If you think Fleabag is only for posh girls, you’ve misunderstood the situation.

This is in response to Ellen E. Jones’ article for The Guardian.

Posh, adjective. Meaning to do something in an ‘upper-class’ way, showing the qualities of elegance or smarts. Fleabag is none of these things. I’d end my argument here, but I’ve got a few more points to make.

With a private education, an ancestry in titled nobility, and the way she carries herself in interviews, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s echoes through each character she creates. But it would be naive of us as an audience to assume that every facet of her own personality is found in her characters, or that her characters are only representative of her characteristics. In simpler terms, do not confuse the creator for the character.

I attended a London university for my undergraduate degree, based in West London. So far west in fact it almost wasn’t London at all. Within that subsection of London, you have beautifully posh and expensive places such as Richmond. And right next door you have Hounslow. I’d been there less than a week when one of my classmates told me that Folkestone, my home town, must be ‘really posh’ because of the way I spoke. Over the years, Folkestone has done everything it can to be the artistic hub of the south east. But Folkestone is not posh. Folkestone, I pointed out to my classmates, had the highest rate of teenage pregnancy and chlamydia in Kent. The poshest of all sexually transmitted infections.

Fleabag is well spoken. That does not mean Fleabag is posh. Let me compare Fleabag with and without her family. In the very first episode she’s reading a newspaper alone on the bus. The series is set in London, so arguably this is a newspaper Fleabag found rather than purchased. But the headlines are very telling. They read, ‘Private School Head Assaults Pupil in Class’ ‘Has the word Feminism become dirty?’ ‘Bank Chiefs face House of Commons Enquiry’ – and in the corner there is an ad for a mortgage company with a fully naked girl, legs spread and pelvis up. Clearly this is a riff on other Heralds and their focus on the scandalous, but it’s all anti-establishment. Props help shape the world characters live in, and this seedy working-class newspaper is no different from the radiator headboard with clothes drying on it in Fleabag’s home, the fact she has an Argos clothing rail rather than a wardrobe, or the fact that Harry says he’s going to take ‘the posh shampoo’.

Compare this with her behaviour around her ‘uptight’, ‘beautiful’, ‘super rich’, ‘high powered’ sister whose ‘clothes look awesome on’.  She hides away from them, barricading herself behind smart remarks and jokes. She attends feminist lectures, awkward spa retreats and family dinners to make her family happy. Even the lighting betrays the pretence she puts on, so her family remain unaware to her unhappiness. When Fleabag is surrounded by her family it’s often soft, warm lighting whilst she stands in the darker, colder areas. When she’s on her own, it’s harsher. Often grey. She’s not putting on a pretence for the audience (which we greatly appreciate) so we see her in the raw colours of her life. When her heart is broken by her family’s betrayals, we, as an audience, might scream ‘relatable!’ but the truth is, we empathise. We understand and sympathise with her struggle. No matter our own background, we can recognise a spiral that hasn’t hit bottom yet. Her father’s house might be huge, but the flat Fleabag lives in isn’t. Her God-mother might be a high-end artist, but Fleabag is close to liquidising her business. The prestige of her family makes her grief more poignant, but it doesn’t make Fleabag posh.

Waller-Bridge has carefully constructed a barrier between her character Fleabag and the audience, a wall which only empathy can bring down. She breaks the fourth wall not to relate to us, but to invite us in on her perspective of all the events. Whether this is done through commentary, a sharp look, or finishing someone’s sentence for us.

We never hear Fleabag’s given name. Characters only speak to her directly or, in the case of her God-mother, a click of the fingers, and therefore we associate the name Fleabag and the connotations of that with the main character. Even Boo, who could be the originator of the nickname, only ever speaks to Fleabag directly. They share an improvised song about ‘lunch break abortions’ and being ‘modern women’, which is a far cry from the lifestyle ‘two degrees, a husband and a Burberry coat’ gives her sister.

Fleabag isn’t posh, though she’s surrounded by a world that is. A world that does not sympathise or empathise with her, so we as an audience must. If the story was just for posh girls, it wouldn’t be so heart breaking.

What was the last film you watched? – Victoria and Abdul

Victoria and Abdul PosterWay back when – when ‘drama’ wasn’t twitter beef or insta hashtags, but something people did for entertainment and to win a goat (actual facts, look it up), there were two main types.

Comedy

Tragedy.

Comedies would be filled with lots of little mishaps, but inevitably ended up with a cathartic happy ending.

