor is not for everyone, as it can be offensive and disturbing, but for some people, it can be a way of coping with difficult or traumatic situations.
There are many shows that use far darker humor than Fleabag (The Boys, anyone?), but the poignant thing about the use of dark humor in Fleabag is the underlying themes of loneliness and grief.
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Consider a scene where Fleabag is scrambling to find a date to bring to her sister’s surprise birthday party. At one point, on her way home she catches a dog looking at her and begins to appear flustered before mirthfully dismissing the idea of asking a dog out as her date.
Or the scene where her godmother asked her which of the penis sculpture displayed on her exhibition is her father’s. In an answer, Fleabag randomly pointed at one of the sculpture, which turned out to be the correct answer.
In this show, we also witness Fleabag (as well as other characters in the show) commit various faux pas that are all somewhere between painfully awkward to straight up criminal. However, nothing is more surprising and dark than the story’s twist at the end of Season One, which is a testament of Waller-Bridge’s skill as an exceptional writer.
No work of art is perfect, and Fleabag is no exception. For as many as its hilarious and heartbreaking moments that hit home very closely, the show is not without its flaws and criticisms.
While some people have criticized the show for its crude humor, overly sexualized themes, or relying too heavily on shock value, my problems are not with these.
The Hot Priest
Andrew Scott as The Hot Priest is endearing and funny, but I can’t stop thinking that he took advantage of Fleabag by showing an interest in her, knowing that he is restricted by his calling and vocation from engaging in a sexual relationship with another person.
And then, when Fleabag was vulnerable and a mess from her confession session with him, he began to make his sexual advance known to her by kissing her. Like, come on.
Moreover, as time progressed, he lured her into bed with his half-baked confession of love for her, only to backpedal the very next day by using his love for God as the excuse.
And when Fleabag confessed her love for him? His answer was as simple as, “It’ll pass.”
What a jerk. I’m rolling my eyes.
Maybe it’s just a British thing, but I don’t really get why Fleabag is smirking all the time. After being slapped by her godmother. After being told to serve drinks at her godmother’s art exhibition. After being dumped by her date for her godmother’s art exhibition. And most notably, after being dumped by Hot Priest, just one day after they slept together.
People say that Fleabag is often overwhelmed by her own feelings that she chooses to express her inner turmoil in a subtle way rather than a more explicit expression of pain or distress. It’s a sign of her resilience and her ability to find some humor in even the most difficult moments and serves as a way for her to deflect her emotions.
While I can agree with this sentiment to an extent, I can also tell you that if someone invited me to a party just so that they could have me serve as a free waitress, smirking would be the very last thing on my mind.
And when simply smirking and being meek are used in an excess in order to make the audience relate or empathize with the character, the effect is the opposite.
At least for me, it is.
In conclusion, Fleabag is an excellent show that offers something fresh, funny, and thought-provoking, despite the minor qualms I’m having with it. It’s a critically acclaimed show that is told from a woman’s point of view, and let’s admit that we can use more of this in our television.
Besides gaining a dedicated fan base for its unique and engaging storytelling, the show has also won numerous awards, including multiple Emmys and a Golden Globe, notably for the show’s creator and star, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, for her writing and performance.
If you haven’t already, you might also want to check out Waller-Bridge’s other work, including the series Killing Eve (for which she wrote 4 episodes and executive produced 24 episodes) and No Time to Die (for which she co-wrote the screenplay).
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Until next time!