Killing Eve gave me life
Over the centuries women have played a whole range of archetypal characters to such a degree that they almost don’t represent actual human women anymore. I certainly do not see myself in the ‘mother’, the ‘damsel in distress’ or in the more recent years the, ‘cool girl’. However, I do see myself and the women whom I know and adore in the messy flawed new women being brought to life by the likes of Pheobe Waller Bridge, Lucy Vine and Emerald Fennell. I am looking especially at Killing Eve.
The term ‘hot mess’ was coined to describe women who were generally going through some shit, but are still hot. It is that extra addendum on the end that boils my blood. It trivialises the genuine painful reality many of us go through into a quirk. However, thank God, there is a shift in which many have reclaimed ‘hot mess’- instead of it being used against us, it is being used by us! Let us embrace the fact that we are more than just one stereotype. We can be both depressed and still be at one with our looks. Hot mess, more often then not is now used as a form of self-deprecation i.e sorry I haven’t answered the phone/ tidied up/ showered in a week I am a hot mess at the moment. – wherein it is fine I am struggling because I am still hot therefore I still hold value to society.
If I said to you ‘hot mess’- who does it conjure in your mind? The likes of Lindsay Lohan? Amanda Bynes? Lily Allen? Amy Winehouse? Britney Spears? We all remember their very public meltdowns, don’t we? But what do these women all have in common? A. the fact that they are women for a start, and be the fact that whatever issues they were battling at the time whether it be mental health, addiction or loss, they were just examined for how much of a spectacle they were perceived to have been making.
As I said, these hot messes are all women, can a man be a hot mess? of course! Anyone can, however, they are described as “going off the rails” or a “train wreck”- no I don’t know why there are so many locomotive references either. With a swift google search, you are spoilt for choice with list after list of the ‘top celeb hot messes’. Which is just another way in which the view, especially on women has been skewed. If you aren’t living up to society’s standards, if you are struggling with mental health or addiction, then you are a mess but thank God, you are still hot.
Words can still hurt me
Looking at how women are described is incredibly telling of the pressures and the expectations that society saps onto women; feisty, frigged, frumpy, slut, whore, teach, bitchy, catty, bolshy, brash, hysterical, pushy etc etc I could literally go on and on. But break it down and each of these words is just an arbitrary verb. A totally gender-less result of mashing a bunch of letters together. However, they are 99% of the time only used to describe women, and often in a negative way.
When was the last time you heard a man be described as sassy or frigid? Yeah, I thought it might be a while, since the very notion of a man being ‘sassy’ immediately feminises him, which of course is THE worst thing for a ‘big ol’ alpha male’. There is a massive need for more representation for male characters who are sassy, brash and frumpy, but that is another topic for another time.
What is a messy flawed women, who are these women?
Women, similarly to men are not singular easily definable creatures. All humans are incredibly complex, nuanced, and to try to force them into outdated stereotypical gender roles is as pointless and outdated as it is damaging. I am not talking about burning bras, they are too expensive for that have you SEEN the price of boulder holders these days? Outrageous. However, a shift is coming wherein we are allowed to embrace our flaws. Accept that we aren’t perfect, but that we are is in-fact a bunch of badass warrior goddesses, even if we feel like little sad kittens.
Mental Health and TV
Studies show that 1/3 people suffer from mental health problems. What these studies don’t say is how to get out of bed and how to reach out when everything feels painfully pointless. General opinion and society’s views are shifting in terms of mental health now, does it feel a bit late? Yes, but at least it is happening. Something that is not shown enough, particularly in prime time television is the aspect of mental health that isn’t “glamorous’, ‘tragically poetic’ or just suicide.
They don’t show a character taking their meds every day and shuffling around the house eating nothing but chocolate digestives for days because the thought of cooking is unbearable. There is no footage of someone suffering from a panic attack in the middle of Marks and Spencer because their head is telling them that that the outfit they are spending too much money on will look terrible, that everyone around them is judging them, that even though you KNOW you have money in y our account that your card is going to be declined. They also don’t show the fatigue that comes with having anxiety.
We see the extremes and I absolutely champion showing Mental health and the extremes and aftermath that comes after but we also need to see more of the hauntingly numb quiet of every day.
Real human beings
Show me a character who isn’t ‘practically perfect in every way’ I want a character who makes bad choices sometimes, messes up, maybe drinks a bit too much and definitely orders £50 worth of Chinese food for themselves and then the morning after when they heat it up and have it for breakfast. Give me someone who isn’t perfect, someone who isn’t the villain and doesn’t require a redemption story.
I, as a pretty messy flawed woman, do not need a tale of redemption. There is need for me to prove myself or beg forgiveness from outdated archetypal stereotypes created by outdated men.
