The original plan for my A-Z posts was fictional bad girls of my own creation. But how could I not talk about Fleabag when Fleabag has done so much to help me write bad girls of my own?
In many ways, Fleabag is flawless. In a couple of other ways that I just want to touch on before I get into the main body of this post, it’s not. It is, undoubtedly, very middle class, and therefore completely understandable that, although nearly everyone I know can relate to it, that doesn’t mean that everyone can. Also, it’s not great with its disability representation – the character of Jake functions, I think, too simplistically and comedically for him to be considered a fully-rounded disabled character.
But. I’m trying not to allow slight quibbles with things I absolutely adore to ruin them for me entirely – loads of bloggers and podcasters I enjoy are great at pointing out the flaws in stuff while still celebrating the strengths – so on with the main point.
For years, when writing longer fiction pieces, I’ve struggled with endings for ‘bad women.’ Fiction is, after all, almost always about transformation, and how do you transform the bad girl if not by making her good? And yet, I never want to. I never want to write women who learn to stop chasing the wrong kind of men, women who learn to be happy with themselves, with their lives. I haven’t learned to do it myself, so if I write women like that, I’m writing women I can’t quite relate to, and that feels weird. Maybe one day I’ll get there, but I’m not there yet. And Fleabag is a woman I can relate to now.
There’s so much I could say on this (fears about having a massive arsehole are just the start), but in the interests of keeping it brief, I’m just going to focus on the final episode of Season 2. In fact, probably just the last ten minutes of the final episode of Season 2. What, if anything, has Fleabag learnt by the end of the season? When she tells the sexy priest she loves him and he says ‘It’ll pass,’ does he mean that it’ll pass and she’ll just go back to doing what she’s always done – having largely meaningless sex as a way of avoiding her feelings? Didn’t Fleabag need to learn how to love? Or does it mean something more than this? Does it mean that one day, she’ll learn to stop pursuing unsuitable men, even if she’s not there yet?
The thing is, by that last episode, I’d argue that Fleabag has learnt to love – she’s learnt to love other people and by doing so, she’s learnt to, if not love herself, then certainly to make her peace with herself, which, let’s face it, is far more realistic. It’s just not by falling in love with a man that she’s got to that point.
I’ve described Fleabag to friends as ‘Frozen, but sexier,’ and although that’s kind of a joke. I don’t think it’s an unfair way of looking at it. It’s all about coming of age by grieving and appreciating just how much family can love you – just look at how tight the relationship between Fleabag and Claire becomes over the course of this season. Plus, at the end she takes the statue back from her wicked stepmother – she gets her mum back.
So maybe she will carry on fucking the wrong men. It kinda doesn’t matter. She knows she’s loved, she knows she’s capable of love, and that? In the end, that is all that really matters.