Tragedies – didn’t. They would be filled with comedic elements, but make you cry your little eyes out. And the British – if I do say so myself – are really bloody good at comic tragedies. Victoria and Abdul is an example of this.

 

Here’s why: (PS. Spoilers)

The screenshot opens in Agra, our lead (played by Ali Fazal) begins his morning with prayer. The camera then follows him walk through Agra to where he works, following his feet with only a few shots of his face. We meet exactly one English soldier on his way to work, who is rude and obnoxious and calls Abdul Karim and ‘idiot’. Now, English comedy (at least from where I’m sat) has always played on how aware it is of the classic ‘Englishman’. Here we have a British film, showing the audience how ridiculous British-isms are. There’s no doubt the Englishman is rude, but Abdul carries on his way – showing that this behaviour is the norm, the English ruin everything (even a nice walk to work) and everyone else just ignores them.

This is then carried on for the next sixteen minutes, hammering home the idea that English traditions are completely underwhelming or simple-minded to those looking from the outside in. There’s a great juxtaposition between the two ‘Hindus’ as they keep being called. One is excited to be in England, one can’t wait to be home. This second character (played by Adeel Akhtar) even goes as far as to compare the English to ‘Barbarians’ because of what they put in sausages. The two Indian men are told their new costumes were designed to look ‘authentic’ even when Abdul points out they’re nothing like the traditional costumes. And they look so bored!

As course after course of food comes out, there are casual side glances, rolling eyes, stares, and sighs. All little details that show how disappointing the whole thing is. But what makes this absolutely genius is Queen Victoria (played by the true queen herself Judi Dench) is asleep. She’s awoken to receive a coin, makes eye contact Abdul and the opening titles (16 minutes in mind…) flash across the screen practically screaming – this is it. This is the relationship that could save her. If you’d like to know more about their true relationship, Vanity Fair has written an amazing article all about it.

The queen is, at this moment in her life anyway, bloody miserable. Her husband is dead, her lover is dead, her children are horrible and she’s sick of being bossed around. She’s clearly dying of boredom and because the English can’t help themselves, there are even jokes about her constipation. But here is this person, a complete contrast to everyone she knows. He’s excited to talk about carpets, to teach her his language, to talk about what being a Muslim is like and she’s revived by his enthusiasm. She encourages him to bring his wife to England, and unlike everyone else, isn’t terrified of this woman whose face is covered up or different. It’s exciting. And it’s lovely to watch.

Image result for opening scenes of Abdul and VictoriaWhich means the moments of contrast are stark and terrifying.

Servants shutting doors in Abdul’s face, being put in cold and isolating dorms, but most importantly – the constant backstabbing.

Bertie, Prince of Wales (played by Eddie Izzard) is a nasty, scheming little man who begins with the household – who already are at odds with Abdul – and then with Abdul’s friend Muhammed.

This is where Muhammed becomes my favourite character. His speech to the Prince is 10/10. He refuses to sell out his friend, well aware that he is dying because of the awful English weather. He’s proud of his friend for playing the game so well, and when he dies (I did warn about spoilers) the English are there to ruin it again.

Because everyone is so focused on making sure the queen is okay, his death passes with only two moments of note. The first is when Abdul’s serving boy runs up to Abdul to tell him about Muhammed, and the next moment is his funeral. I was seconds away from tears.

Abdul is then alone – as his wife and mother-in-law get 0 lines – with only the queen to protect him. The court are on his back constantly, looking for any reason to have him removed. And once the queen dies, he’s sent back to India and all of the letters and journals they shared together where destroyed. Now I’m for real crying. Damn you. Damn you cinema!

The film comes full circle, with Abdul waking up in Agra, and then walking through the streets. He returns to the Taj Mahal gardens, where a large statue of Queen Victoria has been put up and he keeps his promise to stay by her side. And isn’t that bloody lovely/heartbreaking.

I spent a lot of time talking about the money with Big Hero 6 – because I wanted to make a point that whilst I didn’t like it, clearly others must because it rolled in the dollar as it were. Victoria and Abdul have done pretty well, grossing $61,000,000 worldwide so far. I, personally, think it’s worth all of the awards. And has redeemed Stephen Frears after Tamara Drewe for me.

Let me know in the comments below if you agree or disagree or if you want to share your opinion. See you tomorrow!

Who are your favourites on Youtube?

