Revisiting Fleabag’s heartbreakingly honest confession with Phoebe Waller-Bridge: ‘Damage is attractive…’ | Scene stealer
Being honest and completely naked about how you feel is a rarity in this world. People don’t often do that in life for fear of being judged. Hence, the need to create safe spaces where people can express their pain and speak their truth. Creator and actor of acclaimed series Flea bag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, managed to create such a space on screen, for her characters and the audience. One of the main reasons I think the show and the main character resonated with so many people. The unnamed protagonist, presumably referred to as Fleabag (although she was never referred to as such during the show), is presented as a happy, free-spirited woman who hides a world of sorrow beneath her apparent sunny personality: the guilt and pain for her best friend. the death.
But, throughout the 12 episodes and two seasons, we rarely get a glimpse of that side. After all, Fleabag hates being sentimental, she wants to show bravery; and in Waller-Bridge’s own words, she never meant to “bore” us. Us being the viewers she turned to so often and then broke the fourth wall with, almost always in secret until the priest appeared in season two.
But in the fourth episode of the first season, when Fleabag and his sister Claire are out for some kind of meditation camp, and where she crosses paths with the banker who denied her his coffee loan, that’s when the ‘we see Fleabag losing some of that exuberant, sexy personality to let us in on the immeasurable pain she’s been carrying since her friend’s tragic death.
The Banker and Fleabag sit in an open green space and share a cigarette. The banker has previously been accused of sexual harassment, so he was in the area working on himself as part of a boot camp. Fleabag, as quoted, was there with his brother. Sitting in this serene environment, where they had both come to take refuge from the noise of the world, the unlikely couple form a strange bond, built on vulnerabilities and desire. The banker wants nothing more than to “move on”, then as if someone somewhere had left a tap open in his chest, he pours out his innermost thoughts in the most poetic yet simple lines: “I want to get clean mugs out of the dishwasher and put them in the cupboard, and the next day I want to see my wife drink them.
Flea bag, who was puffing on his cigarette and silently listening to the man the whole time, suddenly says only one dialogue, and that is enough to let us know his state of mind. “I just want to cry, all the time,” she says, and a shadow of sadness quickly crosses her face. Fleabag, although never addressed, may have been clinically depressed since the death of his close friend. Leading her life with an armor of courage and confidence that she didn’t really feel in her soul. This makes her less despicable, more human, more supportive of her audience.
Talking about the sequence and how appealing the damaged characters are, Phoebe previously told The Guardian: “The damage is indicative of vulnerability, which I think still feels a bit dangerous. It’s proof that a person can feel deeply, that they can be open…and then that delicious wall comes up and we just want to get through it and save (and feel) the person. It’s irresistible. I also think damage is a glimpse of something honest, and that’s always appealing… Fleabag has always performed on camera to distract both herself and the audience from her misery. Her desire was to entertain you, so she could never afford to be a victim for fear of boring you.
And that’s one thing Fleabag has never been. Even from the depths of her misery, she made sure to engage and entertain us, mostly because that was how it made sense for her to carry on in a world without her coffee partner, best friend, its boo.
Fleabag is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
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