Laura Minor in Berfrois:
British writer and actor, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, writes and stars in BBC and Amazon television series Fleabag. Waller-Bridge’s character is unnamed throughout the episodes, though the viewer is meant to directly conjure this soul-infested heroine. A single woman appearing to be in her early 30s, she wallows in her financial despair, the loss of a best friend, family trouble, and a flimsy breakup, all the while fucking her way through her pain with a morally rudderless abandon. I’m not usually the sort who would fall in love with a woman who “can’t even call herself a feminist,” but the surprise here is that Fleabag turns out to be incredibly endearing.
Fleabag’s delivery of the term, ‘bad feminist’, recalls a more heady delivery of Roxanne Gay’s bestselling 2015 book, Bad Feminist. Fleabag grapples with a similar complexity of “post-feminist” thought, and given the several times Fleabag uses the phrase ‘bad feminist’, it is probable that Waller-Bridge is familiar with Gay’s work. Like Roxanne Gay, she defiantly contradicts any singular kind of feminism by suggesting that sometimes all we ever really want to do in the face of unrelenting, daily misogynies, but rarely take the chance, is to “shut the door and cry.”
I came away from my six viewings of Fleabag wanting to be Waller-Bridge’s new best friend. In fact, I’ve been waiting for her all my television life; this singular performance of the single woman’s plight. Fleabag is not as materialistic or broadly comic as the characters in Sex in the City, and she is wiser, cooler, and more irreverent than the gaggle of twenty-somethings populating Girls. With her emotional authenticity and vulnerability as a character, her unusual depths, Fleabag captures my greatest empathy.