Dealing with ‘Difficult’ Women: The Fleabag in all of us.

On Amazon Prime.

Written by: Smriti Poduval, Pooja Yadav
Edited by : Nupur Marwah

Fleabag, notorious for its acerbic comedy and unapologetic portrayal of the dysfunctional modern woman, focuses on a myriad of issues ranging from intimacy affinities, anxiety, estrangement, morality, turbulent parent-child relationships, sibling rivalry, adultery, marital discord to self-loathing and guilt. In choosing to consciously gender disparate, the viewers have presented an experience of womanhood within the patriarchy. Scoring phenomenally well on the Bechdel Test, Fleabag hangs its hat on believable portrayals of women, and to that end delivers female characters who are functioning individuals apart from their relationships, romantic or otherwise. 

While the aesthetics of Fleabag is very much rooted in euro-centric standards of beauty, the show itself makes a laudable effort to free itself from pandering to the male gaze. The eponymous Fleabag has agency and is an active participant in intimate situations. In a tête-à-tête with the typical concept of setting unrealistic beauty standards and construing gender normative stereotypes, the women in Fleabag are, for the most part, fully realized characters. 

The women of Fleabag are very much women of this world, albeit… slightly better off? Fleabag and her aggressively Type-A sister Claire are both conventionally attractive, able, white, upper-class women, despite their chaotic personal lives. Through their characters, Waller-Bridge explores two self-admitted “bad feminists” alienated from the label by their internalized misogyny. The humor which comes from relatability is most potent within this exploration, and less impactful at other times due to its conformity to normative paradigms of the kind of woman who is allowed to be a “bad feminist” or a messy, morally questionable yet redeemable woman. 

Further, the ambiguity of Fleabag’s sexuality comes off, regardless of intent, as merely a device to feed into the erraticness and unpredictability of her life. Another, slightly more obvious shortcoming is the complete dearth of racial diversity, despite none of the characters’ storylines being in any way white-specific.