Below are all the Youtuber’s which aren’t just my favourites – but I 100% recommend and why. So, in no particular order…

ListiclesWhat Culture 

Matt Holmes began What Culture as a direct response to Superman Lives being terrible in 2006. Since then, their web content has ballooned into covering Films, Television, Sports, Gaming, Comics, Science and more. They welcome new content from smaller names, paying per article and the team behind the youtube content know exactly how to keep you interested in films you thought you’d heard everything about already. They review, critique and list quirks about films into nice little bites of awesome perfect for those ‘in-between’ moments like bus-rides and toilet breaks. 10/10 would recommend.

Community Queen USAMeghan Tonjes

This Goddess is the epitome of the Hussle Hard. She’s founded body positive collaborations, appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show, featured as Catherine The Great in an Epic Rap Battle (nominated for 2016 Streamy Award), has the voice of an angel, the wisdom to recognise trash and the compassion to explain why it’s trash eloquently. And who can forget #bootyrevolution? She knows what she’s about, encourages confidence, and makes me want to be a better human being. So yes. Flame Emoji. Heart Eyes Emoji.

Community Queen UKLex Croucher 

This wonderful human being always seems to predict exactly the content I was waiting for; whether it’s a rationalized and eloquent opinion on the politicised advertisements from Lush, Feminism, Sexy Darth Vader or discharge. She’s one of the few youtubers that I’ve seen encouraging her ‘community’ to engage by engaging with them via twitter on a regular basis – rather than just posting and not responding. She’s the most humane human being on the entire site. #Queen.

NewsPhil Defranco

If you’re ever feeling lost or exhausted by the constant barrage of anti-Muslim media, or Fox and Friends pretending the world isn’t fucking bleak – turn to the Defranco show. Before the PDS, there was SXEPhil. An opinionated hot-headed Italian boy with backward facing caps, too many volatile reactions, and clickbait titles. But over the last ten years or so, Phil’s let people into his world via the vlogs and BTS videos and become one of the few places I go for my news without worrying about ‘fake news’ or biased media. His opinions are still part of what makes his narration of events interesting, but the teenage angst has become something productive and considerate. And the team that works with him are second to none. I hope one day I can buy them all a drink to thank them for their service to the industry (as ick as I’ve made that sound).

“News, it’s what we do here.”

ComedyMike Falzone

I was (metaphorically) introduced to Mike Falzone through his time on SourceFed. He’d had a career as a muscian and youtuber previous, but he was coming into his comedy and stand up career which has since exploded. I’m just waiting for him to come to the UK so I can see him live. That’s the dream. He’s got a show called Mike in the Morning which is a parody of all those boring AF morning and daytime shows – which includes such elements as ‘Reading Tweets from Far Away’ and ‘Bad Furniture’. I’ve contributed to the latter with a gross sink I found on the road with a leaf in it. Mike responded by calling it ‘lovely’. Which made my day.

Video EssaysLindsay Ellis 

So, it’s no secret amongst my friends that I’m obsessed with video essays – and I blame Lindsay Ellis and her ‘Nostalgia Chic’ for getting me hooked in the first place. If you’re not sure if video essays are going to be your thing, have a flick through her content. I’d put money on you finding something worth your time. Nazi imagery in Star Wars maybe? Or the gender battles of Transformers? What about how Rent is the worst musical? Or the history of the Hunchback of Notredam? She’s got something for everyone, I promise.

So who are your faves? Leave me a comment below with any recommendations you’ve got!

What was the last film you watched? – Big Hero 6

Short answer: Big Hero 6

Long answer: Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6, Disney’s answer to Hero Movies, won an Oscar for Animation, made $56,000,000 dollars in its opening weekend and then went on to quadruple that in gross profit. It scored highly with critics and audiences alike, being described as ‘agreeably entertaining and brilliantly animated… briskly-paced, action-packed and often touching.’ 

Image result for big hero sixBut to be honest, and otherwise unhelpful, I wasn’t a massive fan. Let’s start with the plot:- (Spoilers)

We are introduced to Hiro Hamada through a robot battle. Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Robot Wars, Transformers, or Real Steel – this intro was for you. We’re brought in to think they’re giant robots doing battle, until the camera pans out and you see that it’s two people controlling their robots much like in the tv show Robot Wars. Except there’s no fun narration from Craig Charles. Hiro steps up to challenge the reigning champion and eventually wins. When the reigning champion acts like a child who’s had their favorite toy destroyed (because he essentially had that happen to him) he reacts to physical violence. Towards a 13-year-old. Now, up until this point (and we’re only a couple of minutes into this film), there hasn’t really been any danger for our protagonist, who we assume will be Hiro because he won and because he’s on some of the posters. It seems a bit extreme, but thankfully there’s an ex-machina ‘Older brother arrives on a moped to save the day’ moment so we can breathe a sigh of relief before watching a ridiculous non-car chase as the two brothers try to escape. I say try, because they both get arrested. Turns out, whilst battling robots isn’t illegal in San Fransokyo, gambling on these robot battles is. Who knew?

