I turned on Fleabag with a ball of dread in the pit of my stomach. Here we go, more feminist ear bashing at how shit men are, at everything. Talking, telling jokes, cooking, eating, drinking, having sex, not having sex, driving and all the other things people do to stay alive.
Times columnist Cosmos Landesman wrote that men have nothing to fear from Fleabag, and after watching the first two episodes of the first series, then binge watching the entire second series, I realised with a large dose of delight, we actually don’t.
Landesman goes on to make the rather controversial statement that Phoebe Waller Bridge’s eponymous character isn’t really a feminist (probably causing ardent feminist fans of the show to pick up their pitchforks and take their torches and go out and do a good old bit of male burning in response).
However, Landesman’s right, and Waller-Bridge even admits it herself when she tells her dad during series one that she’s a “cynical, depraved, morally bankrupt woman who can’t even call herself a feminist”.
The beauty of the show, and there are many beautiful things about it, is that Waller-Bridge doesn’t just represent feminists and females in general, she manages to expose the nuances and absurdities of life to everyone.
It’s why I, a 30-year-old male, continued watching the titular Fleabag stumble through parties, family gatherings and feminist seminars while laughing at her brutal summations of her family’s characters and often agreeing with much of her observations about the human at its most fallible; when in company.
The pièce de résistance of series two is the first episode; a rip roaring family affair set in a restaurant where we’re introduced to Andrew Scott as the priest hired to remarry Fleabag’s father (a fantastic addition to the show). And we also witness Waller-Bridge having to sit across from her sister’s husband (who tried to kiss her in the last series) while covering up her sister’s miscarriage, which takes place in the restaurant toilets.
The episode is a triumph at balancing the nuances of comic social calamity and touching sentiment between two warring sisters caught in the most heart-breaking of circumstances- the death of a child, all these events migrated over seamlessly in twenty four minutes.
Landesman made no critic of Fleabag by saying she’s not a feminist (even though Waller-Bridge has said in the past feminism is integral to everything she tries to write). In trying to do this, whether beknownst to her or not, Waller-Bridge has managed to tap into something far bigger than a socio-sudopolitical/cultural activist group. She’s writing about the general bizarre nature of being a young person in this crazy fucked up age we live in.
A work of genius.
Fleabag has two more episodes to run on Mondays BBC1 at 1030pm.
Catch the entire first and second series on iPlayer now.