Phoebe Waller-Bridge: The British Badass

There are few people having the year that Phoebe Waller-Bridge is having. It seems like every year or so, there is a new female visionary that seems to completely steal the show when it comes to creating authentic content – whether it’s Issa Rae understanding how to portray black people living in Los Angeles more accurately than anyone before her, Frankie Shaw depicting the everyday life of a single mother in an incredible new way, or Ava Duvernay delivering a miniseries that forces us to examine history and how cruel it can age. 

In 2019, however, Waller-Bridge has emerged as a unique voice that seems to understand modern black humor better than possibly anyone else, and her name is associated with some pretty exciting projects.

First, there is the fact that Waller-Bridge stars in a series that she created herself, entitled Fleabag. We all know that Hulu has entered the critics’ circle thanks to Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock, with Amazon eager to gain market share in the sector. While the Amazon TV series might not have reached that level of acclaim yet – and current political winds might be part of the reason why the dystopian drama is so well-received – one might argue that its on its way. 

The show had a solid first season, but the second season has blown audiences away worldwide. Waller-Bridge seems to be stepping into the same shoes that Lena Dunham previously wore- the millennial creator that gets it – without any of the kind of drama or controversy of Dunham – and frankly, she just seems cooler.

Of course, this is by design. In both Crashing and Fleabag, Waller-Bridge plays extremely likable characters: independent and fiercely sexual women that generally don’t seem to give a fuck. There’s something to be said for an actress and showrunner that truly captures the sex life of so many her age – the sex is casual, the guards are up, and the two people involved might not even want the same things. She manages to do this with a vulnerability and honesty that is hard to deny.

A Breath Of Fresh And Different Air

For example, if I told you that there was a TV show about a sexual protagonist who manages to get into a sexual relationship with a priest, you might think it seems too contrived. Waller-Bridge manages to not only present it in a fresh and honest way. She also knows how to make fun of the fact that you might think it’s contrived while somehow be able to prove her character is multidimensional in a way that surprises you while you watch. She might offer sarcastic comments at a man in one episode, decides that she wants to fuck him in the fifth episode, and be tired of him in the eighth episode – without any of it seeming that weird, cheap, or formulaic. Instead, it just seems…well…realistic.

Much of this is due to the fact that Waller-Bridge is constantly breaking the fourth wall as her character Fleabag, easily one of the reasons the show is so superior to Crashing (which is on Netflix currently). She manages to make the viewer love her in an almost unprecedented way – understanding that she’s likable enough to relate to, while still just messed up enough to cause a whole bunch of drama, all while equipped with the wit to make the resulting drama entertaining.

Sarcasm And A Soft Spot

There are soft moments, too – Fleabag comforts her father after a funeral, captures awkward family dinners, and struggles with her own emotions regarding boyfriends and karma. Her sexuality simultaneously impresses and torments her, along with us, who are just along for the journey. Fleabag is the amazing one-night stand, the nymphomaniac girlfriend, or the wild and free dark-humored down-to-earth London chick you would grab a drink with if you could.

Sex And The City and Girls were incredible at depicting women, dating, and friendship. Fleabag is more of a character study in that she might manipulate her friends, deceive her relatives, and string along a man or two into her bed, but she does it all with charm, smiles, and sarcasm. Fleabag knows when she crosses the line though – and the scenes where her character expresses remorse, confusion, and despair are some of the most defining moments of the series.

Waller-Bridge is an actual British playwright, and the entire TV show actually started as a one-man play. Regardless – she’s come a long way since then. Her acting is superb. Waller-Bridge knows exactly when to quiver her lips for a nervous smile, how to tilt her head adoringly, or how to scream sexuality with her eyes at any given moment. If you consider the fact that she’s already involved with two of the most iconic movie franchises of all time, Star Wars and James Bond – it’ s safe to say that I am only one of many that are blown away.

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