Seven reasons why feminist comedy Fleabag will be your latest TV addiction

Posted by
Emma Bullimore
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We’ve been spoiled for great television recently, from binge-watching the entire fourth season of Orange is the New Black, to theorising over Jon Snow in Game of Thrones and enjoying endless re-runs of Ab Fab on Netflix.

Now, things are about to get even better – with BBC3’s Fleabag.

Created by rising star 31-year-old Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag is TV’s new anti-heroine, hailed by many as Britain’s answer to Lena Dunham.

What started out as a 10 minute stand-up routine soon became a critically acclaimed, Olivier-nominated one-woman show at the Edinburgh Festival, and is now a six-part series with a stellar cast. The show is a no-holds-barred look at modern womanhood, from the perspective of a rude and often unlikeable skint millennial. Within the first half hour, we see her eye-rolling her way through anal sex, masturbating to Barack Obama and making a faux-pas at a feminist lecture.

The series is set to be a hit. Here’s seven reasons why you simply can’t miss it. 

1. It’s a stimulating, smart, feminist triumph

…but nobody’s preaching. The show is written by a woman, about a woman, for other women, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge tells Stylist it’s a response to her own confusion about The F Word. "I think feminism is integral to everything that I’m trying to write but I didn’t know how to articulate my own feelings. I wanted to explode the myth that feminism is without personality, and that women who talk about it are sanctimonious. Fleabag is me trying to inject some humour into the issue." 

2. It’s hilarious, but your male friends won’t get the jokes

A lot of the scenes, including a particularly prolonged bout of sexting, come straight from real life, says Waller-Bridge. "I referred to a lot of experiences that me and a load of friends were having on a daily basis. I think there’s an appetite from women to hear those stories about how they live behind closed doors. The joy of putting Fleabag on stage was hearing the girls roar with laughter, while seeing the boys looking really confused…"

3. It’s written by the star of Crashing

This isn’t RADA-trained Waller-Bridge’s first genre-busting series. She also wrote and starred in C4’s flatshare comedy, Crashing. If you liked that, you’ll love this because it’s even better. Fleabag is her family nickname, in case you were wondering. "There’s a little Fleabag in all of us, saying and doing things we shouldn’t," she says.

4. It’s being compared to Girls

Similarly unapologetic and blunt about the hurdles of twenty-something life, there’s something very Dunham-ish about Waller-Bridge’s writing. She’s being likened to Sharon Horgan too, the genius behind Pulling and Catastrophe. "I worship both of those women, I’ve watched everything they’ve done and they really inspire me. It’s an amazing category to be considered in, but it’s a shame it’s such a small pool. You never hear male writers being bulked together in that way, or being told they’re the new Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong [creators of Peep Show]"

5. You’ll relate to Fleabag… but hopefully not too much

There’s a darkness at the heart of Fleabag, as our protagonist is haunted by a terrible moment in her past. But beyond that, Waller-Bridge hopes she’s very recognisable. "Fleabag’s a control freak who wants to convince you everything’s OK. It’s a kind of tortured complexity that we’ve all felt – it would be described as ‘mysterious’ and ‘sexy’ for a male character, but can be labeled as ‘difficult’ or ‘needy’ from women. We have waves of contradictory feelings, but feel a responsibility to look like everything’s in hand."

6. Olivia Colman is in it…

Ever-brilliant Colman starred with Waller-Bridge in the second series of Broadchurch, and now plays Fleabag’s deliciously vile stepmother. "She was the only person I could think of to play that sweet, sweet arsehole!" laughs Waller-Bridge. "She’s so convincing – she just seems like the loveliest person in the world, and then she twists the knife in at the end."

7. It will make you feel better about the big 3-0

Unlike certain shows we could name, being twenty-something isn’t presented as a kaleidoscope of coming of age joy, dancing through meadows with perfect hair. With age, says Waller-Bridge, can come relief. "I have been waiting to be 30 my whole life! I couldn’t wait," she laughs. "Your twenties are so much fun but you’re also trying to find out who you are, while working really hard and being under huge pressure to have the time of your life. I just found it completely exhausting. I’ve given myself permission to be an adult now."

Episode one of Fleabag is available on BBC3 from 21 July at 10am