Fleabag first aired in 2016, with a raunchy season that captured the world’s attention. Now, it seems to be having a second run at fame.
The show, written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is inherently funny and sexually depraved, meant to serve as a look into the mind of the modern woman. It features conversations about grief, opens the door for female sexuality to be portrayed accurately and in a way that is unglamorized, and creates an active relationship between viewers and our female protagonist as she breaks the fourth wall to speak to us directly (without any other characters of the show noticing). One of the more original features of the show is how the protagonist remains all-together nameless, although she is generally referred to by viewers as ‘Fleabag’ on account of the show’s name.
In recent months, there has been a resurgence of discussion about Fleabag, mostly analyzing the symbolism Waller-Bridge integrated into the show’s second season. Most notably, though, a scene from season two has spiraled into a trend on the popular social media app, Tiktok, where users act out dialogue between Fleabag and the priest at a dinner gathering. “No one’s asked me a question in forty-five minutes,” Fleabag says to the audience in the trending clip, only to be cut off by the priest, who asks her what she does for a living.
Coming three years after the show’s final episode, the growth in popularity once again for Waller-Bridge’s work seems unprompted. Although it remains widely loved by those first introduced in 2016, many people are being called to watch it for the first time now, after finding interest in the recent trends. It begs the honest question of whether or not the world is slipping into its own self-proclaimed Fleabag Era, or if the popularity is truly random.
Following the pandemic of 2020, the world has seen its fair share of difficult situations, most of which people have had to slowly adapt to. Isolation and the new return to normalcy have had an impact on mental health, causing a general decline in happiness and a 25% increase in depression/anxiety worldwide. With the monkey-pox breakouts on the horizon, it seems as if we haven’t had a break from bad news in nearly two years.
Considering this, it makes a bit more sense that Fleabag is having a second wave of popularity. The main character is a generally destructive protagonist and self-proclaimed bad person, making her easy to commiserate with during such constantly hard times. As we watch her struggle to keep her cafe open and grieve the loss of her best friend, Boo, she makes us feel seen, as, nowadays, we constantly feel our happiness is too far away to ever feasibly reach. This tied with her sexual and promiscuous humor makes the show perfect for the audiences of 2022, working just as well (if not better) than when it was first launched.
The symbolism of season two is another notable factor in its substantially gained popularity. Through the introduction of the priest, we see the rise and fall of our protagonist once again, as she finds herself seen for the first time by a man who is unattainable to her, on account of his faith and devotion to God.
Another clip currently going viral shows Fleabag speaking to the audience, only for the priest to notice, which is something that never happened in season one. After she speaks to the audience, the priest says, “Where did you just go? You just went somewhere.” Clearly, this startles Fleabag, prompting viewers to reconsider her relationship with him as something deeper, as he becomes the first person to truly see her as she is.
In this sense, we begin to regard them as both reflections of one another and their problems. Just as Fleabag uses her communication with the audience as her crutch, the priest uses God in a similar way, and this makes the show’s ending that much more heart wrenching. If you haven’t yet seen it, I highly recommend you do. [Spoilers below.]
We get the ultimate sense that Fleabag’s relationship with the priest was just another branching, self-destructive behavior of hers, as she sought a man who confessed he could never be with her from the beginning. Through this, we as viewers can, again, relate to the female lead; we’ve been doing nothing but suffering through the past few years, just as she did on screen for two seasons. In the ways that she needs and uses us in the show, we in 2022 can similarly use her to make ourselves feel less alone.
Through this lens, the show’s regrowing fame is a little less surprising. If it’s been a while since you last watched the show, I encourage you to give it another go and see if you experience it in a different way after having gone through quarantine. If you have yet to watch it, see if Fleabag manages to make you feel a little less alone. Maybe then we can all collectively relate to the 715.2 million videos about it on TikTok right now.