“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is right: Females are strong as hell. As for me, I love strong women. I worship their scowls, muscles and thirst for justice. I just can’t relate to them at all.
Like everyone else on the internet, I am trash. The more optimistic term is work-in-progress. While some relate to Athena or Ramona Flowers, I’m more of a Jessica Jones—the superhero from the now-defunct Marvel Netflix Universe. Sweary, all over the place and just trying to get through the day. Except I don’t have any superhuman strength, I am devastatingly normal. And for female fuckups like me, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag” is our patron saint.
What is “Fleabag”? If you love dark comedy, this BBC series might just be your new best friend. It’s a screen adaptation of Waller-Bridge’s one-woman play. In this show, we follow a fourth breaking, London girl in control of her own narrative.
And for female fuckups like me, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag” is our patron saint.
“Do I have a massive arsehole?” Fleabag (yes, that’s the name of our main girl) asks the viewers during the first episode’s cold open. That question tells us two things off the bat; she’s crass and unapologetically horny. She’s a dry-witted feminist with no filter, navigating life and tragedy with her uptight yet successful sister (Sian Clifford), his sister’s asshole husband (Brett Gelman), frustratingly passive father (Bill Patterson), a manipulative stepmother (Olivia Coleman), a dead best friend (Jenny Rainsford) and a hot priest (Andrew Scott).
The series are stringed together by her fuckups and how she grows from them. Now, I’m not going to spoil a damn thing if you haven’t watched it. What I’m gonna share instead is what I’ve learned from my patron saint.
From being a bad feminist to not falling for a priest, here are the lessons Fleabag left me with before completely dropping my heart and stepping on it.
Women are built by pain, the made stronger by it
The loss of her best friend and mother are still burdens she carries. With these, she finds her coping mechanism from masking her pain. She masks it with lust and living life unfiltered. She says what she means and means what she says. Quoting her, she just leaves it out there for a second. The reason behind this can be explained by what her sister’s boss said to her in a pub. “Women are born with pain built in … period pain, sore boobs, childbirth, while men have to seek it out … then they create wars, so they can feel things and touch each other, and when there aren’t any wars, they can play rugby.”
If there are any strong, independent woman traits Fleabag exhibits, it’s her ability to rise from her mistakes. They say tragedy builds character. And boy, she’s one hell of a character.
Love takes strength
Love can come from anywhere. In Fleabag’s case, it came from a priest—a hot priest, to be more specific. She didn’t fall hard because of his features (like his neck). She fell for the fact that he sees her. She sees her beauty and mistakes. He loves her either way, proving to us that sometimes; I love you can start with “well, fuck you then.”
In the Hot Priest’s wedding speech, he tackled that love is strength. It doesn’t make us weak and it builds us to be better to ourselves and others. Putting your heart in the line takes a lot of balls, but it gives us the hope we’ve been missing too.
If there are any strong, independent woman traits Fleabag exhibits, it’s her ability to rise from her mistakes.
Familial love is as valid as romantic love
Dysfunctional is one word to describe Fleabag’s family. Her mother’s gone, her sister’s too uptight for her own good and her stepmother’s a huge cunt. Although at the end of the day, they run to each other’s arms for safety and understanding.
Her father knows that she has her mother’s heart. In his weird way, he looks out after her mental health by giving her therapy gift cheques as a present. They have their own inside jokes and understand where each other is coming from. As for her sister, they don’t get along like best friends. But like Claire told her: “The only person I’d run through an airport for is you.”
The perfect feminist doesn’t exist
In a feminist lecture, she and her sister raised their hands when the lecturer asked if they would trade five years of their lives for a perfect body. Bitch, me too, but that’s just our insecurities talking. It doesn’t make me less of a feminist nor would it push me to shame other women’s bodies. if anything, I’m shaming my own body—and that’s a hard thing to unlearn. All this reveals is that we still deal with body issues while preaching to love our bodies. It happens ’cause that’s life.
“I have a horrible feeling that I’m a greedy, perverted, selfish, apathetic, cynical, depraved, morally bankrupt woman who can’t even call herself a feminist,” cries Fleabag to her father before a wedding. She’s a self-aware, modern woman. But she’s also insecure and an imperfect feminist. And what is feminism, if not unpacking body issues along the way?
“I have a horrible feeling that I’m a greedy, perverted, selfish, apathetic, cynical, depraved, morally bankrupt woman who can’t even call herself a feminist.”
It’s okay not to have life figured out
We deal with a lot on a daily basis. Today, we hit up an ex or drown in guilt due to a loss of a friend. Our coping mechanisms can be booze, cigarettes and masturbation. They’re unhealthy ways of living life. Still, who’s to say we won’t be better people tomorrow?
The next step in embracing your fuckups is growing from it. It’s one thing to admit to yourself that you’re a morally corrupt, bad feminist. It’s another to actually have the balls to walk away from your past self and be a better person who has a lot to learn. If she can walk away from a bus stop filled with promised romance, it’s possible we can walk away from our mistakes too.
Still from “Fleabag”