For the next ten minutes, we’re driven through the world through Tadisha Hamada’s eyes. He wants to encourage his brother to be a better person and to use his brain for something better. He wants to make his parents proud. He wants to show his brother his nerd school. And this is the bit where ‘fast-paced’ seems like a kind way to say ‘info-dump’.

When Tadisha takes his younger brother Hiro to his college/university, he introduces him one by one to Go Go, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred. We’re then introduced to Callaghan, the professor of the university. This all happens very quickly, and we’re shown details of differing personalities of each. Here’s my problem with this. There are now so many characters that I don’t really care about any of them.

Hiro is a moody teenager, pure and simple. Tadashi is the kind soul who wants the best for everyone. Their aunt Cass has two minutes screen time, repeats the same joke as Tadashi, and spends most of her time talking about food and hugging people. Go Go is cold and aloof. Wasabi is clearly OCD. Honey Lemon is over excitable and Fred is the classic frat party stoner (who we later find out is also a billionaire baby). And we’re introduced to all of this information in a succinct fashion because? Because the characters will be important, and these little idiosyncrasies are what make them the heroes they’re going to become? Also, Tadashi has been at this school long enough that he’s tested Baymax 84 times before he works. He’s got his own workspace, and these people are described as his best friends; so how does Hiro not know about them until now? Why does it take Tadashi getting arrested alongside his brother to introduce Hiro to this school? ‘For stories sake’ isn’t good enough in my opinion. And it means that at 23 minutes when Tadashi sacrifices himself to save someone and dies – I felt nothing. Sorry.

There’s a clumsiness to the writing I didn’t expect. Casual Frankenstein references. The fact that when Baymax needs charging, he acts drunk rather than sleepy. Why? For the slapstick comedy? Of which there isn’t really any in the rest of the film. There are a few moments where Disney makes an effort to subvert our expectations. When The Eye of the Tiger starts playing, this is the moment when Hiro has no ideas or plan at all. Baymax makes a funny noise when he does the fist bump and has to deflate and inflate himself, which did make me giggle. But it was difficult to have an emotional attachment to anything other than Baymax. Hiro is clearly consumed by anger, and it’s only his friends that keep him from becoming Callaghan or another villain of the same ilk. And the fact Baymax becomes sentient enough to stop Hiro from removing his care chip. (That’s never explained by the way).

There were five other American/British CG Animated films to come out that year. The Book of Life (Net $99.8 mil), The Boxtrolls ($108 mil), How To Train Your Dragon 2 ($618.9 mil), Penguins of Madagascar ($373.6 mil) and Postman Pat the Move (£8.6 mil).

I’ve included the amount these films made to show that actually, Big Hero 6 ($222.5 mil) was average. I don’t expect Disney to be average. Disney should be miles ahead. The Book of Life is majority 20th Century Fox, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 + Penguins of Madagascar are Dreamworks and Fox. I’m not including that to slander either company. Far from it, they’re big games in animation. And that’s why I expect more from Disney. They are the company for classic children’s storytelling through animation. But even though Big Hero 6 is PG, it doesn’t really feel like it’s for kids. Certainly not kids old enough to understand the emotional distress Hiro is feeling, because he refuses to feel it. He shoves it out of the way until it’s useful in problem-solving. Or Baymax finally explains what he means by ‘Tadashi is here’ and shows the video he’s somehow recorded and saved.

I’d like this film more if:

1. Tadashi did something to engage the audience more than just save his brother. Like maybe being the sole caregiver, until Aunt Cass steps in once he’s died.

2. We got more time to get to know the friends and the university.

3. Everyone had known Fred had money and that was a joke from the start, rather than ex-Machina millions.

4. Baymax had had more personality. It is, after all, fictitious. He could be more sentient before he decides to protect his care chip.

So no, I wouldn’t spend any more money on this film or any sequels hereafter. I probably wouldn’t watch it again unless it was the only thing on television, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to a friend.

Let me know in the comments below if you agree or disagree or if you want to share your opinion. See you next week!