I am a ‘mess’ but I am worthy, I am women hear me goddamn roar.
Thank goodness for Killing Eve.
Killing eve actually started out life in novel form by Luke Jennings. It was then adapted for TV by BBC America in 2017 with Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Series one of Killing Eve was some of the best television I had seen for many years. It felt reminiscent of Bryan Fullers Hannibal, BBC’s The Fall and also Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Fleabag.
The similarities with Fleabag were subtle, they couldn’t really be more different on the surface. but there was without a doubt traces throughout series one, a lingering signature from Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
I personally preferred season 1 to season 2 however, season 2 did have me yelling at the tv on more than one occasion, and I am not one to yell at a TV. The startlingly quick wit wonderfully dark and often, in bad taste, jokes. Add the two ferocious leading ladies who could knock the acting socks off 90% of the actors working today. It is safe to say I am ride or die Killing Eve.
What set Killing Eve so far apart from other primetime shows is the characters. Messy flawed women, who are bold in their life choices and their pursuits. Eve and Villenelle are flawed, proud and obsessive to a fault. There are aspects of their personalities I can see myself reflected in, not always the good parts, but they are there none the less.
Villenelle (Jodie Comer)-
Villenelle could be a cookie cooker stereotypical ruthless gorgeous Russian spy, however, she is not. Well, she is but also she is childish, petulant, hilarious and intense. I know that she has murdered many many times, but there is something inherently likeable about her. Although, that is likely due to the character writing and the wonderful Jodie Comer more than anything else. She wonderfully controls her scenes sometimes blending in the background or standing front and blisteringly centre. Something I particularly liked about Killing Eve was watching Villenelle in her different personas wearing different disguises and accents.
Eve (Sandra Oh)-
Eve, however, is not as whimsical as Villenelle but she is still very funny- often with a dark sense of humour. She is brave and terrified, calculating and impulsive messy and incredibly honest in her pursuits. On occasions she outwardly admits that she is not a good cook, wife or homemaker- she is career-driven. The opposite of the ideal women stereotypes that we are used to seeing. Eve’s life does not resolve around Niko and his dreams. Eve is not a vehicle for his success, he is not a vehicle for hers. She is piloting her own damn ship right towards her goal, Villenelle and possibly a boatload of trouble. The combination of the two of them side by side on screen is something explosive. The cat and mouse games, the nuances and the level of dedication to their causes.
In short, Killing Eve is really something special.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Fleabag
Phoebe Waller-Bridge was fed up of being told how she and women should behave. From the get-go, as girls, we’re told that we should be delicate, sweet and inoffensive. We shouldn’t make waves- girls are to be rescued by boys. Waller-Bridge vented her frustrations through the creation and starring in Fleabag, which started on stage and was later picked p by the BBC.
Waller-Bridge is introduced to us as ‘Fleabag’ a brash, very messy women who is still heavily grieving over the loss of her best friend and also, for the death of her mother years before. So much happens within the two seasons of Fleabag. We see changes in the characters, the relationships, attitudes and even hairstyles.
‘Fleabag’ as a prime time main character is a revolution in itself. She is sexually promiscuous, shameless in her moral ambiguity and a total renegade. As a prime time character with such traits she is considered ‘pretty unlikeable’, I, however, loved her instantly. Within the first few episodes, I finally saw myself on screen. There she was sitting in social situations, trying to figure out where she fits in, within her peers. within her family and even how she fits within her own skin.
I laughed with Fleabag, I cried with Fleabag and I am Fleabag.
The relationship between Fleabag and Andrew Scotts’s sexy hip priests character hurt to watch. Everyone has played down the pain of a failed relationship, but seeing Phoebe Waller-Bridge go through it, really hurt. Watching Fleabag was an almost cathartic experience. It allowed me to actually feel the feelings I have experienced and get some closure.
“Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female — whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.”
Women do not get to feel their traumas without being overly dramatic or hysterical and its time for a revolution. A man cries and he is either applauded or called weak. It is time for everyone to be allowed a bloody good snotty sob without being judged. Fleabag made me feel less ashamed about the obtuse messy sometimes dark thoughts that shamble around my head. It made me feel better about not being a sweet passive woman. Under the bravado is a damaged and cracked women who has been beaten down by society and life. Fleabag starts off as a satirical comedy, about sex and finishes off as a show about suffering and owning up to shit.
What am I trying to say here?
Being a person is messy and complicated. It is time that we see that on TV. It is time to normalise that it is okay to not be that okay all the time. That you are allowed to make mistakes and you are allowed to love yourself flaws and all.
Stand up with me, yell it with me, I am enough.
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